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Greener conferences every little helps

Posted 15/09/2010 by RoseS

At a meeting at one of London’s premier international conference venues, Excel, in July this year, I overheard a number of attendees bemoaning the lack of tap water. It might not have been so bad, they were saying, but the conference was on biodiversity where you might have expected such matters to have been taken more seriously.

Elsewhere, though, conference organisers appear to be paying greater attention to environmental impacts. ‘For London 2012, 'sustainability' is far more than being 'green'. It's ingrained into our thinking – from the way we plan, build and work, buy, to the way we play, socialise and travel; ultimately everything that we do,’ according to the organisers of the city’s Olympics.

Chemical conference organisers appear to be adopting a similar philosophy, as even ahead of this year’s American Chemical Society meeting in August, for example, I received an email inviting participation in making the meeting more sustainable.

With around 12,000 people expected to attend the event – many of them from overseas – it is hard to imagine how much small measures such as ‘participating in your hotel’s reduce, reuse and recycle program’ might achieve in offsetting some of the consequences of international air travel. But it is encouraging nevertheless to see that organisers are taking the view that ‘every little helps’.

Other initiatives highlighted in Boston, for example, included the use of ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) shuttle buses, the provision of water in pitchers instead of bottles as well as the use of recyclable paper and cardboard for meeting forms and signs.

But perhaps one of the best and most environmentally friendly developments of all adopted in recent years has been the absence of the traditional Books of Abstracts. Instead, these heavy tomes have now been replaced by slimline computer disks, far easier to stash away in a handbag or suitcase – and much easier on the air miles.

Cath O’Driscoll - Deputy editor

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