Carbon and climate and planes, Oh my!

For the meetings and events industry, it’s the elephant in the room and, for all it’s size and imminent danger, it’s not moving anytime soon.

Airline emissions represent a minimum of 80% of event-related emissions for larger meetings and a recent, information-rich article from the Guardian/Green Futures magazine reveals that, in spite of all the technological innovations and exciting developments with alternative fuels, no real change will happen for decades.

Now what?  The technology guys are working hard but more is needed.  Continuing, as an industry, with our head in the sand (our experience shows that fewer than 10% of events and business travel is measured and offset..  never mind integrated reduction efforts) is not responsible.  We know it’s an issue and yet– and here the aviation industry heartily agrees–we need to have meetings. 

So, champions of sustainable events, where does that leave us? Thoughts?…anyone?  (.. Bueller??)   There are no easy answers, which is why we need our inspired industry leadership.  We must commit to an approach, then galvanize and solidify our voice and speed the formation of a plan for immediate action.

Some ideas for event planners and suppliers:

1.  Promote renewable energy now.  Most destinations have a utility offering clean energy for business.  When selecting vendors, require they purchase clean, real-renewable (not nuclear, sorry nuclear team) energy.  Industry leaders, demand political action and investment to find faster solutions to climate friendly travel. Join forces with airline lobbyists.  We have shared goals here.

1.  Measure (placed here as co-#1).  Lots of helpful, easy-to-use methods and tools available, so no excuses for not measuring the climate impact of your event and business travel.  Don’t forget to include the travel incurred during planning phases.  Don’t forget to include RFI factor (1.9 suggested as a minimum).

2. Set reduction targets.  Perform an emissions forecast of your event or business travel.  There’s the size of your problem, so how will you minimize it?  Rail instead?  More speakers virtual technology? Print on site and eliminate shipping of heavy boxes for the exhibition?

How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.. and it’s chow time!

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