We don’t often do conferences here at Green Story. Apart from the large time and effort required, they tend result in huge carbon emissions. Most travel is by air and you need a lot of materials to keep attendee interest.
However, when we spoke to the team at Sustainable Brands, we knew we had to get there! With some of the most forward-thinking brands (and organizers) attending the conference, we wanted to showcase why data matters and how we can use impact metrics to make a difference.
So the impact can be justified in the name of the greater good, right?
Being data geeks, we didn’t want to leave it at that. This year we’re teaming up with Sustainable Brands to show how conferencing is going green.
Admittedly, there’s not much information about the impact of conferences. Sustainable Brands is one of the few conferences world wide that makes any kind of reporting on their impact. Digging into the data, it was apparent that the impact of conferences is big, with the hotels, water use, food waste, waste materials, electricity and of course, the flights!
For example, according to the Center for Sustainable Tourism, a typical trade show can generate the equivalent of 170 trees worth of paper waste, and the average attendee can take home as much as 10 pounds of paper.
Burning Man does it best!
The data that is available is focused on sporting events and festivals. A parallel can be made in this case. Like conferences, such events involved thousands of people travelling in large groups for a set number of days.
Most of the impact data that’s available is focused on waste, water and food use and waste during this time. To no one’s surprise, the amount of waste generated at such events is extremely high. However, there are great outliers like Burning Man.
But clearly, conferences need to do a better job tracking their impact, and we need more info!
What gets measured, gets managed
Kudos to the team at Sustainable Brands for doing a great job tracking their impact last year!
Here are some interesting stats from the 2017 conference:
- The event had a 91% waste diversion rate.
- Each attendee contributed to 330 kgCO2e of emissions.
- Each attendee consumed 4.4 gallons of water.
If this seems like a lot, Sustainable Brands is upping their sustainable ante this year. They are going to fully offset their carbon emissions, putting them in rare company.
Only 4% of conferences in the world offer carbon offsets (Holden, Butt, Chauvenet, Plein, Stringer & Chadès, 2017).
Beyond what forward thinking conference organizers like Sustainable Brands are doing, what can we as attendees do?
Here are some quick tips:
- Save hundreds of gallons of water by reusing your towels and sheets at hotels.
- Save a landfill waste by bringing reusable water bottles and using the refilling stations.
- You can also do your part by making sure everything your throughout goes into the right bin.
- Nullify your carbon impact through offsets if you fly. If you’re close by, use the train or public transport instead of flying or renting a car.
- Try to offset your energy use by monitoring your usage and buying from green energy providers such as Bullfrog.
And what are we doing, you might ask?
How are you getting ready for conference season? At Green Story we’re doing our part to make sure we remain sustainable as we head out for Sustainable Brands Vancouver 2018 by using green procurement from business cards to swag. But more on that later…