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Measuring, Benchmarking and Offsetting Carbon Emissions

After events turned virtual due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, Legacy events, supported by the Sustainable Event Alliance, created the Green Room. A place for event planners to chat about sustainable events, a chance to share information, ask questions and enable a community of event professionals to come together and support each other by sharing knowledge and experience. 

In October 2020 Kai, the head of Marketing at myclimate, a Swiss-based NGO focusing on climate protection and sustainability measures and the experts in all things Carbon offsetting, joined us in the green room to answer questions on carbon offsetting in the events industry. 

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

What good measuring tools are there to benchmark carbon emissions?

Most reliable NPOs or social businesses offer calculation services. For example atmosfair (a German provider), Climate Partner, or Climate Care. There are some differences between these tools but all of them should give a plausible result. 

Myclimate is a tool that allows for easy calculation of carbon footprint on a freely accessible web-calculator and is available here. This is a good option if you want to get a suitable ballpark figure and ‘just’ want to offset your carbon emissions. The result you get however, does heavily depend on the quality of the data provided. 

Myclimate also offers a web-based service with the tool ‘myclimate smart 3’. It has features such as a check and confirmation of your data, data storage, benchmarking, and automatically generates reports. If you calculate your emissions with this tool and then get it confirmed by Myclimates internal experts, a climate-neutral label for your communication will be provided.

The price for these tools depends on the complexity, but for events, usually, a basic version should work and the fee and implementation should range from £1500-£3000.

Find out more information on myclimate here

How can you offset carbon emissions at external events and calculate carbon emissions for conference rooms, hotels, catering, ground transportation, conference participants and how to offset them?

Start by using a freely accessible event emissions calculator to calculate your emissions. On co2.myclimate.org , for example, you have to fill in as much concrete data as you have available (participants, heated or cooled areas, catering, mode of transport, material, waste). If you do not have this data available then the calculator offers average figures from comparable events and then gives a basic footprint calculation for you to directly offset these emissions.

If you want your result to get checked if it’s plausible and, hence, your result confirmed by one of their experts, you can contact them directly and use their software platform myclimate smart 3. Depending on the size of the event, you get the option to choose a specific project for your offsetting and you get a climate-neutral event label. You can find more information here.

What primary objectives should a business focus on (carbon neutral or net zero, Scope 1,2 or 3 or all, carbon emissions or GHG emissions etc).

When considering primary objectives it is important to focus on the area with the largest impact. Any measure counts but it is important to recognise that sometimes companies or organisations tend to focus on projects which give them a good conscience but only have a small impact (banning plastic bottles). Tackling employee mobility behaviour is a good place to start and definitely makes a bigger difference. However, start with a calculation and a report of your emissions produced as this should provide a guideline on where to look first. 

Also, don’t forget the impact your products or services could potentially have. If you integrate sustainability questions or carbon/GHG footprint at the beginning of the product design process, you could change the game.

Tips on how to gather information regarding audience travel and related GHG? I.e. at time of ticket purchase, at the door, post-event.

It would be easier to ask at the time of ticket purchase. If you can integrate a smart solution in your software (a tick box), then it’s the easiest way of getting the relevant information. Post-event communication could also work, but generally the feedback rate can be low.

What initiatives are really useful to bring down GHG emissions in events? Which areas should we be focusing on in order to make a difference?

It is particularly important to focus on the mode of transport. If an event has an international audience, it’s tough to reduce the footprint because the flights of your guests contribute so much to your event’s footprint. However, there have been fantastic improvements with partners like the Open Air Sankt Gallen, they made arriving by car extremely unattractive but supported using public transport at the same time.They had a big shift in the modal split of their guests and so a strong reduction in their CO2 footprint. Other areas to focus on include:

  1. Making vegetarian or vegan food as attractive as possible. Most of the time, people choose common food offers due to the lack of attractive alternatives.
  2. choose green electricity if possible

Finally, very important: Sensitize your guest and your staff. People can make a difference, in the event planning, at the event and after the event.

How to deal with clients who move directly to offsetting without addressing their impacts?

Serve them but try to convince them to look after their emissions and to establish a reduction strategy. The best option is to avoid CO2 emissions, offsetting is always the second-best option. If a client decides to offset, great, because they are taking responsibility for their emissions, but the focus should be on how to reduce the existing footprint. 

Thank you to Kai for giving up his free time to join us in the greenroom, it was an insightful discussion on all things carbon offsetting and hopefully will provide inspiration to event organisers wanting to offset their emissions. 

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