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by Sarah J.F. Braley | June 16, 2014

Amy Spatrisano, left, and Nancy Zavada, rightI recently attended a memorial service for David Sive, an attorney who often is called the "father of environmental law" (find his obituary here). I did not know David through his work, but rather as the father of the twins who were the best men at my wedding.

Throughout the evening, his family members and co-workers talked about his passion for the land and the work he did to preserve it (see Scenic Hudson Preservation Conference vs. the Federal Power Commission, and Mohonk Trust vs. the Board of Assessors of the Town of Gardner). The speakers interspersed their remarks with bits of the poetry David loved, particularly William Wordsworth. As I sat listening to the tributes — increasingly feeling that I had missed an opportunity to hear firsthand some amazing stories about his work — I began to ponder the nature of his passion and what drives someone to such lifelong advocacy. And I began to think about this blog and the people and passions that drive green practices in the meetings industry.

I did not manage to chat with David about his remarkable career, but I have been privileged to be reporting about environmental issues concerning the meetings industry from the ground up, through years of amazing changes. And I've spent many an hour talking to two of the industry's most passionate advocates, Amy Spatrisano, CMP (above left), and Nancy Zavada, CMP (right), of MeetGreen in Portland, Ore.

Amy and Nancy met at a meeting of the Oregon chapter of Meeting Professionals International and took their certified meeting professional tests together at the organization's annual meeting in Chicago in 1995; they became business partners in 2001. Together, they founded the Green Meetings Industry Council, now 11 years old, and contributed to the creation of sustainability standards for meetings through the Convention Industry Council's APEX initiative and ASTM International. Both say, however, that the essential difference they made together was coming up with business arguments for why going green is a good idea, helping planners and suppliers alike find a way to show their higher-ups, clients and peers that planning sustainable meetings does more than just help the environment.

On June 30, after 13 years together, Nancy and Amy will part ways, Nancy to resume sole proprietorship of MeetGreen, which she founded in 1994, and Amy to discover new ways to support the worth of sustainability, after she takes the summer off.

"I don’t really know yet what I’m going to be doing next," says Amy, "but just felt it was time to find a new adventure, to continue to find a way to channel my passion. The work I’ve been doing for the past 13-odd years, I’m really pleased with. The beauty is, we’re ending the partnership as friends. The forming of the GMIC, the support of the standards in the industry, the first green meetings book in 2007 — it’s been a really great experience and a really great journey."

"This is part of my 'back to the future,'" says Nancy. "I don't anticipate a lot of changes for me moving forward. It's the same product and the same premises. Currently, we're working on the power of human connection, whether face-to-face or virtual, and how we use technology to do that. We're working on a white paper right now about meeting design, carbon footprint and hybrid meetings. The next step in saving the planet is not flying everywhere, but still connecting in a human way."

About the dissolution of the partnership, both women are sad and excited: "I think Amy should do what makes her heart sing, and I'm proud of her having the courage to do that," says Nancy. "And I'm proud of myself. I want to push the envelope and move forward with meeting design and the next step in sustainability. I'm excited for both of us."

And I'm going to be watching to see what they both do next.