There are so many business conferences being held every day around the world. They are a great way for people to network, share ideas, and educate themselves about the latest and greatest going on in their fields of interest. Generally attendees come away from the conferences feeling like they have met some amazing new people, learned valuable information that they can use to help their company or organization, and with lasting memories in tow. But what about the ecological impact of the conference?
I remember attending a conference about a year and a half ago and an announcement was made that one of the featured speakers and renowned professionals in the field was not going to be attending the conference because he stated that a conference on sustainability shouldn’t involve hundreds of people flying and driving in from all over the world to sit around and talk about sustainability. He was making a statement that he thought it was wrong to impose such a negative impact on our environment just to attend a conference. While one half of me found this somewhat admirable, the other half of me thought that it was a bit sad that we can’t find a way where people can come together to share ideas and thoughts and learn from one another without destroyed our natural world. There’s got to be such a thing as an ecologically correct conference, right????
If only a business conference could be like one of my favorite toys, the Buddha Board, we could all feel better about our participation in conferences. The Buddha Board is an artistic drawing board that uses water as its medium. Once you use the brush to create your artwork, it stays for just a few seconds before it fades away and you are left with a blank board once more. It is created under the principle that we should appreciate things while they last and then when they are gone, be OK with them being only temporary.
Now forget the way we think about typical business conferences today, and imagine a conference that is unlike any other conference you have been to before. Imagine that while you are at the conference you have the most meaningful and incredible experience of your life, but when it is over there is no trace of the conference other than the non-physical elements such as ideas, relationships, and memories. There was no waste, there was no pollution, there was no social inequity, and there was no negative impact to the environment. Of course it might be quite difficult to put together a conference such as this with the current restraints of our lifestyles, technologies, and social structures. But lets just assume it could be done and see where it takes us.
What if everyone coming to the conference had to walk or use some other form of human powered form of transportation to get to the conference? I would imagine that everyone who came to the conference would then have some pretty interesting stories to tell about their travels and would have a much better appreciation and sense of place about where they came from, where they arrived, and what was in between. We so often miss out on the details of the places we zoom by while we are in our cars or on airplanes.
What if the conference were held on a farm or other venue where the food being served was grown on site? This would eliminate the need for transporting the food from miles away, would help the conference attendees appreciate and connect more profoundly with their source of food, and would allow any leftovers to be kept for later meals.
What if the conference were held outdoors to eliminate the need for all that artificial lighting, heating, and cooling? We just eliminated all the energy impacts associated with a conference event. We are longer using fossil fuels to provide us with electricity, all we need is the sun to provide all our needs. Not to mention that the conference participants would continually feel the presence of the natural environment instead of being cooped up indoors all day.
What if part of the conference involved a restorative nature project where attendees created a positive net impact on the environment? This goes beyond just thinking of conferences as trying to have zero net impact on the environment. Why not go one step further and leave the area the conference was held in a better state? This would also give conference participants a hands on connection to the biology, and ecology of our planet.
How does all that sound? Would anybody be interested in this type of conference? I’m guessing yes!