The rapid expansion of the global events industry has brought about immense tourism growth and socio-economic development in the last few decades. Also, events have a special role to play in tackling climate change – they are exceptional assets for promoting the type of collaboration we need to come up with creative and accelerated solutions for the future of our planet.
However, in spite of undisputed benefits, large-scale events' contribution towards climate change can't be ignored. Research suggests that the annual carbon footprint for the events industry is responsible for more than 10% of global CO2 emissions. To put this number in perspective, it is the same magnitude as the yearly Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions of the entire United States! Another point to consider is the rapid rate at which this number is bound to increase, as the market size of the trillion-dollar events industry is expected to grow at a rate of 11.2% this decade.
With the increasing number of altruistic consumers and investors prioritizing carbon neutrality, many governments and companies around the world are ramping up their decarbonization commitments. The good news is that the desire to support the future of our planet has filtered through to the fast growing events industry too. Some recent examples are the carbon offset travel at the 2018 World Gas Conference and Radisson Hotel Group’s announcement to make all the meetings and events at more than 400 of its EMEA properties carbon negative by paying for offsets that amount to double the carbon footprint of each meeting. Larger sporting events sporting federations have also recognized the importance of organizing carbon neutral events and have made commitments in this direction, including NHL, FIFA, Formula 1, and International Olympics Committee. Notably, The Paris 2024 Olympics has an ambitious target: becoming “the Greenest Games Ever”.
The looming threat of climate change poses a huge threat for the sustenance of the international events industry, therefore making the future of carbon neutral events inevitable.
The good news is that the journey to carbon neutrality at events can be started at any point as long as there is a significant attempt to reduce emissions, waste, or promote environmental sustainability through action oriented measures. There are 4 key steps to adjust your actions to make your event carbon neutral.
The first step of climate action is awareness — it is only when you know your footprint, that you will be able to take appropriate action to reduce it. As the event industry grows, it also leads to substantial increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It's no surprise that bringing lots of people to a small space during a short period of time leaves a substantial environmental impact. The 5 key contributors to event carbon emissions are:
Reports claim that travel accounts for anywhere between 70%-90% of an event's total carbon emissions. The average event attendee has an impact of about 200 kg of CO2 a day, but can reach up to 1000 kg when extensive travel is needed.
Travel isn’t just flights on airplanes, it accounts for the travel to and from the event - taxis, buses, trains, etc. Especially if you are hosting a multi-day event (which if people are flying internationally for, is most likely), you must take into account the impact of travel to and from your venue every day.
A typical national conference attendee produces more than 1.89 kg of waste a day, most of which will end up in a landfill. Anyone who has attended an event can attest to the bulk amounts of food, printed marketing materials, agendas & brochures, etc. Although initiatives like eliminating plastic water bottles and switching to biodegradable utensils and napkins are great, it is often viewed as the low-hanging fruit of sustainability and more often than not these initiatives are not enough to combat the serious impact of events on climate change. After all, waste will only account for 10-30% of the overall carbon impact of the event. Organizations need to focus on a holistic approach to sustainability and consider all the aspects that are contributing to carbon emissions.
Food production accounts for nearly 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions, with nearly half of that coming from meat and dairy production. In the United States alone, 80% of agricultural land is used for raising animals and the crops that feed them, while half of all water consumption goes towards meat production. Catering to the Climate released a comprehensive report on the impact of meat-heavy diets in relation to events and large gatherings. It states that For a 500-person event, the benefits of serving a low-impact menu are equivalent to avoiding the emissions from 22,000 miles driven by a car or about 50 people flying round-trip from New York City to Chicago
Multi-day conferences mean that attendees need to find accommodation to stay overnight - and these stays also come with a footprint. Broadly speaking, the larger the hotel (chain) and the higher the star rating, higher the carbon footprint of the hotel.
Finally, one should not overlook the energy that is needed to power the venue. Although the share of about 4% of the total footprint is relatively small compared to the transport of attendees, it is an easy-win that can easily be changed by switching to green energy or other more environmentally-friendly alternatives.
The exact carbon impact of the event can be calculated using TraceSafe’s Events Emissions Calculator. This will not only give a clear perspective of the event’s overall emissions, but will also provide unique insights into the impact of individual teams and attendees.
Once you identify your event’s emission hotspots, you need to start building your climate strategy to eliminate or reduce some of those emissions.
Switching to a hybrid model is a common practice by many event organizers, considering the weight of travel in an event’s overall carbon footprint. Going Hybrid not only reduces the event’s carbon bill, but also tremendously increases its reach
Other common sustainable practices for events include inviting local guests, encouraging the use of bikes or public transport to attend the event, sourcing local food and drinks, serving vegetarian food, encouraging venues to use renewable electricity, digitizing event literature and banning single-use plastics.
For many events, it’s not possible to eliminate factors that cause carbon emissions. In that case, the best practice is to neutralize the hard to reduce emissions through credible carbon offsets. Carbon offsetting is the process of financially supporting projects around the world that work to reduce GHG emissions. Choosing the right offset projects can be challenging, which is very finding a credible partner can be highly valuable. TraceSafe offers high quality offset opportunities to companies of all sizes with credits that are verified by third party auditors like Deloitte.
If you are committed to reducing your event’s carbon emissions, you need to make sure everyone is committed to the cause. Talk about what you are doing to make a difference on your website and social media channels – it will raise awareness and educate attendees, cementing your commitment to climate action. By working with the right partner you can also offer your attendees a chance to offset their personal emissions from the event through a simple website integration.
To know more about hosting carbon neutral events from the technology partner of some of the biggest international events, get in touch with our team today.