Posted by: conferencebay | May 28, 2008

Environment-Friendly Conferences

Green is in. With all the talk about global warming and environmental concerns, it seems more important than ever for everyone to do their part to reduce their carbon footprint. From taking baby steps like shortening your shower time, to long term changes like travelling less frequently, every bit now counts in an effort to reduce the damage done to the Earth.

Likewise, companies the world over have been touting their new “green” policies. Capitaland, the real estate giant headquartered in Singapore, has an environmental policy as part of their corporate responsibility plan. Hewlett Packard has their green policy for a host of their imaging and printing options, and even the government has adopted a tax incentive scheme for businesses that go green.

So naturally, it’s only a matter of time before even going to conferences can be environmentally friendly. Just think about it. Five hundred or more delegates from all over the world will be flying in on planes in just a few days. When the head back home, they’re probably going to be bringing several tons of brochures, flyers and other paper material with them. Imagine the amount of carbon emission those two acts alone produced!

But, all is not lost! Some conferences are already taking steps to reduce their carbon trail with simple solutions that actually work over the long run.

Organizers can start by choosing to hold their conferences or events at venues which uphold environmentally friendly policies. Take for instance, the SKYCITY Convention Centre in Auckland, New Zealand. The centre is big on water conservation. It ensures that all its facilities and outlets are run efficiently to reduce the amount of energy they use. This is turn, brings down the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, not every venue that’s available will have an environmental policy. If booking one is not possible, organizers and delegates alike can both play their part towards a cleaner Earth.

Some organizers are booking conference venues that are situated within walking distance of hotels in the area. This reduces the need for delegates to drive to the venue. Convention venues that are within the hotel’s building itself work perfectly with this idea. There’s no need for delegates to rush to attend the sessions, and it in turn helps them save money as well. Even if it is not possible to book a venue close to hotels, organizers can always share about the benefits of car-pooling to their attending delegates. If all else fails, well, there’s always public transportation!

Another major reason why conferences may not be very Earth friendly is the sheer volume of paper that must be used to print numerous brochures and presentation material that is distributed to the delegates. Instead, organizers can request for all promotional material to be given out electronically. Delegates can be informed to bring their own USB drives or opt to have the material sent to them via email either before or after the event. It’s certainly a big leap away from the norm of giving out the brochures, and there might also be a few delegates who will not take on to the idea as well as others. If it’s too much of a risk, recycled paper can be used instead.

Another big step that can be slowly taken up is the purchase of carbon offsets. Quite a number of airlines around the world, such as Virgin Blue, Air Canada, and Qantas, have already taken up this initiative for their passengers. Carbon offsetting involves investing in projects and initiatives that prevent or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is a way of counter balancing for the emissions you already make in your day to day activities.

Other good ideas that could be incorporated would involve setting up recycling bins for lanyards and badges. These could be made with recyclable materials and once the event was over, delegates can deposit them into these bins to be sent for recycling. Bins can also be set up for regular waste materials to encourage delegates to dispose of their waste responsibly.

Remember, all it takes are a few small steps to change the big picture. If you’ve been to a conference, or any event at all, with an environmental policy in place, tell us about it. Drop us an email or leave a comment to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you!


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