by Sarah J.F. Braley | October 01, 2010

The meetings industry is on the cusp of having explicit standards for organizing green events. The documentation will be available by the end of the year in the form of the APEX/ASTM Standard Specifications for Environmentally Sustainable Meetings, Events, Trade Shows and Conferences.

Undertaken by the Alexandria, Va.-based Convention Industry Council as part of its Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) initiative, the project to create the standards began in October 2007, headed up by Amy Spatrisano, principal of Portland, Ore.-based MeetGreen and a founder of the Green Meetings Industry Council, and Sue Tinnish, an Arlington Heights, Ill.-based facilitator and industry consultant.

In July 2008, as the process became more involved, the committee began working with ASTM International, a voluntary standards-development organization. Through each stage, members of the ASTM community have read and voted on the evolving document, including people unfamiliar with the meetings industry. Spatrisano was hoping to submit the standards for the final balloting process at the end of September.

"There have been some philosophical disagreements," notes Spatrisano, "such as how you determine what ‘recycled' means, as in whether a recycled item contains preconsumed products or just postconsumed. That's one of the issues we are tied up in."

The format The standards will be the most technical document ever created for the industry, prescribing how to lessen the effect of all types of meetings on the environment.

The information covers nine sectors with requirements for both planners and suppliers: accommodations, audiovisual and production, communications and marketing, destinations, exhibits, F&B, meeting venues, on-site offices and transportation. Those nine sectors are further broken into eight categories each, including staff management/policy and procurement. Within those eight categories, planners and suppliers are offered four levels of compliance, from the bare bones of creating an organizational policy to the elegance of a zero-waste meeting with the full cooperation of all parties involved.

In the early iterations, each of the nine sectors ran to about 80 pages. The current form has been pared down to about 30 pages each.

"For the standards to be the precise documents they have to be, a certain density is necessary," says Lawrence Leonard, CMP, who serves as APEX director for the CIC. One tip Leonard gives for reading and understanding the standards: "Shall" is mandatory; "should" is optional.