conference carbon footprint

As a local organiser of the recent BNP 11 conference in Paris, and hence involved in setting and cleaning coffee breaks and [now famous] wine&cheese poster sessions, I was rather shocked by the amount of waste generated by those events, albeit aware of the importance of the social exchanges they induced… And thus got to wonder how the impact of those conference events could be reduced. One solution is the drastic one, namely to provide exactly nothing at all during the breaks between talks and expect anyone hungry or thirsty enough to bring one own’s food or drink. Another one, as suggested by my daughter at the dinner table, is to provide Ecocups, namely reusable plastic glasses that can given to all participants at the beginning of the conference. Or sold (or rented) to those who have not brought their own mug or bottle. (Of course, this may be a poor idea in that manufacturing and shipping a hard-plastic glass that most likely will be discarded after a few days may be more damaging than producing the equivalent number of “disposable” thin plastic glasses. And in the end all this agitation is peanuts compared with the impact of flying participants to the conference. For which I have no handy solution… As biking to the conference location is a privilege very few can enjoy.) Still, and even though this puts another stone in the already rocky organisers’ garden, I wish we could adopt more positive policies at the meetings we organise and sponsor.

One Response to “conference carbon footprint”

  1. Glad to see like-minded people, less to see how slow progress is.
    Actually in Germany the issue has been solved at music festivals already with a 3-5€ deposit and washing, even though those cups are for beer instead of coffee/tea (but I bet there is some appropriate plastic around there).
    Another small but easy example: at some conferences we were asked to return badge holders for reuse in subsequent events in the same place; small start but still it was a nice feeling for me.
    Some events have recycled paper and minimalistic blocks (10-20 sheets?), I’d love more of these.
    But yeah flights are a big issue… only good thing is when holiday can be combined, but of course it is not a full resource saving.
    More in general: distributed communities and a multilevel structure for meetings?
    There are a lot of social responsibility technical associations, maybe time for statistics and numerics to also improve on that?
    And more responsible data companies are also coming.

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