At the end of June she resigned from Portland, Oregon–based MeetGreen, where she was a principal for 14 years and where, with company founder Nancy Zavada, she led the industry in the movement toward defining and implementing sustainability standards at events. Together Zavada and Spatrisano founded the Green Meeting Industry Council, and Spatrisano chaired the Convention Industry Council’s APEX Green Meetings and Events Panel, which worked in partnership with ASTM to develop the APEX/ASTM Environmentally Sustainable Meeting Standards. Convene recently talked to Spatrisano about her career and what the future holds:
I honestly don’t know [what’s next]. I knew that I was ready for something new — I’ve been working at this for quite a while. Nancy [Lavada] and I were not the first people to do green meetings, but the first people to really be acknowledged for it, mostly because we built the business case for it. And it was time for me to find a place where I felt like I could share my talents and my passions for sustainability in a different frame.
I’ve been tremendously blessed with having a lot of success around [sustainability], but it didn’t come easily. People say, “Oh, you were in the right place at the right time.” No, not really. [Laughs.] We’ve been doing this since 2001, and nobody listened until 2007. That was our banner year. Our company doubled in sales, we doubled in size, we published our first book, we published — as far as I know — the first calculator for the meetings industry as it related to sustainability. It was the first year that PCMA wanted us to come and speak around sustainability. It was really a turning point for the industry. And you know, here we’ve been doing that for six-odd years and finally it was kicking in.
The [APEX/ASTM standards] took five years, three years longer than I thought it would take. I had great support from my business partner to take on those standards, but I can tell you, the hours that were put in — there was a lot of, literally, blood, sweat, and tears.
When people say that sustainability is a journey, it truly is — it’s an ongoing evolution. We learn new things every day about the impact of our actions. And if people aren’t paying attention and altering their actions, they’re missing the point of the story, really. It’s not about a checklist of your 20 things you must do and you’re done and let’s move on.
I feel good about what I was able to contribute, and I wanted to move on a high note. I didn’t want to become cynical, because I’ve seen that with people that have been in an industry for a while and in the positions that they’ve held and they start to get jaded and cynical. And I didn’t want to get there, and I felt like I was on the verge, right?
I’m taking the summer off. I’ve worked or been in school full time since I was 15, so this is a treat for me to be able to take time off to gather myself. Yesterday was my first day not working, and it’s a very odd experience. I think our industry is made up predominantly of Type A personalities — we’re pretty driven and we work crazy hours.… We have two decks at our house and on my first day off, I painted both of them. [Laughs.]