WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is erecting a new milestone in the march toward a greener government. Now the agency plans to turn its meetings green. EPA is changing its acquisition rules to give preference to facilities that consume less and manage their resources in environmentally positive ways. The rule change was effective May 1.
For the first time, EPA will consider environmental achievement along with such factors as price and past performance when buying meeting and conference space. The new regulation is a step toward giving priority to hotels and conference centers that demonstrate green progress.
“As our nation shifts to a ‘green culture,’ EPA is making environmental responsibility a common business practice,” says EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “By promoting green meetings, EPA is helping our partners in government see the environmental and financial benefits of going green.”
The program is unique within the federal government, which spends $14 billion a year on travel. Much of that figure pays for hotel and other meeting spaces. EPA alone spends about $50 million on travel annually. The EPA program is seen as a template that eventually may be emulated government wide.
When considering meeting space, EPA intends to evaluate the responses to a 14-point checklist, asking whether a facility has:
• A recycling program.
• A linen/towel reuse option that is communicated to guests.
• Easy access to public transportation or shuttle services.
• A policy to turn off lighting and air conditioning when rooms are not in use.
• Bulk dispensers or reusable containers for beverages, food and condiments.
• Reusable serving utensils, napkins and tablecloths when food and beverages are served.
• An energy efficiency program.
• A water conservation program.
• Paperless check-in and check-out for guests.
• Use of recycled or recyclable products.
• Employee training on these green activities.
• Other green environmental initiatives such as receiving environment-related certifications, participating in EPA voluntary partnerships, supporting a green suppliers network, etc.
• Food sources from local growers or a policy to consider the growing practices of farmers who provide the food.
• A policy to use bio-based or biodegradable products, including bio-based cafeteriaware.
EPA anticipates that its Green Meetings Program will have a positive impact on the meeting and hospitality industry. Experience has shown that the cost to many facilities in green upgrades is more than offset by long-term savings.
For information on the EPA Green Meetings initiative or to review the acquisition rule, go to www.epa.gov/oppt/greenmeetings.