Sustainability Standards Unraveled

I have to tell you, even after all the research I’ve been doing, I’m still confused by the many standards for sustainability in our industry. Here’s my abbreviated list of notables with attached apologies for the length of this post–I know there’s an unwritten rule to keep it short and sweet, but I hope you still find this a great resource, even if it’s not a fun read.

  • Sustainability StandardsGovernment: The Environmental Protection Agency’s US Green Building Council maintains a rating system for environmental construction named LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Very few hotels can claim LEED certification, (but we’ll name a few in our next post on Who Wears Green Best).
  • Regional: Many individual states have implemented their own standards, and to view those you can visit this site. One state that doesn’t appear on this list is Georgia, which does in fact have a sustainability division called Partnership for a Sustainable Georgia; I mention this to point out that this list is a reference point, not the final word. Sustainability is a revolving door on a bandwagon. Even some cities, like Tampa, FL, are creating their own green standard, so make sure you investigate your area’s efforts.
  • Independent Agencies: Just this July, AAA announced they will be including a new “eco” icon in their 2010 TourBooks to highlight hotels, motels and other lodging facilities that are green certified. The honor will be given only to those facilities that are AAA approved or Diamond rated AND a part of their state or a national green lodging program. This is significant not as much as a standard (since it relies on other certification programs), but as a step forward in promoting and making green travel easier. A Reuters article also makes a good point that “it’ll allow [green facilities] to stand out from the non-green options with which they stand side-by-side, cost-wise and even location-wise.” This, I’m sure, will make a great reference book for green-minded planners.  
  • Perhaps the most relevant: The Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX) is partnering with the Convention Industry Council (CIC), ASTM International and the EPA to create an industry standard for green meetings. Since ASTM is an international standards setting organization, the extra steps they require are expected to add “value, recognition and applicability” to the finished product. In addition, the US Government is anticipated to adopt the final standards also. In its completed form, the APEX standards has nine sections, and currently, drafts of those sections are posted on their blog for review and discussion.The most interesting thing about the standards is the inclusion of not only an overwhelming checklist of specifications per category, but, also in some cases, strategies for meeting planners as they relate to the specifications. In fact, consider these sections your real to-do lists, as it gives you tips on how to properly and effectively implement the specifications listed. The anticipated finish date of the APEX standards is the end of 2009. You can stay updated and review the current sections posted at
  •  Some others worth mentioning: The Partnership for Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) with an exhaustive list of standards as it relates to tourism, but tend to be too broad for the likes of meeting planners. The International Association of Conference Centers has their own voluntary Code of Sustainability for their members and The Green Meetings Industry Council can serve as a wealth of resources for more information on the value of green meetings, as well as partners in your quest.

If I’ve left any out, please feel free to post a comment with the info. I’m sure everyone is more than happy to keep learning. And don’t miss our next post Friday on Who Wears Green Best.


Filed under Industry Takes

2 responses to “Sustainability Standards Unraveled

  1. Meg you are right to say that the myriad of sustainability standards is confusing! At we are trying to develop a free and open standard for sustainability. Our standard is more of a framework that sits over the top of all the other related standards and guidelines. We welcome new articles and contributions so we can deliver a standard available for all.

  2. Meg Hasten

    Angela–thanks for the heads up! It looks like yall are being quite innovative in solving the solution of perhaps too many standards. I really love that you are soliciting input from a variety of expertise areas to create a comprehensive framework. Keep up the great work!

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