Most of us have heard stories about “greenwashing,” where meeting facilities mislead their clients in some way about a green practice — for example, promising to offer recycling, when in fact they're really just offering to put out recycling bins that they later plan to empty into the dumpster with the rest of the trash. Or saying they offer a linen reuse program and then, when the guest indicates a willingness to live with their dirty sheets and towels for a few days, end up washing them daily anyway.

From the Cold War to global warming, Ronald Reagan's pet phrase, “Trust, but verify,” still holds true. Especially now that practically every hotel and convention center is jumping on the green meetings bandwagon, there are bound to be some who will try to fake some of their green practices just to make you happy (or get the contract). There will be others who, despite their good intentions, just don't quite know how to pull off their green ambitions. And, as with any new opportunity, there also will be new opportunists who are glad to jump in and grab some green of their own — preferably out of your pocket.

Even if you love your hotel partners, it doesn't hurt to check the back of the house during your site inspection to see how the recycling is set up. Don't just ask if the hotel offers a linen reuse program; ask if the staff are trained to actually implement the program properly. Do they really power down their unoccupied rooms? Do they have the sink aerators, shower heads, and dual-flush toilets needed to make their water conservation program work? And so on. Just having green practices in place doesn't do much good if the facility doesn't have the physical necessities or staff training to carry them out.

The temptation may be to just check those green items off your list and keep moving — after all, that list just keeps growing while the hours in a day don't. But, while it's a different kind of due diligence than you perhaps are used to, it's up to you to ensure that what you're getting is not just a pig in green lipstick.

Help is on the way, though. The Accepted Practices Exchange, an initiative of the Convention Industry Council, has launched a new working group, the APEX Green Meetings and Events Practices Panel, to develop voluntary baseline sustainability standards for the destination as a whole, as well as transportation, accommodations, meeting venues, exhibits, food and beverage, communications, on-site offices, and audiovisual production. The planners, suppliers, and government officials who will comprise each GMEPP committee will draft standards, which will then be sent for comment to a number of live city discussion groups as well as virtual discussion groups.

If you want to be a part of this exciting new effort, you can learn more of the details at www.apexsolution.org.