Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, D-Pa., 59, is the prime sponsor of the Green Meetings Act (HR 3037), which requires that the federal government, as a whole, adopt the Environmental Protection Agency's standard of taking vendors' environmentally preferable features and practices into consideration when purchasing meeting and conference services. She took time recently to talk to us from her Capitol Hill office about the Green Meetings Act and other environmental issues.

AM: Is the idea of making meetings more environmentally friendly an issue that resonates with your colleagues in the House?

Schwartz: There was certainly a very favorable response to [the Green Meetings Act] when I introduced it. Republicans didn't say they opposed it, and in a very partisan time, that's pretty positive! So I think Congress is interested in seeing other departments in the federal government proceed along the same lines as EPA.

AM: In a relatively short time, you've developed a reputation as a doer when it comes to environmental issues. What drives your interest?

Schwartz: We in the federal government need to be able to set an example for private business to demonstrate that energy efficiency and environmental consciousness are important to our economy and enhance our competitiveness.

AM: In the past, wasn't there a hesitancy to embrace environmental issues because it might be too much of a burden for business?

Schwartz: I come from an old industrial, manufacturing state, where there's long been a strong feeling that if business is pushed to be more environmentally sensitive, there will be an adverse impact. But the opposite is true. By becoming more energy efficient, we can reduce costs and become more competitive.

AM: How would you rate Congress as an institution when it comes to putting environmental practices into place on Capitol Hill?

Schwartz: Well, there has been a real effort to make our complex as energy efficient as possible. We do have an old building, which makes it difficult, but the leadership has tried hard to apply energy efficiency to everything we do.

  • The Radiological Society of North America drew 62,501 attendees to its Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting held at McCormick Place in Chicago in November — a record for the association.

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation has determined that lithium batteries are a potential fire hazard. As of January 1, airline passengers are no longer allowed to pack loose lithium batteries in checked luggage.

For more articles on holding green meetings, visit our green meetings page.