The environmental impact of conducting business events has always been a significant concern. The rapid development of the global event industry might have brought about substantial socio-economic development globally, but at the same time, it has exerted enormous pressure on organizations to mitigate global climate change. Our CO2 calculator is an easy tool that can help you realize just how big your event’s CO2 footprint is.
Organizing traditional physical events requires a significant amount of money and energy. Whether it is hosting the event, consuming resources during the run, attendees traveling long distances, or the amount of trash generated, the CO2 footprint left behind by in-person events is a subject of global distress.
Virtual and hybrid events have contributed to reducing CO2 emissions in a large way. Read ahead to know the different ecological consequences of physical and virtual events and use our handy calculator to know just how much of an impact your choice of event type can make.
The resource consumption of physical events
A significant impact of physical events on the environment is greenhouse gas (GHG) emission. It occurs mainly due to attendees traveling to the event venue using long and short-haul flights and road transport.
Global aviation (passenger and freight; domestic and international) causes over 1.9% GHG and over 2.5% CO2 emissions worldwide. A domestic flight can generate over 133g of CO2 emission per person per kilometer!
Hotel accommodations further contribute to such emissions. Multi-day events often require overnight hotel stays. It increases the emissions caused by electricity, heating, and cooking gas usage.
And of course, conference venues need electricity and air conditioning/heating during the event.
The food and beverage provided at the event also contribute to varying GHG emissions levels. A 2020 study in the Journal of Food Products Marketing shows that food catering at conferences, meetings, and other events generates a lot of food waste. The fear of running out of food often compels organizers to order more than needed. Also, at event buffets, attendees are more likely to pass on food that has been sitting out for a while, which contributes to wastage.
All printed communication at events has a significant environmental impact depending on the format, material, and volume. This includes flyers, posters, banners, and other frequently distributed promotional materials.
As per a recent report, an average physical conference attendee generates over 170 kilograms of CO2 emissions in a day. A 3-day in-person event with over 1000 people will produce over 5670 kilograms of waste, over half of which directly goes to the landfills.
Sources of CO2 emissions in virtual events
Virtual and hybrid events have huge potential to reduce GHG production. The emissions mostly only come from the electricity needed to power attendees’ digital devices and the electricity consumed by the servers responsible for audio and video transfers.
The common sources of GHG and CO2 emissions in virtual events include
- Electricity consumption by smartphones, laptops, PCs, etc.
- The electrical intensity of internet data transfers (cord and wireless)
- Lamp usage in homes for lighting
- Search engine queries and visits to websites
Compared to a physical event, the resource consumption is exponentially lesser.
Use our easy CO2 calculator and find out the footprint your event creates.
Co2 impact comparison – virtual / in-person events
So how can virtual events benefit the environment?
Virtual events have a 500x lesser environmental impact than physical ones! As a result, virtual events have provided businesses with an effective and sustainable alternative to conventional in-person gatherings. They enable exponential reach and organizational growth while causing significantly lesser environmental damage.
A 2021 study found that transitioning from in-person to virtual events can reduce the carbon footprint by over 94% and energy consumption by over 90%. It further shows that even hybrid events having 50% in-person attendance can help organizations reduce their CO2 footprint and energy use by two-thirds!
The University of Michigan quantified the CO2 levels emitted by virtual events in recent research. It was found that while virtual events are not entirely free from leaving carbon footprints, they generate drastically lower emissions than physical gatherings.
The research included a case study of a virtual conference. That event generated 66x lesser GHG emissions than what an in-person event in San Francisco would’ve produced.
How event organizers can reduce their CO2 footprint
Here are a few practices that event organizers can follow to help reduce the CO2 emissions in their events:
Go digital or hybrid
As shown by numerous studies, switching to digital is the most helpful strategy event organizers can follow to host sustainable and successful events. Leveraging virtual event platforms like Onlive can enable organizers to make their events an interactive, global affair while reducing their ecological impact. All events can’t be completely virtual. Some events might need some face-to-face interaction to serve their purpose. Here, organizers can host hybrid events with some in-person attendance and the rest online to reduce CO2 emissions.
Facilitate carbon offsetting
Carbon offsetting refers to increasing carbon storage (through tree plantation, land restoration, solar panel installation, etc.) to compensate for carbon emissions.
Some airlines like British Airways, Qantas, Emirates, etc., offer carbon offsetting schemes. Event organizers can recommend these airlines to attendees. Passengers or organizers can contribute funds that can later get invested into such environmental projects.
Opting for eco-friendly food options at your hybrid event is a good way to lessen the environmental impact. Consider offering more sustainable and healthier alternatives like vegetarian or vegan foods.
Go green with technology
Choose a venue that implements green technology with LED lighting, solar panels, etc., to notably contribute to making hybrid events environment-friendly.
With these practices, organizers can host successful events while causing exponentially lesser environmental damage.
To know more about how you can effectively host large-scale sustainable virtual events and dramatically reduce your CO2 footprint, try Onlive now!