Three items to consider for an event’s carbon reduction plan

Carbon reduction

Corporate event-goers are more carbon-conscious than ever. Companies across Canada are lowering emissions to save money on operational costs, enhance their brand and attract and retain top talent looking for an eco-responsible workplace. In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint beyond the office walls, businesses also want to align such actions with green-minded partners. This reflects a sense of authenticity and integrity, according to a report from the David Suzuki Foundation. Doing so gains trust from customers and other stakeholders and motivates employees.

From lowering energy consumption to limiting waste, hosting large or small low-carbon events not only raises awareness of climate issues, but can accentuate a business’ commitment to reducing its footprint.

Here are three points to consider when planning such an event.

Reduce carbon emissions associated with events

One way planners can reduce the carbon footprint of a corporate event is through procurement. Choosing suppliers that provide low-carbon services and products could include using Energy Star-certified printers and photocopiers when producing content and using Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper that is 100 per cent recycled. Producing one tonne of recycled paper results in 80 per cent fewer carbon dioxide emissions. Paper recycling also leaves trees standing so they can absorb more CO2.

“We suggest collaborating with our official suppliers,” says Elaine Legault, director of production services at Palais des congrès de Montréal. “For example, using in-house audio-visual equipment means being less dependent on shipping and staff transportation. Choosing the convention centre’s official customs and logistics broker also ensures that all the shipping is optimized to divert fewer and fuller trucks from the road.”

It comes as no surprise that the Palais just achieved ASTM Green Meeting certification for undergoing rigorous environmental assessment across nine categories, from meeting venue and transportation to food and beverage. The meetings industry developed the standard to provide planners and suppliers with prescriptive, measurable specifications for producing more sustainable events.

A destination city that connects the event venue to major transportation hubs, accommodations and tourist spots is also key. For instance, The Palais, located downtown and bordering the Old City, links to the Montreal Metro at the Place-d’Armes station and to Montreal’s underground city. Planners might consider offering free public transportation passes, choosing taxi companies with hybrid vehicles or even the city’s bike-sharing system.

Leverage eco-knowledge

The carbon footprint of an event partially depends on what destination venue is selected and its own level of sustainable commitment. Electricity, heating and air conditioning, paper and other materials are a few ways that venues contribute to climate change. Over at the Palais des congrès de Montréal, the team has reduced the facility’s greenhouse gas emissions. It also uses LED and has adopted practices to manage waste and reduce water consumption. Meanwhile, green event advisors can offer deeper expertise in reducing carbon emissions.Planners can utilize personalized guidance from the green programs team of the Conseil québécois des événements écoresponsables (CQEER), the Québec sustainable events council. The CQEER spearheaded the responsible event management standard BNQ 9700-253.

“Inspired by our experience hosting the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, our green events program was a pioneer in the industry,” notes Legault. “The program has evolved through the years, meeting national and international standards. Along with our specialized partner, we make sure to coordinate all the actions which can improve the events’ footprints.”

Opting for any of the eco-packages or even the BNQ 9700-253 benchmark will guide a range of environmentally responsible choices, from supplier selection to waste management.

Carbon reduction

Dazzle delegates with carbon-reducing features

Engage delegates in a low-carbon or carbon neutral event right from the start through the event website, programming and press releases, and also with signage posted in the facility during the conference or meeting. To help increase awareness among attendees and the surrounding community, convention centres are incorporating sustainable elements that add an extra buzz.

The Urban Agriculture Lab at the Palais des congrès de Montréal has put some of the centre’s roof space to good use to promote techniques in urban farming and to reduce the heat island effect, which occurs more often in cities because concentrations of asphalt and concrete trap in heat. As cities become more dense and populous the heat effect increases, resulting in the more air conditioning, energy consumption and the production of pollutants like ground-level ozone.

“By setting up the Urban Agriculture Lab, the Palais contributes to the reduction of heat islands while proudly participating in the promotion of Montréal as an international city that is actively engaged in sustainable urban development,” adds Raymond Larivée, chief executive officer of the Palais des congrès de Montréal.

Included in this project is a free-standing vertical structure that not only tests natural and synthetic tarps, but increases the density of the garden to harvest for guests and locals.

Such projects jumpstart education conversations around local food. Currently, imported food travels more than 5,000 kilometers from farm to plate. Growing food closer to home means fewer transportation emissions and less chemicals to keep it from spoiling. Planners may want to set up a booth that reflects a venue’s unique sustainable project. Educational materials and fun giveaways may inspire companies and individuals to reduce their carbon footprint long after the conference is over.

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