I am writing from the Greening the Hospitality Industry conference here in Pittsburgh. It is an event organized by the Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC) and is for those with a stake in the green meetings industry: hoteliers, meeting planners, government representatives, etc. The mood here is mostly upbeat, even as the recession takes its toll on meetings attendance around the world. According to Amy Spatrisano, president of GMIC, membership in GMIC grew 320 percent in 2008. The group now has 345 members in 20 countries and new chapters are forming in Atlanta, Chicago and Florida/Caribbean. Meetings industry representatives in numerous other locations have expressed interest in starting chapters.
What is driving the interest in green meetings? In some locations such as Florida, state government agencies are required to choose green meeting venues, and some national organizations such as the U.S. EPA are also seeking out hotels and conference centers that have programs such as recycling, green purchasing and energy and water conservation in place. All over the world, meeting planners are raising the bar for what is expected in regard to sustainability. The winners in this environment will be those properties that not only take the steps to reduce their carbon footprint, but those that also take the extra step to certify their actions. The David L. Lawrence Convention Center, for example, where GMIC's conference is being held, is LEED certified and has a comprehensive waste management and energy conservation program in place.
Clarity about what is a green meeting is coming soon. According to GMIC's Spatrisano, the U.S. EPA and Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) are working with GMIC to establish clear standards. The first level of standards may be announced as early as April 2009. Be sure to visit Green Lodging News for coverage of the Greening the Hospitality Industry conference and to stay abreast of standards development.