Determining the status-quo
A Green Conference should express its green purpose on all levels of the conference. To reach this aim, it is necessary to determine the status-quo as detailed as possible. This not only serves to define the conference patterns that need to be considered while actually realizing the Green Conference, but also allows for a close monitoring of the Green Conference impact, which is especially important if the Green Conference is meant to be a continuous process.
For conferences that take place repeatedly the status-quo can be determined by the parameters of the last conference, whereas for conferences taking place only once or for the first time, the status-quo has to be estimated during the preparation process. This will then involve less concrete figures but still gives a useful insight when actually deciding on specific measures.
Generally speaking, determining the status-quo mainly consists of setting up a list of all parts of the conference that cause any environmental impact. While doing so, it makes sense to set up some major categories, as for example:
- Pre-conference phase
- Conference venue
- Participants’ well-being
- Conference Materials
Depending on the actual set-up of the conference these categories might take different forms. But dividing the overall impact in categories as above brings some advantage in later steps of the Green Conference.
The first two categories are independent from the participants’ behavior; they might just depend on the size of the conference. In the pre-conference phase the main impact in most cases comes from the use of paper when communicating with participants or partners at the conference site. If possible, e.g. when there is a central office that is used by the organizational team, the electricity should also be taken into account. However, private workplaces or a local separation of the team often makes this impossible. Such a local separation on the other hand might lead to quite extensive traveling that definitely should be included in the status-quo listing. Technical equipment such as a server for the website, printer or mail service also belong to this category.
The second category is often out of the hands of the conference planning team as they will have to accept the setting at the conference site. Nonetheless, the impact caused at the site should be included in the total overview. The conference site will have the exact figures of electricity etc in their buildings and many conference sites already introduced environmentally friendly measures themselves and will then happily share those. When discussing Green Conference issues with the conference site the questions of heating, electricity, water and waste disposal should definitely be raised.
The category of participants’ well-being might be the most difficult one to deal with as this is often completely in the hands of the participants and cannot be monitored properly. However, meals and accommodation provided by the conference should be included in the overview. For the accommodation heating, electricity, water and waste disposal will again be the main issues. For all meals there should be considered the relation of meat to vegetables as well as the origin of the ingredients. Catering companies should be able to provide this information.
Traveling will often have the highest impact in terms of CO2-emissions, and should therefore be considered as a separate category. The means of transportation are chosen by participants and are not a known factor to the conference team beforehand. So when determining the status-quo, the expected number of participants and their expected countries of origin will give an idea of the actual impact or the figures of the last conference can be taken as a first estimation.
The last category summarizes all the materials used during the conference such as paper, badges, information material, drinking cups and other stationary distributed to the participants.
The list of status-quo including exact figures of the last conference or reasonable estimations will be the basis of all further steps.