Greening Virtual Events: Practices for Eco-Friendly Digital Gatherings

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Written by Mikolaj Skubina

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The event industry has changed significantly in recent years, with the major change coming in the wake of covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns that the world experienced. Events that had been previously organised as an in-person event were suddenly left with a choice, cancel or shift to a virtual event format. This has continued in the years since, with many events now changing to either a permanent online event format or utilising hybrid event structures where there is an element of in-person and attendees can physically go to an event, combined with online attendees and virtual interactions. If you are searching for a London event company to help you with your next event, one of the other big questions will be how sustainable can you make it?

Every company is looking at ways in which they can reduce their carbon footprint and operate in a more sustainable way. The events industry is one of the biggest contributors to global emissions, with the amount of travel and energy consumption each year. Virtual events obviously don’t create the same level, but there are still aspects of it that can be improved upon.

The impact of virtual events on the environment and how to ‘green’ your event

 One of the best ways you can improve the ‘green’ credentials of your business is to change the way you put on events. If you have previously always planned for physical, in-person events, a switch to completely virtual or hybrid events will significantly reduce your carbon footprint immediately. Within that, there are other impacts and things that you can do to make your event as green as possible, something that matches your ideals as a company and brand, attracts new customers and attendees, sponsorship and investment.

Computer use

Every computer has a lifecycle. Every manufacturer has a declaration page that states the environmental impact of each model and how much CO2 is being emitted over the course of the lifecycle of that computer. If you are organising a virtual conference this is something that you need to consider, as you are using electricity to keep the machine running, as is every attendee with their own personal computer that they are using to log-in to your virtual event. Try to use renewable energy sources to power your computer and anything needed for your virtual event and ask your attendees to do the same. This promotes your virtual event as an eco-friendly event.

Network data transfers and server consumption

Every virtual event will upload a lot of data throughout the days and weeks prior to the event. This will increase emissions as you do so, so it is important that you have a stable and fast internet connection that provides quick and smooth data transfer and an impeccable experience for those attending online. As far as server energy consumption goes, by utilising cloud platforms for your hosting capabilities, you are in the hands of cloud providers, such as AWS and Google, and these companies are taking measures to reduce the impact through renewable energy projects.

Think about the room lighting

Even though you are hosting a virtual event, where you host that physically is important, and where you join from is important. Be mindful of the lighting that you use. You want to look your best, but you also don’t want to use too much artificial light if you can get away with hosting the event during daylight hours. Switching to a green energy provider helps mitigate the energy consumption linked to additional room lighting for a virtual event.

Pre-event meetings

Pre-conference and event planning can also have a big impact on the total emissions created for a virtual event. This is down to the infrastructure required to host meetings, and the distances between the event organisers. One way to lessen the impact your event has is to ensure that meetings are efficient. That way, you can reduce the number of meetings required, or keep them short, sharp, and effective if they are required regularly.

Search engine queries and website visits

Your virtual event will no doubt have a website for potential attendees to visit in order to sign up, and for attendees to register and to find out more information about how the event will work. Searches and visits to websites might not be something you’ll have considered when it comes to the environmental impact of your virtual event, but it is important. You might have external links going to different websites, such as the attendees searching LinkedIn profiles of speakers. It might be a small percentage, but all of these searches use bandwidth and do increase emissions. There is a way of combatting this through the use of sustainable browsers as the default browser within the event platform. Some examples of this type of browser choose to plant a tree for every search conducted through the space, decarbonising as you search.

Consider inclusion

Hybrid and virtual events offer much better levels of accessibility for individuals with disabilities who might struggle to attend physical events. Just through the action of offering a virtual event, you are broadening the scope of potential attendees and much higher participation potential for the event as a whole.

Minimise overall waste

Alongside all the other areas where you can minimise energy consumption and make more ethical choices in how you operate you can also look to minimise waste in other areas. Any suppliers that your event has, try to choose those that prioritise eco-friendly products and packaging. This could even mean choosing a supplier for any promotional materials and event merchandise, who offers minimal packaging and biodegradable options.

We all have a responsibility to change the way we live in order to help combat the growing concern of rapid global warming and climate change. You can see the impact on the world every single year with extreme weather conditions becoming the norm the world over. The events industry is one that contributes a significant amount of carbon emissions, this is due to travel, resources, and energy consumption, and this is why a virtual event provides you with an immediate way of reducing your carbon footprint as a company. A London event company with experience of putting on successful virtual and hybrid events for forward-thinking companies, can help you to lower your carbon footprint whilst engaging with your audiences and growing as you move forward.