Updated: Sep 26
When we think about the environmental impacts of events, our minds often go to the paper waste from brochures, the plastic waste from water bottles, and perhaps the energy consumption of lighting and sound equipment. However, there's a much larger impact that we tend to overlook: the carbon footprint of the event attendees themselves.
According to data from Shift Carbon, on average, a single event visitor has a carbon footprint of 571KG CO2 equivalent. This might come as a shock to many. When you multiply this number by hundreds or thousands of attendees, the numbers become staggering. How can an individual attending an event have such a significant impact, and what can we do to mitigate this?
Understanding the Carbon Footprint
To understand the 571KG CO2 equivalent, we need to break down the activities that contribute to this number:
Transportation: This is often the most significant contributor. Whether it's flying in from another country, driving from a nearby city, or even using local public transport, the carbon emissions associated with travel are substantial.
Accommodation: Attendees who stay in hotels or other forms of accommodation contribute to carbon emissions. Heating, cooling, laundry, and other hotel operations all require energy.
Food and Drink: The production, transportation, and preparation of food and beverages can also have a significant carbon footprint, especially if the event doesn't prioritize sustainable sourcing.
Waste: From food containers to promotional materials, the waste generated at events can contribute to the carbon footprint, especially if not recycled or composted.
Steps to a Carbon Neutral Event
Recognizing the impact is the first step. Here are some actionable steps based on guidance from Shift Carbon to make your event more sustainable:
Promote Sustainable Transport: Offer shuttle services from major transportation hubs, encourage carpooling, and provide information on public transport options. If the event is international, consider virtual attendance options.
Choose Sustainable Venues: Opt for venues that use renewable energy sources, have effective waste management practices, and are accessible via public transport.
Prioritize Sustainable Catering: Choose caterers that source locally and prioritize organic and sustainable ingredients. Reduce meat offerings or consider going vegetarian or vegan for the event, as plant-based meals often have a lower carbon footprint.
Minimize Waste: Go digital with event programs and tickets. If printing is necessary, use recycled paper. Set up composting and recycling stations and encourage attendees to use them.
Educate Attendees: Use the event platform to educate attendees about the carbon footprint and ways they can minimize their impact, such as using reusable water bottles or offsetting their travel emissions.
Events are integral to networking, learning, and business development. While we should continue to enjoy and benefit from them, it's crucial that event organizers and attendees recognize their environmental impact and take steps to mitigate it. With a 571KG CO2 equivalent carbon footprint per attendee, there's no time like the present to start making our events more sustainable. By incorporating sustainable practices and offsetting emissions, we can enjoy the benefits of events without compromising our planet's health.