Communicating the Green Conference
There are two different kinds of communication that should be considered and that have two quite different purposes. First of all, the concept of the Green Conference has to be communicated to the participants and all local partners to ensure their cooperation that is crucial for the success of a Green Conference. Secondly, a Green Conference offers a great multiplier effect. Many people from different countries or backgrounds will come together and informing them will spread the idea of introducing green ideas into existing processes and everyday life even more.
Many measures involved in a Green Conference can just be realized by the cooperation of participants or partners, therefore they have to get a clear outline of the Green Conference and information on their role in it. Participants should be asked to decide on their means of transport carefully and to choose the most ecological alternative. To measure the whole conference impact participants will also have to share their means of transportation with the conference team. Furthermore, rules regarding the use of paper or one-way items must be presented noticeably as well as rules of waste separation. In general, participants will be more eager to cooperate when the whole concept is transparent to them.
Other partners such as food catering or copy shops should be informed as well so that they can supply appropriate products.
Any further information provided to partners and participants is not essential to the conference but will enhance the multiplying effect of the conference. In order to raise awareness among participants, information on individual green behavior or discussions and guest lectures on the topic could be included in the conference. Such efforts will have no direct effect on the conference’s footprint but make sure that the concept itself and the full range of green alternatives make a lasting impression on participants.
- Financial matters
For many conferences the question of realizing a Green Conference is also a budgetary question. The following will give a short overview on what kind of costs can be expected.
Coming back to the three steps of reducing, replacing and compensating, the first of them will raise no costs at all but might even lead to a considerable drop in expenses. When speaking about replacing, however, some of the greener alternatives will be more expensive than the conventional product – especially when it comes to food. Lastly, any compensation will not only increase the cost of existing budget items but adds a full new part to the budget.
Besides these increases, a Green Conference concept enhances the project’s attractiveness for many sponsors. So with green-focused fundraising the higher budget needs can perhaps be covered. But even if this is impossible the idea of a Green Conference does not have to be fully disregarded because of budget reasons. Still the list of status-quo and the process of deciding on reducing, replacing and compensating will give a good guideline, but after this initial process it must then be decided which measures fit the budget. In such cases the communication to the participants becomes even more important, as participants individually can become active. For example, expensive compensation or replacing activities could be left out at the beginning but should then be promoted and recommended to the participants, like organizations that offer to compensate individual flights or options of local and bio food close to the conference site.
- Evaluation and continuous process
For sponsors as well as for participants it will be interesting to know the actual success of the Green Conference and also the conference team benefits a lot from comparing the impact of their Green Conference concept to the increase in costs. Therefore, an evaluation process should always be part of a Green Conference. Within the organizational team this process ideally involves comparing the status-quo list to the actual quantities and products. This way the impact can be described in concrete figures, like the percentage of paper reduction, the change in the percentage of participants using environmentally friendly transportation or the overall decrease in the CO2-footprint. To get this last figure compensating companies should be able to assist with the calculation of the status-quo footprint. Along with the pure figures the organizational team should also consider which measures could be carried out successfully and without greater problems and which caused certain difficulties. To get a better insight on this, participants can be asked to fill out questionnaires.
Again nonrecurring and first time conferences cannot do the full process as proposed above as they have no figures they can compare their actual results to. It is still useful to have some reflections on how certain measures were implemented and what couldn’t be realized and why. Sharing such feedback with participants and other partners will increase the awareness among those even further.
Most important, of course, is the evaluation process to recurring conferences that want to make the Green Conference a continuous process. Having the comparison of the status-quo and the Green Conferences at hand, the next conference can easily be planned by considering what to keep, what to improve and what to add. A plausible agenda for the next conference, that might even include precise targets on reduction or improvement, will also help to convince sponsors.
For all following years the previous year will then always serve as the status-quo so that the improvement of the Green Conference itself can be monitored. The categories of the status-quo can be expanded over time by for example awareness raising measures or Green Conference related sponsors.