The Green Meeting Industry Council, the Convention Industry Council, the CIC's Accepted Practices Exchange Commission, the Environ-mental Protection Agency, and ASTM International are collaborating to develop universal environmental standards for the meetings and convention industry. Pat Picariello, director, standards development, ASTM, took some time to talk about ASTM and the process of developing green meeting standards.

Association Meetings: Tell us about ASTM.

Picariello: ASTM is a 165-person, nonprofit organization that develops and delivers information in the form of full consensus standards. We've developed standards in more than 1,000 industries and have a volunteer membership of 30,000. It's a process that relies on a technical committee of volunteers who represent as much of the full breadth of an industry sector as possible, whether it's steel, petrochemicals, homeland security, or meetings.

AM: How did ASTM come to work on standardization for the meetings and conventions industry?

Picariello: This issue first came to us through the Environmental Protection Agency. ASTM has an excellent relationship with the federal government. The back story is that a public law — P.L. 104-113 — directs the federal government to work with the private sector on voluntary consensus standards. The GSA tasked the EPA with coming up with a way that meetings and meeting space could be operated in a way that was environmentally sustainable, and in 2007 the EPA amended its procurement regulations [to include a green meetings policy]. Now, it is looking to put together full consensus standards to augment that policy, and the agency reached out to us.

AM: How does the process of developing standards work?

Picariello: For a new activity, we start narrowly. Someone or an entity reaches out to us, and we begin to flesh out the issues. We do due diligence to find any existing initiatives and talk to as many people as we can. Then we move from the exploration stage into a planning stage, where we hold live meetings with stakeholders in the industry so we can determine if developing standards is actually a good idea.

The planning process for [green meetings standards] lies within the environmental sustainability subcommittee [of ASTM Committee E-6]. It has a big membership with a roster of more than 200 members, which includes representatives from the EPA, the hotel industry, the Travel Industry Association, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, the International Association of Conference Centers, the Convention Industry Council, APEX — a real diverse collection of folks.

AM: Who is the driving force here?

Picariello: It's a collaborative process. While I think ASTM has a tremendous relevance from the standards process perspective — we are really good at this — relative to the meetings industry, our name certainly doesn't mean as much as an organization such as the Convention Industry Council. Right from the beginning, we recognized the expertise it provides, and the intent was to work collaboratively. When the subcommittee was organized, a vote was taken to ensure that would happen.

Each activity in ASTM has staff to manage it, and part of the management of an activity involves getting as complete an understanding of the needs of the industry as possible. So from the ASTM perspective, there is certainly a learning curve.

AM: How long will it take to develop green meeting standards?

Picariello: There is a balance between a sense of urgency to complete the process and the need to complete it thoroughly. We approve 200 to 300 new standards each year, and the average cycle to get those done is 11 months. Some are shorter, some are longer; there is no way to determine exactly how long it will take.

I think in this case it will be sooner rather than later. A lot of good momentum has been generated here. ASTM will meet October 1 in Miami, and I know there are other, less formal ongoing meetings taking place within the EPA and APEX. It will take a fair amount of work to get it done, but once we've started vetting and improving these standards, we'll do everything we can to bring the process to a timely conclusion.

What's The Next Step?

A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between ASTM International and the Convention Industry Council's Accepted Practices Exchange Commission for the development of environmental standards for the meetings industry. According to Pat Picariello, director, standards development, ASTM, the core standards will be developed initially by the APEX initiative and then submitted to ASTM for refinement and approval. On October 1, in Miami, ASTM will hold an organizational meeting for a new main committee on sustainable development.