The Environmental Benefits of Event Technology Platforms - Sustainability in the Events Industry

You've seen the media coverage about celebrities and business leaders attending physical events to promote sustainability efforts.

Then, they hop on their private jet to go home. Both celebrities and businesses have an image problem -- pushing corporate sustainability and genuinely wanting to do so as a corporation. 

Many businesses want to do the right thing. But all the while, they continue to engage in some very unsustainable practices that cancel out the green initiatives they do have. And sometimes, it simply comes down to not knowing they have a viable alternative.

That said, with Earth Day nearly upon us. We'd like to have an honest conversation about how companies can keep their sustainability promise and do so in a way that's business-practical, financially viable, and beloved by the people taking part. As attendees of events, you can encourage the corporations hosting these events to explore more sustainable event management.

Let's look at the sustainability benefits of hosting and attending events in a virtual venue.

 

Why Practicing Sustainability as a Business Matters

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, businesses produce 23% of global emissions.[1] And this doesn't even include the CO2 generated by people commuting to work (up to another 29%).  Businesses of all sizes have great power and great responsibility to make and keep a sustainability promise. And consumers have some power and responsibility when it comes to keeping businesses accountable.

When a business chooses to go green for business, they have the potential to make a big difference; and Earth Day is a great day to make a sustainability promise you can keep.

Luiz Martins, 6Connex CMO, said of corporate sustainability, "It was important for me to quantify the sustainability benefits of our product so that we could encourage other companies to join us on our journey to reduce our carbon footprint."

Growing up in Brazil, home to some of the most important and endangered forests on the planet, Luiz grew up in a family that imparted to him the importance of sustainability. After all, the Amazon Rainforest, mainly in Brazil, consumes 1.7 billion metric tons of CO2 each year and represents 1/2 of all the forest land on the planet.[2] Luiz knew from a young age that he wanted to be a part of a business that helped other companies keep their sustainability promises -- to their customers, the planet, and themselves.

Sustainable event management makes this possible.

 

1. Reduce Event Transportation Emissions

Globally, transportation pumps 7.3 billion metric tonnes of CO2 into the environment every year.[3] The EPA estimates that nearly 30% of all greenhouse gasses come from this source, more than any other category.[1]

And not surprisingly, 86% of emissions come from people like you, the attendee, traveling somewhere to participate in that event.

If there's one place businesses could do the most for the planet and lower their carbon footprint, it's by tackling transportation. Virtual event solutions do this in a big way.

But we said quantifiable, so let's look at the numbers that prove we're not just greenwashing the events industry. Let's show that virtual events make a big difference.

 

Airfare

Passenger flight produces about 90 grams of CO2 per passenger per kilometer of travel, and that's on a full flight.[4]

A flight from Chicago to NYC, for example, is 740 miles (1910 kilometers). Multiply that by 90, and you have 107,190 grams of CO2. That's 48,621 lbs of CO2.

That is just one passenger and one harmful byproduct of air travel. If 1,000 attendees are traveling this average distance to attend an event, the in-person event just produced over 48 million lb of CO2. 

So, maybe you don't attend events 700 miles away. It's still easy to see how this stuff adds up! That's especially true if companies host many in-person events. 

But what if you drive to the event? Is that better?

 

Passenger Vehicles

A passenger vehicle produces 404 grams of CO2 per mile, which has slightly decreased in the past 10 years thanks to more fuel-efficient cars.[5]

If 1,000 participants travel only 100 miles on average to attend this in-person event, that's 404,000 grams of CO2 or 891 lb of CO2 the company can potentially eliminate by choosing virtual or hybrid events.

Transportation is a big one. But we wanted to take a closer look at how virtual events reduced emissions. So we worked with a third-party consulting firm named WSP. They crunched the numbers and created a virtual platform sustainability report, which outlined the difference between in-person events and using a virtual event platform.

Speaking of transportation, their report found that hosting the average physical event leads to 9,095 metric tons of C02 emissions. Making that event virtual instead causes 0 transportation emissions.

That 9,095 metric tons of CO2 stay out of the environment because of one smart event hosting choice.

 

2. Reduce Lodging Emissions

Lodging emissions involve heating, cooling, lighting, and other energy costs. When you attend virtual events, you do not consume these resources. Instead, you consume the energy you're already using in your home, which you would be using anyway in most cases to heat and cool it.

If a  business is paying for lodging for attendees, this is obviously money savings for the company as well. The report found that the average event lodging and event space leads to 576 metric tons of CO2 emissions, while a virtual event creates no more than would already exist for you at home.

