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Carbon Assessments of Meetings: Case Studies Provide Details

How much better are virtual meetings for the environment than their in-person counterparts? One engineering firm did the calculations to provide planners with reference points.

A recent report from engineering firm WSP provides figures for carbon emissions from virtual meetings alongside estimates of emissions for those meetings if they were held in person. Naturally, the virtual version of each event produced far less emissions, but planners can gain useful lessons from the report as they consider the mix of formats for their 2022 event portfolios.

Virtual-events platform provider 6Connex commissioned WSP to measure the emissions from seven meetings it handled that were of differing sizes—from a sales conference of 560 attendees to an industry convention with more than 18,000 attendees.
Emissions were approximated in categories such as marketing materials, travel, hotel usage, event space, meals, and waste.

For the 560-person meeting, the report says that the virtual version resulted in carbon emissions of 14 tons, while an in-person version of this event would have produced 274 tons. For the 18,000-person virtual event, 176 tons of carbon emissions were generated, compared to 10,348 tons had the event been in person—that’s equivalent to the emissions from powering 1,260 homes in a year or from powering 2,280 cars in a year.

One caveat to the report: Virtual meetings tend to attract a significantly larger audience that in-person events, so the direct comparisons of emissions between event formats is not perfectly accurate.

Given that the report cites air travel as the primary contributor to in-person event emissions, here’s one solution for planners looking to improve environmental sustainability across their portfolio while still using in-person events to deliver maximum value to attendees and the event host: Hold regional meetings that many people can attend via ground transportation, while having far-flung attendees participate through a virtual platform.

To get a copy of the full report, containing detailed emission estimates of five other events, click here.

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