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5 Ideas How to Make Conferences More Sustainable

Conferences are inherently really unsustainable – even those that take place, in order to counteract climate change and foster sustainable innovation.

Bringing thousands or even tens of thousands of attendees together to a single location takes a colossal toll on the planet, comprised of carbon emission due to air travel, hotel stays, local transportation, waste at the event, increased energy usage and more. Exact numbers seem hard to come by, but take for example the United Nations Climate Change Conferences in Copenhagen in 2009 – it generated a carbon footprint of 42,000 tons of carbon solely due to air travel – and that doesn’t take into account the damage incurred from the actual event.

However, there are many things that event organisers of large conferences CAN DO, to make their events more sustainable. Here are five ideas.

 

1. Eliminate the paper trail by using an event app

Don’t give out any printed conference schedules or brochures. Instead, utilise an app for the event. It’s cleaner and zero-waste.  There are many providers of event apps – start with guidebook.com, or crowdcompass.

 

2. Ban drinks in disposable packaging and use refill stations with durable containers

Instead of handing out countless little cans of soda, and water in plastic bottles, set up several water and soda fountain stations. If you have a bar, then serve beer from the tap, and wine from the barrel. Forego cheap paper and plastic cups and hand out a conference-branded stainless steel pitcher to each attendee that needs one. This will add a classier feel to your conference and significantly reduce the waste impact of your event.

3. Offset the impact of travel through a carbon offset service

Use a carbon offset service like Atmosfair or Terrapass to “neutralize” the carbon footprint caused by air travel for the conference. You can guesstimate your carbon footprint or reach a more accurate estimate by asking people for their location and intended method of transportation when signing up for ticket. This doesn’t address the root cause of the issue, but treating the symptom will help create awareness.

 

4. Offer shareable experiences instead of goodie bags

Instead of having exhibitors give away tons of goodie bags and leaflets, provide exhibitors with support from your organisation to create an attention-catching banner or oversized mascot for people to take pictures with. Let’s face it, people won’t do anything with the usual set up mini give-aways anyway. Providing attendees with branded photo stations instead will give your brands the exposure they need – and it’s more fun!

5. Zero emission shuttle service 

I’m a huge fan of the Arcimoto. An Arcimoto is basically the electric 5.0 version of a TukTuk. They’re not yet available to purchase or rent without a pre-order, but they will be in 2018 – and these things make for a perfect shuttling vehicle for events like this. Depending on your budget, you can shuttle your VIPs around in rented Teslas, or hire a bunch of bicycle cabs for the event. Consider renting out hoverboards, bike, e-bikes, Arcimotos, and more to event attendees. If applicable, provide free public transportation passes with your tickets. Some hardliners might still take a gas car or Uber, but they’ll eventually come around. The opportunities to create a zero emission transportation culture around your event are pretty much boundless.

… Let’s be more conscious!

Conference organisers have the opportunity, and also the responsibility to promote sustainable practices to key influencers and business leaders.

None of these steps will turn a conference into a zero-impact event. Unfortunately, the only conferences that have ZERO impact are the ones that aren’t taking place. Even online conferences utilise some resources. However, as a society we need to take steps to proactively protect the environment in ALL AREAS OF BUSINESS. Conferences are not an exception. While it may be easier to just go on autopilot and let the plastic cups pile up at the event, we need to take charge and change our ways of conducting events. Being environmentally responsible will help raise awareness among conference attendees, which could contribute to greener practices for many businesses around the globe.

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What it’s like to take a ride in an Arcimoto

First of all… What, the heck is an Arcimoto?

An Arcimoto, in black and yellow

The Arcimoto is a new electric transportation device that technically qualifies as a motorcycle, but has been dubbed FUV, or “Fun Utility Vehicle” by its makers. It’s a 2 passenger, 3 vehicle electric vehicle with a base price of 11,900$. It speeds up to 80 miles an hour, has an 80 mile travel range, and you can charge it up by plugging it into an electric socket.

Another Arcimoto, parked at the Founder Institute Silicon Valley HQ

Arcimotos are only available for pre-order right now, but I got to take a ride in one at the Arcimoto IPO party on August 24th at the Founder Institute Headquarters in Palo Alto. It’s hard to put into words how amazing of an experience that was. It was exhilarating! This Arcimoto promo video maybe illustrates a bit how fun it was, but IMO nothing beats the real experience. I had watched that video a few months ago while Arcimoto’s CEO Mark Frohnmayer gave a presentation down in Palo Alto, and I was curious about trying out the Arcimoto, but honestly, I did not think it would be THIS fun until I actually tried it.

The back seat experience:

The Arcimoto from the side – Jesse Fittapaldi (VP at Arcimoto), me

It reminded me of taking rides in a TukTuk in Asia, except there was no noise, and no pollution. My driver Jesse, Vice President of Arcimoto, sped up quite a bit during our brief ride down El Camino Real and Page Mill Road. At around 50mph, the noisiest, messiest part of the experience was the wind blowing in my face. I always loved taking tuktuks during the prolonged periods of time i spent in india and the Phillipines, despite having to wipe some grease from the exhausted gases off of my face after a long tuk tuk ride. Being chauffeured around in the backseat of the Arcimoto is like being in a TukTuk 5.0 – fresh wind, higher speeds (it feels pretty fast when you’re at 50mph an hour in the backseat), more security. In short, the back seat experience pretty awesome.

The front seat experience:
I don’t currently own a car, for both personal and environmental reasons and hadn’t driven any vehicles for quite a while, so I felt a bit anxious at first about driving and mostly stuck to practicing loops around a spacious parking lot. I really love scooters, especially electric scooters and had contemplated getting an electric scooter. After this, I would probably opt for an Arcimoto instead. The navigation in the Arcimoto is the same as in a scooter or a motorcycle (no gears). It’s incredibly easy to speed up and steer. The whole vehicle sort of moves WITH you. You have to turn the handlebar in order to turn the Arcimoto – if you’re only used to driving cars with a regular steering wheel that might take a bit of time to get used to. If you love riding scooters or motorbikes, then steering on the Arcimoto should be a breeze! Driving in the Arcimoto definitely felt more relaxed, and safe, than being on an electric scooter (no need to keep my balance as I go into a curve) – but much more fun than being in an enclosed, regular-size car. The electric vehicle effect might take some getting used to – when you take your foot off the gas, the vehicle just stops. Overall… I really, really loved it! I loved having the open side doors. It’s like driving/riding in a mini-sized car/motorbike/scooter hybrid. It’s amazing.

The experience of being in an Arcimoto doesn’t compare to being in any other electric vehicle to me. I’ve been in every type of the Tesla, ridden electric scooters, bikes, one-wheels… This is different. And in my view, it’s better. While I don’t think that Arcimotos would replace ALL cars, I definitely believe, they could, functionally, replace A LOT OF THE CARS that are currently out there. Aside from the fact that the energy demands of an Arcimoto are at <30% of the average Tesla, according to their CEO, the Arcimoto takes up only about half of each lane. If Arcimotos became mainstream, that would open up an incredible opportunity to decrease commuter traffic by offering special mini-lanes for these vehicles. They do have their limitations though. With an 80-120 mile travel range, they are not very feasible for long drives or road trips.

Overall, I’m giving the Arcimoto a 9/10 rating. (I’m reserving the 10 exclusively for electric passenger drones.) It’s an awesome vehicle.

You can find out more about the Arcimoto on arcimoto.com/