This is our second posting in our series regarding green meeting tips. For many of us understanding the concept of carbon offsets seems to be a challenge. Essentially when we produce a meeting, conference or event the means used to transport the participants, (i.e. airplanes, cars and buses) emit carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Because participants have to travel some distance to the conference, there is currently no way to avoid the carbon emissions. However, to offset their impact on the environment carbon emission offset programs have been developed. There are a number of programs that calculate the emissions from transportation and conference energy use and quantify the monetary offset. A couple of excellent resources are http://denver.org/denver-meetings-conventions/green-meetings/co2-calculator and http://www.sustainabletravelinternational.org/documents/op_carbonoffsets.html.
The offset program typically involves investing in projects such as tree planting, or renewable and energy-efficient projects (i.e. solar panels and wind farms). There are some funding options as well. One option is ask the participants to voluntarily offset their own travel by contributing a specific amount based upon the calculated emissions. A second option is to use the offset program as a sponsorship opportunity, whereby the sponsor would receive featured promotions for their contribution.
Obviously we want to minimize carbon emissions through careful transportation planning and management. However, while there are steps to do so, carbon emissions can not be eliminated and offset programs are an effective way reduce the environmental impact of meetings, conferences and events.