Conferences and events are not only about making new acquaintances and meeting face-to-face but also about exchanging knowledge, experiences and celebrating together. Preparations often take many days, and many decisions are to be made, starting with the form of the event, the programme and the location, to name but a few. If you know anything about climate protection and the environment, you surely know that each of these decisions involves greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon footprint is a part of our lives, so naturally, it is present at conferences and events.
CO2 emissions of conferences and events
The exact level of greenhouse gas emissions, of course, varies. For example, the Glasgow COP26 climate conference, one of the most emissive climate summits ever, emitted 102,500 tonnes of CO2. That’s about as much greenhouse gas as 8,000 English people emit in a year. By comparison, the emissions associated with COP25 in Madrid (2019) amounted to an estimated 51,101 tonnes of CO2 and COP21 in Paris (2015) to 43,000 tonnes.
These events last several days and attract tens of thousands of participants from all over the world. In an average event for several hundred people, the CO2 emissions can range from several hundred kilograms to several tonnes.
A study published in Nature Communications indicates that in 2017, more than 1.5 billion people in 180 countries attended a business event. The same study reads that the average carbon footprint of an event attendee is 3,000 kg of CO2. Individually these numbers may seem insignificant, but they add to sizable numbers.
Carbon-neutral events – numbers are the point
The good news is that these emissions can be reduced or even fully neutralised! But how to organise a carbon-neutral event? At TerGo, we first encourage you to lower your event’s carbon footprint as much as possible and then offset those emissions that could not be prevented. As a result, the event will have a neutral impact on the environment and a positive impact on its participants!
That’s it in a nutshell. The process is a little more complicated in practice, but it can be structured around four steps:
- Calculation of the carbon footprint of the planned event
Everything related to the event must be included, such as the organisers’ transport during the preparation, energy and water consumption, emissions related to the use of disposable materials and decorations, construction of a stage or exhibition stalls, marketing activities, catering, security, accommodation and transport of participants, and others.
You may, of course, try to make such calculations yourself, e.g. in tables. However, they will be time-consuming and not as precise as those prepared by experienced environmental experts, who rely on ISO standards.
- Preparation and implementation of an emission reduction plan
A precise calculation of greenhouse gas emissions is the starting point toward organising a carbon-neutral event. This will make it clear which organisational issues generate the most emissions. Using this information, you can choose alternatives that help reduce your carbon footprint as much as possible. Some of these are:
- Encouraging participants to commute to the conference venue by public transport or organising group transport themselves;
- Cooperating with partners who care about the environment, for example, with a conference room operator who purchases energy from RES or a catering provider who uses local products and reusable equipment;
- Introducing more vegan and vegetarian options to the menu, eliminating non-reusable packaging, and recycling waste;
- Introducing the so-called badge recycling. A place where participants can leave their badges after the conference and which can be used at the next event;
- Cutting down on the printing of materials and gadget manufacturing for participants and/or opting for more sustainable solutions.
And many more! Each greener and more pro-climate choice translates into lower emissions.
- Recalculating the carbon footprint
Implementation of these new measures requires a recalculation of the carbon footprint. Organisers are also responsible for monitoring how the planned measures work in practice. For example, it may turn out that more (or fewer) transport services are needed than expected. This also affects the calculations!At that stage, we know exactly how much CO2 emissions we saved. On the other hand, it gives us the exact amount of CO2 that needs to be offset.
- Offsetting remaining emissions
Offsetting is a process that compensates for one’s greenhouse gas emissions, or part of them, done by buying the equivalent amount of emissions reduced in another part of the world, thanks, for example, to wind farms replacing coal-fired power stations. By knowing exactly how many tonnes of CO2 you need to offset, you can buy the right amount of carbon credits.At TerGo, we are running such an offset project in Belize. We are planting forests that capture CO2 from the atmosphere, and by doing so, we are creating high-quality carbon credits. Our agroforestry project in Belize successfully offsets CO2 emissions in Poland, the United States, Australia and other parts of the globe, as the climate has no borders!
Organise your carbon-neutral events with TerGo!
Carbon-neutral events can be organised, whatever their size. For example, the world’s climate summits organisers have chosen such solutions. TerGo is implementing a similar project for the UNEP/GRID-Warsaw Centre. We are preparing a report summarising the carbon footprint of the Only One Earth conference organised to celebrate World Environment Day, and we will offset its emissions using VERs (Verified Emissions Reduction).
If you want to organise a carbon-neutral event, email us at [email protected]. Together we can find solutions that are good for your event and the planet!