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Greening Your Meetings and Conferences: A Guide For Federal Purchasers

Key Policy, Guidance Documents

EPA's Final Guidance on EPP

Executive Orders

Federal Acquisition Regulation

Green Purchasing Guides

Information on Standards for Green Products, Services

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing, or EPP, seeks the overall best value, taking into account price competitiveness, availability, regulatory requirements, performance, and environmental impact. Because purchasers typically have clear sources of information on procurement and regulatory requirements and well-established methods for evaluating price and performance, the US EPA has developed these purchasing guides to help government purchasers consider environmental factors in purchasing decisions. EPA realizes that there are not universal answers for all scenarios and that purchasers must take into account local conditions when weighing the various attributes of a particular product. Please note that EPA is not endorsing any of the products, services, or organizations described in the guides, and has not verified information provided by these organizations. Read more information about the EPP Program's history, tools, and resources.


Even though government workers throughout the country are increasingly connected via cell phones, e-mail, handheld electronic devices, and other technological advances, face to face meetings and conferences are often still necessary. Unfortunately, meetings require the use of large amounts of resources and can have big impacts on the environment. With careful planning, however, organizers can incorporate "green" aspects into their meetings and conferences.

The purpose of the guide is to provide practical information about environmental aspects of meeting planning and management that will assist federal purchasers in making purchasing decisions. The guide is not a risk assessment document nor is it intended to substitute for Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), labels, or similar documents that provide information on proper storage, handling, use, and disposal. More comprehensive information on meetings is available from a variety of sources, a number of which are listed in the "Resources" section of the guide.

Why Green Your Meetings?

Bringing people together for meetings, often for multiple days at a time, can create a "host" of environmental impacts—from the smog and greenhouse gas emissions associated with air and ground travel to the paper, plastic, and food waste associated with feeding attendees.

Key Sources of Waste and Pollution

The following activities associated with meetings and conferences are major sources of waste and pollution.

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Federal EPP Authority and Mandate

Spending approximately $230 billion annually on a large quantity and wide variety of products and services, the federal government leaves a large environmental "footprint." However, by purchasing environmentally preferable products and services, the federal government can wield its spending power to increase national demand for greener products as well as to help meet environmental goals through markets rather than mandates. In 1995, in response to Executive Order 12873, "Federal Acquisition, Recycling, and Waste Prevention (PDF)" (9 pp, 32Kb, About PDF), EPA established the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) program to encourage and assist Executive agencies in the purchase of environmentally preferable products and services. The Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), which establishes uniform procedures and policies for federal acquisition, was amended on August 22, 1997 to support federal procurement of "green" products and services. And, most recently, in In 1998, Executive Order (E.O.) 13101, entitled "Greening the Government through Waste Prevention, Recycling, and Federal Acquisition" directed Executive agencies to "consider . . . a broad range of factors including: elimination of virgin material requirements; use of biobased products; use of recovered materials; reuse of product; life cycle cost; recyclability; use of environmentally preferable products; waste prevention (including toxicity reduction or elimination); and ultimate disposal" when making purchasing decisions and to "modify their procurement programs as appropriate." Finally, in January, 2007, Executive Order 13423, entitled "Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management", directed Executive agencies to "require in agency acquisitions of goods and services (i) use of sustainable environmental practices, including acquisitions of biobased, environmentally preferable, energy-efficient, water-efficient, and recycled-content products, and (ii) use of paper of at least 10 percent post-consumer fiber content."

Similarly, the Biomass Research and Development Act of 2000 (page 72 of the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000, P.L.106-224 (PDF) (100 pp, 339KB, About PDF)), Section 9002 of the 2002 Farm Bill (also known as the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002), and Executive Order 13134 on "Developing and Promoting Biobased Products and Bioenergy" (PDF) (6 pp, 71KB, About PDF), have emphasized the potential importance of biobased products to national economic and environmental interests. Together these authorities encourage a strong federal role in the development and early adoption of biobased products and recognize the role of procurement as part of an overall federal policy on biobased products.

Five Guiding Principles

To help government purchasers incorporate environmental considerations into purchasing decisions, EPA developed five guiding principles. The guiding principles provide a framework which purchasers can use to make environmentally preferable purchases. The five principles are:

  1. Include environmental factors as well as traditional considerations of price and performance as part of the normal purchasing process.
  2. Emphasize pollution prevention early in the purchasing process.
  3. Examine multiple environmental attributes throughout a product's or service's life cycle.
  4. Compare relative environmental impacts when selecting products and services.
  5. Collect and base purchasing decisions on accurate and meaningful information about environmental performance.

More information on the five guiding principles.

More information on life cycle perspective.

What Are Green Meetings?

The Oceans Blue Foundation (an environmental charitable organization created in 1996 to help conserve coastal environments through environmentally responsible tourism) defines green meetings as "an assembly or gathering of people, for the purpose of the exchange of information, where, through careful planning, negative impact on the environment is minimized." In the early 1990s, a green meeting may have meant brochures were printed on recycled-content paper or that soda cans were collected for recycling. The costs associated with even these simple steps were often prohibitive for most meeting planners and meeting service suppliers. Today, however, the opportunities to green meetings and events are almost limitless-often offering ways to save money and increase efficiency in the process.

What Can You Do?

