Industry Reaches Out for Green Standards

As sustainability and responsibility statements are increasingly incorporated into corporate and association missions, the methodology with which to benchmark sustainable achievements within the meetings industry is within sight.

In July, the Convention Industry Council's Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) and ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) partnered to define what is green in the meetings industry and to develop standards and best practices.

Originally, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which had been in discussions with the Green Meeting Industry Council, approached ASTM to assist in this effort by developing an accredited standard that could used as the basis for a federal purchasing program focused on environmentally preferable government-run meetings and conferences. However, APEX, an initiative of the CIC that seeks to implement industry-wide accepted practices throughout meetings, conventions, and exhibitions, saw the opportunity to incorporate green standards. Terri Breining, APEX chair, stated, "ASTM International plays an important role in helping to establish the technical specifications that guides many industries globally. The meetings and events industry will be overwhelmingly supportive of green meeting standards, and this is critical to progress toward more environmentally sensitive meetings."

For planners, that is welcome news. According to Gloria Nelson, CSEP, of Gloria Nelson Event Design LLC, "As we move initiatives forward in the industry, we'll see more and more newcomers on the block, as well as tried-and-true suppliers coming out with more green-friendly products. We need to be aware of what really meets the green seal of approval versus greenwashing." (In August, Nelson was appointed to APEX's Green
Meetings & Events Practices panel.)

"Unfortunately," said Erick Weiss, owner of Honeysweet Productions, a Los Angeles-based special events production company, "it is still costing more to produce large events and shows in an eco-friendly way. People have to be prepared for increased costs for locally grown organic foods, environmentally friendly products and hard goods, recycling plans, china and glassware, etc. But it can be done and is being done, and the products are out there. We all need to encourage all our vendors to invest in green technology—LED lighting for instance."

Said Angela Gennari of VenueQuest, a global meetings and travel management company based near Atlanta, "I recently attended the MPI European convention and was pleasantly surprised to see the lengths that the organizers went to [be] the first (and still only) convention to meet BS8901 standards for environmental sustainability. Technology and human practices merged perfectly to create an environment of awareness among attendees and exhibitors alike."

Gennari's company recently appointed an environmental sustainability officer. "Her duty is to advise and assist clients, hotels, and vendors in implementing green standards in their meetings, travel, and events. She is an incredible resource for our team, as well as our clients, in achieving environmental sustainability."

The ASTM Committee E06,which sets building-performance standards, will examine green meetings and events standards during its committee week in Miami Beach from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1. Participants in the meetings and events industry will have the opportunity to comment during both the APEX and ASTM processes. All interested parties are encouraged to participate in the APEX process, as well as the ASTM Task Group.

Originally published Sept. 8, 2008