Cut the waste
Organising a Greener Conference
All our activities have an effect on the environment which can be seen as a negative, but by thinking about these activities and their effects we can reduce our environmental impacts in a positive, constructive way. Feedback on this guide is welcomed
Be proportional, be positive, build this in as standard. Being green isn’t hair-shirts and second-best. It is often cheaper, and where it is more expensive often pays back in better green PR.
Benefits to Green Conference planning include: – A reduced environmental impact – Enhanced social, ethical and cultural benefits – Reduced financial costs – A more engaged group of delegates – Better feedback from delegates – Green PR based on real benefits – An enhanced institutional green profile
Marketing & Billing
You’re probably already using the Web and not paper-based marketing, but reduce impact by considering going entirely paper-free. Bill electronically and offer incentives for any activity that reduces travel or the use of materials. Tell people what you’re doing and why, but integrate it into your general marketing, this should be standard not special behaviour.
To reduce travel costs consider local fellow-organisers, preferably in the same building. Encourage organisers to follow a travel hierarchy which you will also use for the conference itself. Ask if the meeting is really necessary, or if a first introductory meeting in person can be followed up by remote meetings.
1. Telephone, online or a video conference (there is an environmental cost to using computers, but nearly always less than physical meetings)
2. Walk or cycle to meetings (active travel promotes wellbeing and can ensure you arrive at a meeting fresh)
3. Take the bus
4. Take the train (you can work on the train, but not in a car, it’s also a highly safe form of transport compared to cars)
5. Use a taxi (perhaps in conjunction with public transport)
6. Car-share (the social aspect of car-sharing is an added benefit)
Using your own car or flying to such meetings should be avoided. Other considerations include the time needed for some options, distance to travel, the weather and personal safety.
Organise the meeting close to a major public transport hub. Central Glasgow or Edinburgh are ideal in Scotland, but choose a venue which is closest to most potential delegates.
Meeting people in person is important, but some speakers may be able to present via video-link, a so-called ‘hybrid’ meeting approach.
Use the travel hierarchy above, and tell people why it’s good to travel better.
Offer free, secure cycle parking nearer to the venue than car-parking. Restrict car-parking as much as possible, whilst leaving spaces for those genuinely needing to use a car, or car-sharers.
Offer cycle maps, showers, a locker-room (sometimes you can utilise a spare hotel bedroom), offer towels, toiletries, healthy snacks to those cycling to the conference or from accommodation to venue.
Sometimes people have to fly. Economy is more environmentally friendly than Business or First. Group delegates on the same flights so you can arrange buses from the airport.
Avoid the use of off-setting; planting trees or sponsoring projects in developing countries. This is starting to be seen as an excuse for business as usual and can back-fire.
We’d suggest always offering vegetarian only.
- Ask suppliers for their environmental policy, and what they know about their food’s origins – Work with your in-house caterer to make the food as good as possible, and challenge uses of materials and choices of food – Use a local good-food café such as the Project Cafe – Offer plenty of vegan and gluten-free options – Eat seasonally and locally, and say so, label everything – Avoid wheat-based foods as this makes delegates sleepy after lunch – If you offer meat, offer quality white meats such as organic chicken – Serve food in larger containers avoiding packaging – Offer fruit not biscuits – Use jugs of tap water – Use china crockery – Avoid plastic trays & covers, Clingfilm, plastic cups – Avoid linen where possible, hard-top tables can be used as another effective and often beautiful green statement
If buying t-shirts or other textiles consider organic or fair-trade options.
Think about each part of your conference and how you can reduce the amount of materials used, and the life-cycle of materials you do use.
Ensure recycling bins are clearly labelled for the waste items you expect to generate. Consider weighing the final waste to feedback to delegates.
Use natural light wherever possible.
- Choose a venue that allows you to use natural light (the delegates will feel better for it too) – Open curtains – Know how to switch off and control lighting and heating – Switch off equipment & lights when not in use – Use a SMART board, not a flipchart – Question building owners about power use and how you can reduce your environmental costs (and their energy costs) – Use an LED projector if available
Recommend, and reward, hotels that have made an effort to be greener or seek green awards. The “Green Tourism Business Award” has “several ‘Gold’ members in Glasgow:”:http://www.green-tourism.com/green_holidays/?Region=subregion_22&Type=-1&Grading=4>bs_freetext= the Marriott, Jurys Inn, New Lanark Mill and Beardmore.
Reduce paper wherever possible.
- Avoid paper tickets or confirmations – Develop a conference App to keep delegates in touch – Project important information such as the agenda on a screen rather than printing it out – Consider ‘green’ lanyards, avoid plastic covers for badges – If paper is used, use chlorine-free & recycled Steinbeis paper – Design materials to be reusable or easily broken down and recycled
Apart from the accommodation, conference and food suppliers, you may have additional suppliers. These suppliers should be asked for their environmental policy; they should deliver the most environmentally ethical solutions for your conference in materials, processes, transport and disposal. Question them and ask for solutions – if they can’t offer it go elsewhere. Stimulating the market for green solutions is key to more choices being offered by suppliers.
Health and Financial Well-being
Choosing a venue with grounds, offering pre-conference or lunchtime outdoor activities such as yoga, walks, bird-watching trips, rock-climbing, a cycle trip with free bikes, swimming as alternatives to the bar will help offer delegates real alternatives (and are all options that we’ve seen offered). A local charity or social enterprise will be available to deliver healthy activities for you.
Be positive, this is not exceptional, it’s “just the way we do things here”
- Talk about this in your pre-conference marketing material – Put it at the top, not the bottom of your marketing – On the day, make it part of your conference introduction – Have the venue manager talk briefly about their green efforts – Brief your conference staff to talk about it and help delegates do more – Look at bringing in local suppliers to serve and talk to delegates – Document, photograph and report back on your green conference activities – Ask for feedback on how you did and ask for ideas for improvement – Say how much you’ve saved environmentally and financially, safeguarded social groups, protected cultural assets – Consider contracting a green events company to assist you, or to calculate your carbon cost.
For more contact John