external image 1455582466_2c95d06a13.jpgMaking Conferences and Events "Green"

This page is inspired by a conversation on the KM4Dev discussion list

Brief Description

Many of us who run f2f events are challenged to find ways to reduce the environmental impact that they have from excessive usage of water bottles, styrofoam coffee cups and plastic glasses, flipchart paper not to mention the amount of carbon emissions that are generated when participants fly to gatherings. Organisers have a responsibility for conserving resources thereby reducing their environmental impact. The question of how to do that was put to the community.


Below are a number of ideas that were shared by KM4Dev community members in response to the invitation posted on the community list by Allison Hewlitt:
"I know that many of you regularly organise events - whether they be meetings, workshops or conferences. I am wondering if you have experiences or recommended resources related to making events green."

When to use

Whenever you are planning a face to face event!

How to Use

General ideas

  • Work with location to ensure recycling can be done and is logistically coordinated. Remind participants
  • If possible, avoid use of bottled water. Give everyone a water bottle with a means for labeling and offer pitchers of water to refill and/or ask participants to bring their own bottles or mugs
  • Avoid the use of paper serving products for food.
  • Donate leftover materials to local organizations
  • Use recycled paper for any paper that must be used
  • Recycle all flipchart/wall paper
  • Don't have a F2F for simple information dissemination - make F2F count and use it for people doing things with each other. For example, send out presentations, videos, etc in advance.
  • Piggy back multiple meetings and make the airplane flight pay for more than one event.
Contributed by Nancy White

Alternatives to Paper Handouts

"We used flash drives instead of binders full of endless printouts (that often get no further than someone's shelf). We did not do an environmental impact comparison for this as that was not our principle motivation (incidentally I'd be very interested if anyone has and could share it) but, the idea that people could reuse the flash drives and that we didn't kill a million trees in the process seemed like a good option. It also cut down on the time before the conference that presentations, etc needed to be finalized. We actually collected presentations from presenters the day of and loaded the drives before the reception. They can be used as a nice incentive to fill out your survey too (which, if you do one, you might want to set up laptops to do and have it on survey monkey rather than paper)." Contributed by Christian Pennotti

"We have been for some time now, providing a CD with background papers and the presentations (ppt) that were used at meetings; consolidating proceedings throughout and burning the CDs during the closing session. One issue that does arise is copyright infringement, since its difficult to keep tabs on how the material is used subsequently." Contributed by Noela Prasad

Making a Contribution to a Carbon Offset Program

"One green idea that I was introduced to at a recent workshop was to calculate the amount of carbon offsets that would be required to be purchased to green participant travel to the workshop. The organisers calculated the total number of air miles used and the corresponding number of green tags required to offset the travel. The amounts were shared with participants who were then invited to make tax deductible contributions towards the purchase of the tags which support the development of renewable energy sources.
While the debate goes on about the effectiveness of these kinds of programs, I felt that a powerful message was conveyed by simply letting people know how many miles were traveled and the relatively small amount of money (especially compared to the cost of the trip) that was required for offsetting." Contributed by Allison Hewlitt
Considerations for such program need to be made. As voiced by Michel Menou:
"Yes this sounds very nice in theory.
Yet, according to some sources, the carbon equivalent rejection of any single medium range air travel goes beyond the maximum annual rejection per person that would be necessary in order to stabilize CO2 concentration in atmosphere. See [1]
Thus the only option is a ban of international meetings. Especially when their only justification is for the sponsors to make odd statements in their annual report about their accomplishments, or for societies to keep their revenue stream up as usual.
In addition it is interesting to note a large number of services that "offer" carbon offsetting solutions are commercial ventures, which take their profit on the service, eventually up to 30%.
According to Carbon Calculators my friends who traveled from Quito to Kuala Lumpur should pay no less than 65.91$US what is not trivial for them.
If one agrees that the global warming is a radical challenge, it requires radical solutions, not symbolic gestures.
What is needed is a thorough "re-engineering" of communication process that were thus far relying upon conferences. Not only to lower carbon levels but also to make them more effective in offering a systematic and representative state of the art for the various groups of potential participants."

Include Green Notes in Participant Folders

"... a little green note that I included in participant folders in a 2006 event planned for USAID. It includes statements about the hosting organization, offsets, catering, recycled materials and using public transportation." Contributed by Lauren Sorkin

Tips and Lessons Learnt

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Examples & Stories

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Who can tell me more?

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Related Methods / Tools / Practices



Photo or image credits

  • Creative Commons Photo on Flickr by Violentz

Page Authors (Via KM4Dev)

  • Noela Prasad
  • Nancy White
  • Lauren Sorkin
  • Michel Menou
  • Allison Hewlitt
  • Christian Pennotti