At the YL conference every effort possible was made to be environmentally friendly. There is still lots that could be or should be done but we are definitely pushing ourselves and people in our community to start thinking of alternative solutions to the traditional conference setting.
Here are a few solutions which we adopted:
1. Conference Brochure Because this was a two-day event, the brochure was only actually useful during the conference and then is kept for a limited amount of time. We decided to have an E-brochure instead which is completely online and accessible from any device at all times. The brochure was professionally done as if it was going to be printed but available only online. In order for us to make sure that exhibitors would get the visibility they normally get, we asked them to send us digital ads and we hyperlinked them so that attendees could access specific pages while looking at the brochure. This is actually a more valuable ad than a normal brochure as the leads can be traced. Sponsors will be able to see how many people access their website and for proper tracking some exhibitors even created unique pages to see traffic. It was great to see participants consulting their phones between sessions to see what was coming up next, so it seemed to work!
2. Badges We couldn’t get rid of badges completely as it is good to know who’s who at a conference, but we did get rid of the plastic in them. The paper used for printing is from sustainable sources and the lanyard is commonly used by schools as it is branded and it is made of fabric so it can be washed and reused.
3. Hotel The hotel was really collaborative and did not have a single plastic cup for the coffee breaks which is very hard to find ! They provided glasses and jugs of water and mugs for coffee and tea. Should the hotel not be collaborative, you can still be creative though here too and ask participants to help you by bringing their own reusable bottles or cups. Many people had their own and used them.
4. Merchandise At these events you normally receive so much merchandise which can be really nice but is often not something you would use in the long run . We decided to give each participant a really good quality branded notebook to make sure it would be reused throughout the year and in fact everyone used it during the conference and lots of people commented saying that they would use it for more training courses throughout the year. As if it was their training notebook! We preferred to provide a pencil rather than a plastic pen too.
5. Bags At conferences you often get a bag. Whilst it is useful to have a bag during the conference, will you really reuse it? And then if you do attend events regularly and get a bag each time, how many bags would you actually use in the long run? We decided to get rid of the bags completely but came up with a creative idea. We organised an activity where each participant had to bring a piece of fabric and create their own bags. This was inspired by Japanese Furoshiki bags. Apart from the fact that the activity was a lot of fun, everyone had their own personal and unique conference bag! At the end of the conference you can ‘unmake’ your bag and use the fabric for something else.
6. Banners We needed to reprint our banners as they were out of date and we found a company that would print eco-friendly banners. They look exactly like the traditional ones but they are 100% PVC free, recyclable polypropylene material. After you have used it as often as you like, the company will recycle the banner for you. It will be recycled in the UK and turned into new products.
7. Carbon offsetting We encouraged attendees to carbon offset their miles and in fact we found a number of companies who do this very seriously. We even found one which was set up by an ex-IH teacher !
Of course we are aware that this is still the tip of the iceberg and a lot more could or should be done, but it is a starting point. We thought that this information could be useful for other organisations and wanted to share our experience.
If you have any comments or suggestions we would be more than happy to hear from you