Reducing the carbon footprint of your conference

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Recently at TerraPass, we have worked with several companies on reducing the carbon footprint of their conferences or events. Time and time we have been seeing the same results when it comes to mitigating the carbon footprint of an event. Read on to learn more about the footprint of events.

Collectively, business travel creates a sizable carbon footprint for conferences.  Conferences can produce 1,000 – 2,000 lbs of CO2 or more per attendee, depending on the event. That adds up pretty quickly. The carbon footprint of an event primarily consists of activities from three areas:

 Flight: An in-person event like conferences requires a number of plane trips. A typical cross country flight emits 2,145 lbs of CO2.

 Car & Cab: Traveling 40 miles, to and from the airport or in a cab around town, will emit about 40 lbs of CO2

 Hotel: Each night spent in a hotel creates 75 lbs of CO2 from fossil fuel derived electricity.

While more event planners are addressing event site emissions through the purchase of RECs and carbon offsets little is still being done to mitigate the carbon footprint of the attendees. Many companies are struggling to build a solution into their event plan. At TerraPass we have helped several conferences address this issue, from our experience the solutions produce fairly standard results that are easy to replicate. When planning a conference there are several different options for addressing emissions created by attendees, some are very effective and others are not. As efficiencies go, conference coordinators address venue, food, local transportation, and water regularly but around 90% of emissions from conferences and events are created by attendee travel.  How does an event continue to grow and do business while considering the world around them?

If you are interested in achieving 100% attendee offset there is a simple solution, but it requires the event host to be a leader in the field of emissions reductions. Building the carbon offset into the price of the event not only requires participation it also alleviates the pressure of the attendee to figure out the solution to their emissions problem. Many people have good intentions to take responsibility for their footprint, but do not have the tie or expertise to follow through on their intentions. By building the price of the offset into the event price a company is showing they have taken the leadership position and done the work for the attendee.

The second most effective way to encourage conference and event attendees to offset their emissions is through an opt-out program. We generally see around 15-20% of attendees offsetting their trip with this option. Like building in the offset price the event organizer is making offsetting accessible for the attendee.  As an add-on, however, this cost is not always an approved expense, thus dropping the take rates.

Another option is to create an opt-in program, but these programs generally only see 1-2% of attending opting-in. Here the burden is placed on the attendee to know what a carbon offset is, make the decision to participate and get the expense approved by their company.

Creating a successful offset program for your conference can have a meaningful environmental impact and help further the sustainability goals of your event and your company.

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