The two worlds I straddle - sustainability and process - interweave in all sorts of ways. And one of those ways involves challenging myself, and other facilitators, about the sustainability of our own practice. And although I've called this blog post 'greening' our practice, of course there are the social and ethical aspects of sustainability as well as the environmental ones to consider.
There are some obvious, relatively easy things we can do to improve the direct impact of workshops and meetings. At a recent IAF England and Wales meetup, we built a list of the things we are already doing: our 'easy hacks'. Lots about resource-efficiency: reusing, refilling and recycling the paper, pens and other stationery we use. The IAF list also touched on travel - choosing a venue which is easy to get to by public transport and finding ways to make lift-sharing possible.
And venues sometimes do their bit too - the pictures after the list are from NCVO's meeting rooms in London. If you're providing food: local, seasonal, plant-based and watch the waste! I worked with a client recently who specified that all catering should be vegetarian. One venue excelled themselves, even including a vegan blackberry jelly. The other clearly couldn't believe the request, and included ham and tuna sandwiches in the lunch.
The jumbo in the room
And I'm glad that we picked up travel at our IAF meeting, because it really is the jumbo in the room. This guide to running 'greener' meetings by the ICLEI contains the startling statistic that over 87% of the CO2 emissions associated with a particular conference were due to transport. That paper we worry so much about? 0.5%. The inventory was done on an international conference in Brussels, which is a bit different to a workshop for people who are based nearby. But that's the point. Consider the distances and travel modes carefully. How much can be done by meeting virtually? How easy is it for people to get to venue by public transport? Can you help people who need to drive, to car share? If people walk or cycle to the venue, is it safe to do so? Make sure the details about where the event will be held are helpful to non-drivers.
Bang for your buck
There is a trade off between the benefits your participants get from the event, and the (negative) sustainability impacts it has. Help your client ensure that the event has really clear aims (free download), is well designed and organised, and that participants get a fabulous experience which was worth it!
A comic take on this
follow this up
Here are some places you can find out more:
- If you're an academic or scientist, then you may feel that flying to conferences (or putting on conferences others fly to) is unavoidable. There are academics and scientists working to make flying for conferences rarer: see academic flying blog and no fly climate sci.
- People working in the 'events' sector are banding together to reduce its impact, e.g. through Positive Impact Events.
- Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) have produced a guide on greening large events.
- There is an ISO standard: ISO20121 for sustainable events.
- This website is for people who want their festival to be greener.
- And this is my blog post from a few years back on refillable marker pens.
Thanks for ideas and leads
I got a great response from a couple of LinkedIn groups - Sustainability Professionals and the UK Facilitation Network. (These are LinkedIn groups so you need to be a member to see the posts.) Thanks in particular to Adrian Tan for pointing me towards the ICLEI guide mentioned above.