Everyone says we need to measure the carbon footprint of our event, but I don’t know where to start. Can you give me some idea how to go about doing this and where I can get the information I need?
A lot of people don’t measure their event-related carbon because they think it will be too time-consuming and difficult. But it doesn’t have to be. There are a number of credible carbon measurement tools available on the internet and your suppliers and vendors can provide much of the information you need. Here are the critical things to measure and how to go about it:
- Travel: The largest part of your event’s carbon footprint comes from transportation. Here, it makes the most sense to estimate the carbon output based on the number of people, the mode of transportation and the average distance they will travel to and from your event. A number of carbon offsetters provide simple calculators on their websites. Native Energy has a useful, easy event estimator on its website.
- Shipping: Don’t forget about the carbon emissions generated by shipping and delivery! It’s been estimated that from 10 – 15% of an event’s carbon comes from the movement of equipment and materials to and from the meeting site. You can estimate the carbon for this, as well, but it is far more accurate and reliable to have your shipper do it, since it will vary by the weight and mode of transportation used. For instance, EA Logistics does this as part of its Delivered GrEAn program and provides the free carbon offsets at no additional cost.
- Energy Consumption: Another big source of carbon comes from heating, cooling and power use at the meeting site. You can generate a general estimate based on square footage. However, the facility should be able to give you a more precise estimate of your potential energy use and advise you on ways to reduce your impact, for instance, by scheduling heating and cooling during move-in and move-out and turning out lights when rooms are not in use.
- Composting: Your waste hauler should be able to tell you the amount of paper, cardboard, glass, metal and organic waste that has been diverted from landfills and provide documentation on its appropriate disposal – an important metric for any green meeting. The diversion of food waste through composting has the greatest impact on global warming: The EPA* has shown that composting reduces methane emissions from landfills – another common greenhouse gas that can be even more damaging than CO2 – at a rate of about 80% per ton of food waste. Recycling saves carbon because goods made from recycled material require less energy to produce than those made from virgin materials. Also more trees are left standing, helping sequester more CO2, but these impacts are difficult to measure.
If you can get a handle on these four dimensions, you can estimate the carbon your event will potentially generate and word with your attendees, exhibitors, site and suppliers to reduce emissions and waste, and what you can’t eliminate offset with high-quality carbon offsets.
* U.S.Environmental Protection Agency, Solid Waste Management and Greenhouse Gases: A Life-Cycle Assessment of Emissions and Sinks, June 2002.