Step 1: Measure Your Event Carbon Footprint
Planning a climate-friendly event without measuring your carbon footprint is a bit like flying blind. You need to measure.
Every event has a unique carbon footprint. This is because events use different sources of energy in different ways. The highest source of emissions for a conference, typically come from participant air travel, for example. However, a community festival footprint is usually characterised by a greater portion of emissions from car trips, portable power generators and food preparation. Emission reduction strategies for different events will vary depending on emissions sources, making it critical to know where your CO2 is coming from.
Cavendish Venues are one of the very few venues with a bespoke tool for calculating the carbon emissions generated by our activities. see Cavendish Carbon Calculator
Scope your measurement. This involves drawing clear boundaries around what sources of emissions will be included in your calculation. While there are no clear-cut standards about what to include for events specifically, it’s important to be as complete and transparent as possible by including relevant and significant sources of emissions.
Get specific. Added resources may be needed for accurate and complete calculations. While helpful in estimating your footprint, one-size-fits-all free online calculators can generalize impacts and miss important sources of emissions. For example, few include portable generators or allow detailed consideration of attendee air or car trips. So if you are planning to make important decisions or statements about your climate-friendly event it can help to hire a professional for a small fee.
Effectively scoping can help to brainstorm emissions sources that are:
Directly controlled and/or are owned by the event organiser, including freight, participant shuttles, portable generators and staff travel.
Not directly controlled or owned by the organiser, but are seen to be part of the event, such as guest rooms, participant travel to and from the event, and emissions from the production of products used by the event (such as food or giveaways).
Step 2: Reduce Your Emissions Through Well-Targeted Strategies
Most effective actions to reduce emissions will become evident once your carbon footprint has been measured. Large sources of emissions at events can be reduced through some common strategies.
Design an option to enable remote participation, such as a hybrid event, live stream, virtual tradeshow, webcast.
Hold the event as close as possible to the attendees.
Choose a city that has direct flight access for participants. Fewer connections means fewer emissions. Association conferences that are held close to where the majority of members live can reduce air emissions by 20-40% (Source: MeetGreen).
Venue and guest room energy:
Select a green building for guest rooms and event space. Look for designations such as LEED®. This is because LEED-certified buildings have 34 percent lower CO2 emissions (Source: US General Services Administration).
Choose a region that uses low-emissions energy sources. Siting your event in a country, state or province that uses renewable energy (such as hydro, wind or solar) will automatically reduce your carbon footprint.
Attendee ground shuttle fuel:
Design a walkable event neighbourhood to reduce the need for attendee transport. Communicate walking routes to make access easy.
Choose a bus provider that is able to access local, new and fuel-efficient vehicles.
Integrate event transportation planning.
Encouraging public transport use for local event commuters can save approximately 5 kilograms of carbon per trip. For a 10,000 attendee festival that adds up to 100 metric tons of carbon avoided (Source: BART).
Use of local rental equipment and supplies, especially for heavy items.
Schedule freight so shipments can be consolidated. Avoid last-minute, single shipments. Eliminating 10 metric tons of shipments travelling 1,000 km cuts approximately 1 MT of CO2 (Source: MeetGreen).
Portable generator fuel:
Know your power needs and talk to your generator provider about the proper size and set-up of generators to promote efficient energy use.
Reduce power demand by using equipment that is more efficient and working with staff and contractors to eliminate unnecessary consumption.
If the UK’s summer festivals cut their diesel generator consumption by 10%, over 1 million litres of diesel and more than 3,000 tonnes of C02 would be saved in one year alone (Source: Powerful Thinking).
Step 3: Be Accountable for Unavoidable Emissions Impacts
While reducing emissions is a top priority, it is also possible to take responsibility for carbon emissions that cannot be avoided through carbon offsetting. Carbon offsetting are credits for greenhouse gas reductions that can be sold in order to compensate for other emissions produced elsewhere.
Finding a provider and a project:
Event planners can tender for carbon offsets much like they do for other event services. When selecting a provider look for someone who understands your event-related needs and is able to source offset projects that are a good fit for your event.
Ask questions to help you find the best provider and project for your event, including:
Is your provider able to help you measure your carbon impacts accurately and specifically?
Can they be present at your event to talk about the offset project?
Can they provide communication support to prepare messaging for participants?
Are they able to provide references for event-related client projects?
What type of offset projects do they offer? Where are they located and how are emissions reductions achieved, measured and monitored?
Can you pick the project you want to support?
Are the projects verified, certified, permanent and/or additional?
The last question is particularly important. Higher quality offset projects will be checked by a third-party according to recognised standard. These standards assess permanence to ensure the project has a long lifecycle. For example, a carbon offset project that planted trees with a high risk of being cut down would have little permanence, and less carbon benefit. Additional projects are projects that would not have happened without offset funding.
Funding an offset
Offsets are typically sold per metric ton. An offset provider might quote you a price of $5 to $25 per metric ton. Why the variance? Project quality is a big factor: better projects that meet stringent criteria can cost more. The amount of emissions you want to offset can also affect pricing where bulk discounts are available.
Possible funding models for offsets might include:
Adding the cost of your event budget and paying for it outright
Securing a sponsor to cover the cost
Including the cost in the ticket price or registration cost for attendees, either as a mandatory or optional fee
Requiring suppliers to cover the cost to offset emissions associated with their services
Any combination of the above
Step 4 Climate-friendly
Communicate Your Climate-friendly Strategies event efforts present a brand-building opportunity for your event. So don’t forget to weave messaging into your experience. Your carbon offset provider may provide logos or brand assets to assist.
Methods to consider may include:
Climate-friendly information added to your event website, registration system, mobile applications or participant confirmations.
Social media messaging, including inspiring fun facts that show the difference individuals can make when acting together to cut carbon.
Onsite digital signage stating commitments, sponsor support and positive impacts.
Ambassadors or green team hubs onsite.
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