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Travel-related Activity Accounts for 90% of a Meeting’s Carbon Footprint

climatepath comparison chartThe typical event can reduce its carbon footprint by 90 percent by hosting the meeting virtually, according to research from ClimatePath.

Travel-related activity, such as air miles, airport transfers, driving and hotel, can account for up to 90 percent of the carbon footprint of many an event.

Dave Rochlin of ClimatePath said that most events can generate more than a ton of CO2 per attendee, whether it’s a business meeting or the Super Bowl.

He said that regional events can be up to 70 percent less emissions intensive.

“Selecting a central location with good public transportation options can make a big difference,” he said.

One company, Manpower, avoided 400,000 pounds of CO2 emissions by holding its annual Global Leadership Team meeting virtually, which reduced air travel by one million miles.

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4 thoughts on “Travel-related Activity Accounts for 90% of a Meeting’s Carbon Footprint

  1. Event emission yes are normally about 90% travel. its actually a bit less if you included all the embedded carbon of the food, production, stands etc.

    The above argument is frequently used by software vendors. however the solution is not to replace meetings with virtual meetings. that will never work. Magic happens when people get together and you cant deny that. In research Face to face meetings are continually showing the best return on investment on any type of marketing communication activity.

    The real question is how to combine techniques to reduce the amount of travel, maximise the effectiveness of people when we do meet, and limit the impact on the environment (not just carbon).

    a big point is just about good meeting management. Sometimes that gets forgotten in the big debate

  2. I agree with the comment made and continue to be disappointed at these kinds of article that focus on the Co2 of air travel related to meetings as opposed to providing some great suggestions for how to have more sustainable meetings.
    Face-to-face meetings in many cases, and in many different research projects have proven to have a better ROI, so how can we have the meeting, but be more sustainable while having it? There are guides that have been published by the US Green Meeting Council and others that lead strategic meeting planners through sustainable venue selection, procurement, food & beverage, and more. By focusing on serious behavior changes, integration of virtual technology with in-person meetings, and sustainable procurement, we can make a much bigger difference for the long term.

  3. Manpower forgot one important fact when they did their calculation to come up with their figure stating that they “reduced air travel by one million miles”. Unless Manpower was planning to use private jets, I guarantee you that all the commercial airlines that the employees would have been flying to get to the Global Leadership Team meeting still flew. The 400,000 pounds of CO2 was still emitted.

  4. Harold:

    Yes, in this case the jets still flew. But they flew with one or two fewer people on board. And that is just the tip of a huge iceberg of potential CO2 reductions that this country could easily realize.

    People usually have little concept of the enormous amount of fuel burned for one cross-country plane trip. An airliner typically carries 50,000 to 100,000 lbs of jet fuel, and burns most of it during a cross country flight. Each pound of burned fuel creates more than two pounds of CO2 (due to the oxygen atoms from the air combining with all those carbon atoms in the fuel). So that’s up to 200,000 lbs (100 tons) of CO2 per each cross country flight of approximately 2,000 miles. Divide that by 100 to 200 passengers per plane for a per-passenger figure of one-half to 1 ton of CO2. You have to return home after the meeting, so double that figure.

    The Manpower estimate is valid in a world where many companies decide to hold virtual meetings as a replacement for face-to-face. In that scenario, there would indeed be alot fewer airplanes making all those trips. Since virtual meetings have nearly the same impact as face-to-face (I disagree with the above comments to the contrary), this is low hanging fruit in the effort to address global climate change.

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