Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Not Sexy, but Effective

Do you really want to hold an event with a smaller carbon footprint?

If you do you may want to stop paying so much attention to buying recycled, reusing your name badges and investing in voluntary CSR projects. Start paying attention to where your attendees live and the carbon required to get them to and from your event destination.

Not that the aforementioned practices aren't important. They are. But a little perspective is in order. Consider the following example:

Event Details:
  • Annual association conference.
  • Held in a different destination in the continental USA every year.
  • 4,000 participants, 100 exhibitors on average.
  • 19,800 meals and 7,300 room nights on average.
  • No ground shuttles provided.
  • Seven year history of sustainable event practices.

Estimated carbon benefits of 2011 green initiatives (excluding destination selection): 10.5 metric tons CO2 reduced.
  • Eliminated bottled water.
  • Reduced paper use.
  • Purchased post-consumer recycled content paper.
  • Reused graphics and signage.
  • Reused exhibit materials, including carpet.
  • Minimal event decor and branding.
  • Venue recycling and composting program.
  • This is roughly the equivalent of taking 2 cars off the road for a year.

Carbon impact of 2011 destination selection: 449 metric tons CO2 reduced.
Reduction includes the difference between the 2005 baseline air travel footprint and 2011 footprint from air travel based on participant city of residence. This is equal to taking 90 cars off the road for a year. Difference between total average air travel footprint 2005-2011 and 2011 footprint: 669 metric tons CO2, or 134 cars.

So if you're a planner thinking about how to make the biggest environmental difference with your limited time consider this: as much as CSR projects and event supplies made out of sustainable materials may give a green hue to your annual association conference, the deepest shade of green might come from seriously evaluating the air travel impact of the destination you select.

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