As countries talk about climate change and ways of addressing accelerating climate instability in Paris this fortnight, it is appropriate and not only that, necessary as well, to discuss the environmental impact and sustainability of local and international library conferences. While it is very nice to travel to events (and I’ve done this numerous times, including two international trips year), it is too costly environmentally. I’ve been thinking about my travel and – well, I have to step up.
It is time now to figure out a way to have carbon neutral conferences. David Suzuki has put together a list of steps to take to ensure large events are low-carbon or carbon neutral. Some library conferences are including live-streaming and recording events so people can view later. Some library conferences include a virtual attendance registration package that allows you to attend remotely. But individuals can take steps too. Is it really necessary to attend the event, especially if it involves a long-haul flight? If it is, and it would be if you are presenting or facilitating, wouldn’t it be great if your registration included a carbon offset (compulsory!) donation that would be calculated according to how far you had to travel to attend? One conference I attended in Bilbao in Spain was held in a carbon-neutral conference centre. I was very impressed – recycling boxes everywhere, energy efficient lighting and air conditioning …
One of the joys of conference attending is the exhibition hall and the swag of bumpf to be had. This should be questionable. Wouldn’t it be better to put conference programs and promotional flyers on a carbon-neutral usb (yes, these exist)? Wouldn’t it be great if suppliers and vendors were low-carbon or carbon neutral? That would almost make conference swag guilt free!
I know that conferences are major revenue generating events for library associations, but more effort needs to be taken. This is especially important for health libraries seeing that climate change is a major health threat.