The most efficient event is no event. Even online conferences create energy waste. Well, we again decided that yes, we as an industry do need this conference and that we still value spending time with each other IRL. And so, by bringing this thing into existence, we must commit to ensuring we run it as efficiently as possible.
The climate crisis weighs heavy on all of us. The need for significant system change seems to mock our efforts at home, but we must do our bit both personally and professionally. We believe every positive action is a small protest, and that if millions of us protest in this way, we might collectively have influence. This belief has been a guiding principle behind our preparation for New Adventures 2020.
By attempting to run an efficient, low-waste conference — and talking about it — we open ourselves up to criticism when we inevitably fail in some areas. We’re OK with that because at least we’re trying.
Change and sacrifice
By organising a conference, we create for ourselves a temporary position of power. We can use that for good and make smart decisions, or shrug and say ‘whatever’. We must use this opportunity to make the changes we’d like to see at other events, and ensure our every decision stacks up against our principles.
This year, we chose not to work with several companies who think differently to us about things like fossil fuels, worker rights, and whether it’s acceptable to provide services to racist networks. Taking this stance has caused problems as we’d already fallen way below our sponsorship targets this year, but integrity is everything.
Below, we outline the primary changes and actions we’ve introduced to reduce waste, and initiatives we’re sharing with attendees to help them reduce their impact.
No more goodie bags
Instead of preparing several hundred identical goodie bags, we’ll offer a take-what-you-need zone. Attendees will choose what they’d each like to take — our magazine and pin, hopefully, and only the sponsor materials they find interesting. We’ll provide a box of surplus totes from previous events, but we’re asking attendees to use the bags they bring with them. Volunteers will restock the bagging zone as necessary, and collect surplus material for return to sponsors, or recycling.
Changes at the venue
We’ve asked the Albert Hall to help us reduce waste where possible, notably with refreshments and prepared lunches (there are a few third-party supplier obstacles, and we’re still offering bags of crisps). Most of these small changes cost more money, but they’re worth doing.
This year, we will:
- Avoid single-use plastics where possible.
- Use compostable coffee cups and wooden stirrers.
- Provide jugs of water; attendees will use cups or refillable bottles.
- Provide carton juices in packed lunches, instead of bottled water.
- Provide water in 250ml recyclable cartons where jugs are not permitted (on stage, attendee seating areas, etc.).
We’ll reduce the quantity of display material that gets used for a couple of days and then binned. In the past, we’ve been able to refit roll banners with fresh graphics, and there are other means of reducing waste. Our only new banners will be our stageside sponsor banners.
This year, we will:
- Reuse materials from previous events — signage, t-shirts, stickers, packaging, workshop materials, etc. — even if inconsistent with this year’s branding.
- Reduce the number of roller banners and other single-use decorations.
- Mend existing items rather than replace, where possible.
- Print on the reverse of used paper where possible.
We’ve welcomed statements from speakers looking to reduce their travel overheads, and it makes sense that organisers also seek to reduce the reliance on overseas speakers. Closer to home, we can reduce the use of cars and promote more sustainable travel options.
This year, we have:
- Invited primarily UK and European speakers (two speakers will fly from the US, one from Ireland, and one by train from Germany).
- Committed to offsetting all speaker flights.
- Encouraged train travel instead of cars to transport speakers to Nottingham (cars are often a necessity when flights arrive and depart at awkward hours, and you consider Nottingham’s distance from major airports).
- Chosen to cease car park reductions for attendees.
- Enabled free bicycle storage.
Web and data infrastructure
We must make changes not just at our event but also to our permanent presence on the web, and in our data storage and office setup.
This year, we have:
- Continued to improve our website performance and compression methods, reducing the energy impact of data transmission.
- Moved our sites to Guru, a greener host.
- Attempted to rely less on cloud storage.
- Held more meetings online to reduce travel impact.
It’s only a start
We think it’s important to be vocal about the changes we’re making so that we might encourage other organisers. There’s a long way to go, and we’ll fall short of the significant waste reduction we’d hope to achieve. Following the conference, we will perform a detailed evaluation and share the results on our website.
Simon Collison and Geri Coady
Our friends at AirCare created a unique service for our attendees, asking them to think twice about flying to the conference. The service allows them to calculate the emissions of flying to our event and understand the potential harm to the environment. From there, they can view alternate travel methods, or offset emissions if they must fly.
Website Carbon Calculator
Test the impact of your website with the Website Carbon Calculator. Our 2020 website is cleaner than 74% of those tested, and the average visit produces only 0.53g of CO2. Each year, we’re emitting as much carbon as three trees can absorb in that period.
One of our speakers, Cennydd Bowles, released his Air travel policy last year, clearly visible on his Speaking page. His policy ensures organisers understand his capacity for travel before reaching out to him.
Another of our speakers, Bastian Allgeier, often speaks about his climate anxiety. He has made a commitment to reduce the impact from his product, Kirby, and offers free licenses to all environmental projects, climate activists and Friday for future groups. Bastian is traveling to New Adventures from Germany by train.