Simple things you can do to make your conference more sustainable
At African Agenda we implemented our first strategy to make our conferences more sustainable back in 2008. It wasn’t easy at first, and we had to work hard to convince many of our clients that ‘green’ was the only way to go. But once we showed them the positive response of delegates to green conference initiatives, and that these can save conference money – things turned around quickly.
For more information on our Green Conference Policy – see here.
Far from an exhaustive list, here are just a few of our sustainable conference must-dos from over the years:
- an automated electricity-savings programme to prevent waste by lights, air conditioning and escalators;
- a water-use minimisation system that incorporates things like drip-flow irrigation and dual-flush toilets;
- an in-house recycling system;
- a food re-distribution programme;
- biodegradable cleaning agents; and
- a policy to source local supplies that promote job creation and the sustainability of local farms and producers.
Highlight: We are lucky to work frequently with venues like the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The CTICC has serious eco-friendly polices in place that have helped the building achieve a 77.1%.compliance with the South African Energy and Demand Efficiency Standards.
- Select official conference hotels based on the distance between them and the venue. Hotels within walking distance eliminate the need for hotel shuttles.
- Ask official conference hotels if they have a sustainability policy. If not, encourage them to get one and give them a shortlist of five things they can do right away to ‘be greener’, and ask them to try these out during your delegates’ stay at their hotel.
- Encourage delegates to assist with this hotel’s greening measures by not requesting linen and towel changes during short stays and remembering to switch off the lights and air conditioning when they leave if it is not automated.
Highlight: In 2008, when we first started asking hotels if they had a sustainability policy, very few did. Encouragingly, for IFAC 2014, 15 out of 17 official congress hotels did!
- Always try to minimise the need for transport: choose venues and hotels that are close together, and encourage delegates to rideshare and use public transit.
- Choose transport suppliers that use emissions-reduction technologies and can certify that their service is carbon-neutral.
Highlights: Working with The Green Cab (“South Africa’s first cost-effective and uncompromisingly green transport solution”) for airport transfers and partnering with the Durban inner-city bus service, Muvo, to provide AORTIC 2013 delegates with free transport for the duration of the conference.
- Say no to water in plastic water bottles! Drinking water, right from the tap, in most South African cities is tasty and safe – so rather serve water in jugs, or provide delegates with water bottles that they can refill – a great sponsor branding opportunity!
- Always request locally-produced food and beverages to reduce transport-related carbon emissions. Where possible, request organic produce and benefit from food grown without synthetic fertilisers or chemicals derived from fossil fuels.
- And when it comes to seafood, only use WWF SASSI green-list fish. Challenge any venue that serves orange-list fish, and report any venue that serves anything on the red list.
- Rejoice daily for technological advancements! Online registration systems have done away with the need for the reams and reams of paper that were once needed for an old fashioned manual registration system.
- Where possible, print all materials on recycled paper products. In South Africa we like to use “Triple Green” paper produced at the Sappi Stanger Mill, one of only a few mills in the world using sugar cane fibre as its primary source of pulp. The pulp is a by-product of the local sugar production and is an annually-renewable resource as well as a recycled raw material.
- Furthermore, instead of printing those materials make them available electronically via conference websites, apps, or on memory sticks (the latter two being excellent sponsor branding opportunities).
Highlight: In 2014, for the Actuarial Society of South Africa’s Annual Convention, we reduced printed papers books from 1000 to 250. In 2015 we will be printing even fewer.
<images of flash drives, app, and Triple Green Sappi logo>
- Produce conference collateral, like bags and lanyards, locally with organisations that emphasise local job creation and skills development in disadvantaged communities.
- Restrict the number of delegate bag inserts. Encourage sponsors sending bag inserts to think of sustainable giveaways, to use soy-based inks and recycled paper for printed materials, and to limit packaging.
- Promotional and speaker gifts should be made from sustainable materials, use minimal packaging and be sourced locally.
- E’Yako Green’s team of brilliant women made more than 3000 bags out of recycled banners for our 2014 conferences.
- Don’t forget to ‘green’ your exhibitions. Pick an official exhibition supplier who knows about exhibition greening and outline exhibition greening measures that are in line with the event and budget.
Highlight: At the Actuarial Society of South Africa’s 2014 Annual Convention we introduced the Green Exhibitor Award. It made a big impact! We share more in our next blog post.
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