 

3. Reduce Event Venue Electricity Usage

When you attend an event on a virtual event platform, you’re at the event in an authentic way. In comparison, attending a virtual event is much more like playing a fun video game than reading an e-book. It's immersive and interactive.

You're interacting with engagement tools and networking with other participants in real-time using other event tech integrations. You can interact and feel connected in small events and inspired by large events just as if you were there. Virtual event products make this possible.

The possibilities are virtually endless, but business leaders must be willing to explore them to reveal how a virtual venue can be a very financially- and business-viable way of hosting more sustainable events. As an attendee, you can influence this decision by attending more virtual events. You can attend these events from the comfort of your own home. That's a bonus. No traffic. No parking. No hassles.

 

4. Reduce Water Usage

Like heating and cooling usage, you use water in your own home when you attend a virtual event. And you use a lot less than would be required to host an event.

 

5. Reduce Food and Other Waste 

Events hosts need to provide ample and endless food. Hosting a sizeable in-person event requires a lot of food prep and sadly, a lot of that prepared food gets wasted by attendees and the serving process. When people eat at home, there is less cost and much less waste because you have personal control over it.

When the report compared the waste created by individual attendees in their homes attending virtual events to an in-person event, they found that events produced 23 metric tons of garbage. In contrast, the same number of attendees attending a virtual event created 7. 

So you generate around 1/3 food waste emissions by choosing to attend virtual events over physical ones.

 

6. Fewer Marketing and Printing Emissions

Virtual events are conducive to virtual resources, while physical events are not. People need physical schedules, binders, and materials for a physical event.

The sustainability report found that the metric tons of CO2 emissions produced by a virtual event is around 20% of an in-person event for this reason.

 

7. Virtual Event Platforms Do Not Cancel Other Benefits

Anytime we're discussing benefits, we must see the whole picture. If a virtual event creates emissions that an in-person event doesn't, you need to add that to the equation to make sure virtual events are indeed a more sustainable option.

Yes, the sustainability report covers this, too. The server space that it takes 6Connex to help event managers market, host, and analyze the events produce around 0.02 metric tons of CO2. 

Another emitter is the individual workstation (computer) where you attend the event virtually. Across attendees, this produces around 10 metric tons over the course of a virtual event, while physical events produce none. Added together, it's easy to see that it doesn't cancel out the benefits.

 

Virtual Platform Sustainability Report Summary

The Virtual Platform Sustainability Report by WSP factored in each of the above real and environmentally-impactful savings that virtual event solutions offer.

The report discovered that in-person events produce 36X more emissions than virtual ones. Hosting a one-day event virtually avoided the equivalency to:

    • Preserving 23 acres of forests
    • Electricity to power 619 homes for a year

If that event was two days, it avoided the equivalent to:

    • Enough electricity to charge 204 million smartphones. This amounts to 2/3 of the smartphones in existence in the US.[6]
    • 570 tons of waste ending up in landfills
    • Keeping 1,696 vehicles off the road for a year

Compared to most going green initiatives, this is an opportunity for real sustainability in the events industry. It's an absolute reduction in environmental impact. As an attendee, going to these virtual events is practicing sustainability and a great way to keep your own Earth Day sustainability promise for 2022 and beyond. 

 

Sustainability in the Events Industry

The potential for running more sustainable events is no secret in the events industry; it's spoken of a lot. But businesses need quantifiable data to guide their decisions. Both companies and those who attend events can do their part by learning about sustainable events. 

We encourage everyone to learn more about sustainability in the events industry because you can make a difference. We have a webinar coming up where we'll talk about why this mission is so important and explore how you can make a difference.

Sign Up for Our Earth Day Webinar:

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We'd love for you to attend and see how we can continue to build on our sustainability efforts together.  As part of our own sustainability commitment, 6Connex commits to planting one tree for each person who attends the webinar. Let's plant a whole forest together!

 

To learn more about hosting your own sustainable virtual events, request a virtual event platform demo today. We’d love to be a part of your sustainability mission.

 

 

Sources:

1. United States Environmental Protection Agency - Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
2. Mongabay - New study offers latest proof that Brazilian Amazon is now a net CO2 source
3. Statista - Distribution of carbon dioxide emissions produced by the transportation sector worldwide in 2020, by subsector
4. The International Council on Clean Transportation - CO2 Emissions from Commercial Aviation: 2013, 2018, and 2019
5. United States Environmental Protection Agency - Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle
6. Statista - Smartphones in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

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