It’s summer season now. Everything is in bloom and green in my garden. Vegetables are growing and the sun is shining.
But, all is not right with the world. We just had the hottest week of weather globally in 100,00+ years, while there are floods and torrential rain in parts of the world, not to mention wildfires out of control and smoke so bad it turns the sky orange and creates the worst air quality in the world on some days in major US cities.
Temperatures right now are 100+ across the South and Southwest United State.
And yet, travel has returned to pre-pandemic levels. There are events happening right now in places like Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Miami and people are flying there, adding to the already higher greenhouse gas emissions than we will soon be able to tolerate.
And, people are still flying, even for one day meetings! Is that one day meeting so important that it couldn’t be done virtually?
WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING?
For all the talk about sustainability and regeneration or any other term related to being more responsible towards the planet and people (and there is a lot of it right now) we’re still tinkering around the edges.
Sure, we’re doing away with plastic water bottles (mostly), but we’re still serving food that has a heavy carbon footprint and water footprint and transporting it thousands of miles sometimes to have that one ingredient that isn’t local or in season during your event.
Sure, we’re not printing as much on paper but there is more and more digital content and signage using unheard of amounts of electricity that is often generated using fossil fuels in massive data centers, some which are located in areas of extreme weather that requires even more electricity to run either air conditioning or heating to maintain the right temperatures on all those servers generating our digital world.
Maybe we’re working with companies that are trying to electrify their transportation. Maybe we’re eating more salads and less beef. Maybe we’re using venues that have some solar or wind power. All good, but these are still baby steps when we’re in a crisis.
And, of course, we’re still flying. A lot, apparently. Is this sustainable? Is it responsible?
I recently sat down with Shawna McKinley, one of the smartest people I know when it comes to sustainability issues in the event industry. You can see our interview on the Society For Sustainable Events YouTube channel here
We talked about a number of issues related to travel and transportation for events. Here are a few of the key takeaways from our conversation:
On the contrary, pals: You ignore ongoing and imminent peril at your own risk. I don’t know what you should be doing – making noise, at the very least, but this is the real shit.”
You can (and should) read the whole piece here
If we think that our industry, the event industry isn’t at risk and we continue to just dither and do the small stuff the consequences are unimaginable. We no longer have the luxury of working in silos, not having ambitious goals and roadmaps when it comes to sustainable events, not measuring our impacts and not taking seriously the impacts that live events have on the planet and the people that inhabit our world.
Let’s roll up our sleeves, rally the troops and get to work on creating a net zero event industry.
Paul Salinger has over fifteen years of experience in sustainable events, notably leading event sustainability efforts as Vice President of Marketing at Oracle and co-founding the Green Meeting Industry Council's Northern California Chapter. As a retired individual, he remains committed to advocating for event sustainability as a Board Member of SFSE.