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Brianna, an environment and sustainability enthusiast with a passion for just and sustainable systems joined us in the green room to discuss collecting sustainability data for events. With a BSc in Geography and an Msc in Climate change: environment, science and policy Brianna’s specialities lie broadly across environmental dynamics in Anthropocene, environmental modelling and policymaking for environmental empowerment and climate justice. Her current activities include the #ClimateReframe project which aims to highlight some of the best POC and UK based Indigenous Peoples who are climate experts, campaigners and advocates living and working in the UK.

In her current role Brianna facilitates the implementation of environmental sustainability practices and strategies for various organisations, specialising in environmental data collection. This entails collecting data submitted by organisations and companies in the Arts and Cultural sector using the Julie’s Bicycle Creative Green Tools.

Below are the answers to some of the key questions that event organisers had for Brianna.

What should you do if you are looking at sustainability for the first time?

The first thing when looking into sustainability would be to gain some understanding around your event and highlighting what the event’s biggest impact/s would be. If there are immediate areas where you can take easy steps to improve the given impact i.e. eliminate single-use plastics, then start there.

A key thing to remember is that the journey to sustainable event planning doesn’t have to be complicated or overwhelming. Small changes lead to great impacts.

A couple of tips would be to:

  1. highlight 1 or 2 things you could do now. This could be partnering with a waste disposal company that specialises in sorting different waste types or sourcing local suppliers to purchase food from.
  2. articulate throughout your team/s the visions you have for your event (that you’re striving to have a sustainable event). This will help create a focus and engage those working around you to better understand and bring forward ideas that could contribute to ‘greening’ the event.
What data can you collect when planning events?

With everything, there are standard environmental factors that event planners can look into to produce a carbon footprint – A carbon footprint is a measure of how much carbon is emitted from a given activity greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, etc.

These include General data (venue/building floor area / number of artists / total known attendance (actual tickets/visitors) / length / total audience days), Energy Use, Water, Materials & Waste, Travel & Transport (audience / business / fleet) / Food & Drink

It’s also useful to keep track of procurement and your suppliers that you’d be using and other governance practices involved e.g. environmental policies and action plans.

What type of data is most challenging to collect and monitor?

From experience, audience travel is the hardest data to collect. As Vision 2025 published recently, that “travel and transport make up at least 80% of an event’s carbon footprint”! So far, organisations hosting events are researching new ways to capture this data such as questionnaires during ticket purchasing or if the event supports specific methods of travel to venue ie. dedicated coaches etc.

Data collection also depends on having a team onboard and knowing what data is needed. To help with this, there are online platforms like Julie’s Bicycle Creative Green Tools which is a specially designed online carbon calculator to help the creative sector to monitor their impacts and better understand their data.

What types of data do you collect for the #ClimateReframe project and have you noticed any interesting developments since it started?

The #ClimateReframeProject is a collective aimed at amplifying the voices of BIPOC within the UK environmental movement. We make up climate experts, campaigners and advocates living and working in the UK.

The UK environmental movement is often “whitewashed” and can exclude ‘minority’ voices of which climate affects the most so it’s important for us to have a platform to voice narratives that are often forgotten at climate conferences, and lacking in working groups.

The project wants to make it easier for media, funders, conferences and campaigns to find them and strengthen their work by including their expertise and perspectives throughout.

Any innovative ways to present sustainability data to make it easier to understand?

Graphs can be a pain but they are also one of the best ways to convey data as long as you keep the message simple.

However, with defining emissions and CO2, carbon equivalents are a great way to engage your audience. For example, if you saved 300,000kWh of electricity, what does that actually look like? You could find the equivalent of that given amount that would power UK homes e.g. that equates to powering 100 homes or something that relates to your audience.

Finding equivalents can be difficult as there isn’t a good UK website (that I’ve managed to find) but the Environment Agency in the US has a decent equivalency website. It’s a good starting point to work out appropriate equivalents.

Is there somewhere online where we can see the environmental factors?

I’m sure there are a couple of online carbon calculators that would allow you to capture different data but the best one would be Julie’s Bicycle’s Creative Green Tools. It’s easy to use and allows you to input different data depending on what you have.

I don’t have a list but normally go by what options are available on Julie’s Bicycle’s website; CGTs or Sustainable events guides.

Vision2025, Powerful Thinking all have great resources around the data you need to collect or think about when planning sustainable events.

I’d love to find a way to show carbon footprint on my food menus, is there a simple set of data requirements I can ask my caterers to provide so I can work out what food is wasted?

I think looking at food waste would come under waste and therefore looking at recording compostable waste data which can be collected through the given waste disposal company. You could also log the distance travelled by your food supplier if procuring local/ethical food for your event.

JB partnered with Manchester City Council to produce sustainable events guides including food and drink traders and waste and cleansing services – have a look at those to see what would be the easiest option for you.

That would be a great idea for your food menus. If you’re curating the menu then choose options that have equivalents that are easily found. Normally, water is the main factor in food i.e. beef so it’s important to really understand what you are presenting. Or instead, you can commit to serving a 50% vegan/vegetarian menu instead. Clear messaging is important as you want to avoid ‘greenwashing’ which is easily done.

Thank you to Brianna for joining us in the Greenroom. It was a great discussion with lots of important questions being answered.

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