Hosting Eco-Friendly Events: A Guide to Sustainable Conference Formats

Hosting events in a climate-friendly way is achievable and essential. Whether you're opting for virtual, in-person, or hybrid formats, following these tips can significantly reduce the environmental impact of your event. By making conscious choices and encouraging sustainable practices, we can contribute to a more eco-friendly event landscape.

Hosting Eco-Friendly Events: A Guide to Sustainable Conference Formats

The way we host events has evolved with the rise of virtual and hybrid conferences. These new formats hold the promise of being more environmentally friendly. In this article, we explore the impact of in-person, virtual, and hybrid conferences on our planet and provide tips for hosting climate-friendly events.

Virtual and Hybrid Conferences:

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to virtual conferences. While virtual gatherings offer accessibility and inclusivity, there's a need to understand their overall environmental impact. Hybrid conferences, which blend in-person and virtual elements, offer a middle ground.

Understanding Environmental Impact:

To measure the environmental effects of different conference types, a study looked at factors like travel emissions, technology use, planning, execution, catering, and accommodation. This helps us quantify the carbon footprint and energy demand associated with each format.

Key Findings:

The study revealed important insights:

  • Virtual conferences can slash carbon footprint and energy use by around 94% and 90%, respectively, compared to in-person events.*
  • Hybrid conferences, with thoughtfully chosen hub locations, can reduce emissions by two-thirds while keeping more than half of the event in-person.
  • Adopting plant-based diets and improving energy efficiency in technology can further lower the carbon footprint of virtual conferences.


Tips for Hosting Climate-Friendly Events:

Here's a practical checklist to make your event more environmentally conscious:

1. Choose Conference Format: Consider whether an in-person, virtual, or hybrid format is most suitable. Each has its advantages; think about the environmental impact and attendee preferences.

2. Venue Selection: If hosting an in-person event, choose venues with energy-efficient facilities, renewable energy sources, and convenient public transportation.

3. Transportation: Encourage attendees to opt for low-carbon travel options like trains, buses, or carpools. If possible, provide incentives for eco-friendly transportation.

4. Technology Use: For virtual and hybrid events, use energy-efficient and low-emission video-conferencing platforms. 

5. Catering: Choose locally sourced, organic, and plant-based catering options. Minimize food waste and consider reusable or compostable packaging.

6. Accommodation: Provide information on sustainable accommodation options for in-person events, promoting hotels with green certifications and practices.

7. Communication: Use digital communication for event promotion and materials. Minimize paper usage and encourage electronic ticketing and programs.

8. Waste Management: Set up recycling and composting stations. Minimize single-use items and provide water refill stations.

9. Carbon Offsetting: Consider investing in carbon offset projects to counterbalance emissions that can't be eliminated.

10. Education: Use your event as an opportunity to educate attendees about sustainability and inspire them to make eco-friendly choices in their lives.