When it comes to being green, this industry (this country, for that matter) has only touched the surface. A good place to look to is the U.K., where companies have begun to label products with information on the greenhouse gas emissions created by producing, transporting, and eventually disposing of them. Although the labels are voluntary, the country's biggest retailer, Tesco, is using them on every one of its 70,000 products. It's a huge step toward making consumers aware that the products they buy affect the environment on many levels.

It's only a matter of time before this way of thinking extends into how businesses make their purchases, including meetings and travel. We've come to a critical juncture: Fuel costs are rising; airlines are in turmoil; and companies are forgoing live meetings for electronic ones. We can't continue to do our jobs the same way.

Of course, companies for which the environment is at the core of their culture, such as Timberland, are leading the way in their green and corporate social responsibility efforts, which is why we had Contributing Writer Alison Hall join them on Earth Day for this month's cover story (page 16). But in “How Green Will They Get?” on page 26, we heard a story from one planner whose hotel wouldn't even provide recycling for a meeting. A sales manager we spoke with had just signed her first contract to require green services. And although the planners we spoke with for the story are demanding the basics (recycling, composting, paperless check-in and checkout, linen re-use, etc.), most small meetings still use plastic water bottles, conference bags made in China (see page 92 for some new ideas in this area), and heaps of paper — let alone the fuel it takes to fly there.

I applaud the efforts to create green meeting standards (see the interview on page 9 with Pat Picariello of ASTM International, which is collaborating with the Convention Industry Council on this) and all the planners who carry the Environmental Protection Agency's checklist for site inspections with them when they visit a hotel. (Find the checklist at www.epa.gov.) But it's time to talk carbon footprints and to look to Europe for examples of what to do next.

In other words, it's time to step it up — and I hope our annual Green Issue helps you to do just that.

More On / Meetingsnet.com

For a comprehensive guide, with advice and resources, visit our Web site and click on Green Meetings.