It’s a meeting at an inn in Vermont designated as a “Green Hotel in the Green Mountain State” that, among other benchmarks, composts leaf and yard waste. It’s a corporate event by a firm that checks for needed products in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmentally Preferable Purchasing database. It’s a meeting arranged by a planner who considers a destination’s public transportation system and a venue’s recycling program. A green meeting may be any one of these things, and more.
Increasingly, greener—or more sustainable—meetings are occurring across the landscape. Today, more sustainable meetings, encouraged by EPA guidance on the topic and also available with the help of professional planners, mean more than what’s green. Sustainable meetings, in addition to the environment, consider social factors; they also make good business sense.
And now, through the work of the American Society of Testing and Materials' (ASTM) International Committee E60 on Sustainability and its Subcommittee E60.02 on Hospitality, and the broad industry representation on the group, eight recently released standards, with one more coming soon, can assist planners and suppliers in producing more environmentally friendly meetings.
The Benefits of Meeting
“We as human beings have a need to meet,” says Amy Spatrisano, principal of MeetGreen, Portland, Ore., and an ASTM International member who served as a catalyst to begin the work on the new sustainable meetings standards; she also chaired the Convention Industry Council task force for its 2004 Green Meetings Report.
And meet we do. From local business gatherings to large industry conventions, meetings represent billions of dollars to the U.S. economy, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study for the Convention Industry Council. These billions also represent employment: the industry directly supports 1.7 million jobs.
At the same time, tighter travel and business budgets, and soaring fuel costs are making virtual meetings a more attractive option for companies and corporations alike. Meeting virtually saves time and money, as evidenced by a Forbes Insights study, yet “amazing things are created and have happened in the world when people come together,” says Spatrisano.
Next page: Why face-to-face contact is so important