While there is an ever-increasing number of green meeting "pioneers" in the United States, many meeting planners are still having difficulty finding green services for their events. This is why it is important to remember that asking for green is key! Asking is the first step in showing there is a demand for reduced environmental impacts associated with a meeting. When enough meeting planners ask for reusable mugs, non-toxic cleaning services, or energy-efficient lighting, for example, then hotels, convention centers, and other meeting service providers will begin to respond. If you are not a meeting planner, but coordinate with or direct a contractor to plan meetings for you, EPA's Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics provides green meeting sample contract language that you can use when buying meeting planning support services. The sample language is available from the Database of Environmental Information on the EPP Program's Web site.

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Abbreviated List

The following lists of green opportunities can assist you in reducing meeting-related environmental impacts. The first list condenses the array of green opportunities into a handful of thought-provoking questions a meeting planner may consider. The second list lays out specific steps that have proven to prevent pollution and waste associated with meetings and conferences. Since a meeting planner may be restricted by time, money, and/or level of support for greening, choose the strategy that works best for your situation.

Expanded List

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EPA's Purchasing Tool Suite

EPA/OPPT's EPP Program has developed the following Web-based tools to help purchasers consider the environment, along with price and performance, when buying a product or service.

Database of Environmental Information for Products and Services
A searchable database of product-specific information (e.g., environmental standards and guidelines or contract language) developed by government programs, both domestic and international, as well as third parties.

Tips for Buying Green with the Government Credit Card
This web page provides tips to help government credit card holders make greener choices when buying products, such as electronics.

EPP's Product and Services - Meetings and Conferences

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EPA's Green Conference Initiative
EPA/OPPT developed the Green Conference Initiative to provide meeting planners and suppliers of meeting services with easy access to green options and opportunities for meeting planning. The goal of this initiative is to develop a "one-stop shop" at which meeting planning and service providers can gather information on the topic of green meetings. The information is meant to help planners request-and suppliers provide-green options for meeting planning. The Web site includes a checklist of opportunities that, when applied, minimize the environmental impacts of holding meetings; contract provisions for obtaining greener meeting planning/support services; and links to information on other related initiatives.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts Exit Disclaimer
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is one of the largest luxury hotel companies in North America and has developed one of the most comprehensive environmental programs in the North American hotel industry. Greening initiatives include, but are not limited to, transportation alternatives, environmentally friendly meals and meeting facilities, and incorporating environmental educational opportunities for meeting attendees.

Green Meeting Industry Council Exit Disclaimer
The Green Meeting Industry Council was formed on December 10, 2003 to improve meeting management practices by promoting environmentally responsible strategies through the collaborative efforts of the hospitality industry, corporations, government, and community organizations. The GMIC is committed to supporting economic, environmental, and community objectives as they relate to the meeting industry.

Green Seal - Environmental Standard for Lodging Properties, GS-33 Exit Disclaimer
Green Seal is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the environment by promoting the manufacture and sale of environmentally responsible consumer products. Green Seal sets voluntary environmental standards and awards a Green Seal of Approval to products that Green Seal evaluates as causing less harm to the environment than other similar products. Green Seal has partnered with the lodging industry, the nation's second-largest employer, to support ecotourism. Its campaign to educate hotels and motels focuses on how environmental efforts improve the bottom line and benefit the environment. Green Seal received wide input from the lodging industry on its Environmental Standard for Lodging Properties. Green Seal also has certified lodging properties in a number of states and Washington, D.C. Exit DisclaimerGovernment employees are encouraged to stay in certified properties when they travel on official business, and government meetings are encouraged to use these facilities.

The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) Green Hotel Initiative Exit Disclaimer
The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) is a nonprofit coalition of investors, public pension funds, foundations, religious and public interest groups, and labor unions working in partnership with companies toward the common goal of corporate environmental responsibility worldwide. CERES convened a network of environmental organizations, governmental entities, and businesses that advocate corporate responsibility to initiate a collaborative project to promote environmentally friendly hotels. The initiative will encourage corporate and government purchasers to ask for greener hotels as part of their business travel, creating an incentive for more hotels to "go green."

Hotel Association of Canada - Green Key Ecommodation Rating Program Exit Disclaimer
Founded in 1913, the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) is the national organization representing the accommodation industry in Canada. Their objective is to assist both national and international members as they enhance their competitiveness and improve their bottom line. HAC has developed and maintained the Green Key Ecommodation Rating Program for the Canadian hotel industry. The program involves a graduated rating system designed to recognize hotels, motels, and resorts committed to improving their environmental performance. The program recognizes a hotel's achievements through the award of one to five Green keys; one key is given for a basic commitment to environmental principles, and two through five keys are awarded for specific results achieved.

NW Pollution Prevention Resource Center - Hospitality SectorExit Disclaimer
The Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC) has compiled an information resource listing for the hospitality sector, including contacts.

Convention Industry Council's Green Meetings Task ForceExit Disclaimer
In 2003, this Task Force was charged with creating minimum best practices for event organizers and suppliers to use as guidelines for implementing policies of sustainability. The task force was composed of individuals from the EPA, the Ocean's Blue Foundation, the Society of Incentive Travel Executive's Green Meeting Group, the World Travel Organization, hotels, convention and visitor's bureaus, convention centers, and meeting planning organizations. The Task Force report is available on the Convention Industry Council web site.

The Green Hotels in the Green Mountain State Program Exit Disclaimer
This program provides assistance to innkeepers desiring to use sound environmental management practices to reduce their impact on the environment, improve their bottom line, and satisfy customer demand for environmentally conscious lodging.

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