A Greener Conference

The Local Government Commission (LGC) and its conference partners work hard each year to reduce the amount of waste generated and energy consumed to produce the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference (NPSG). For the February 2011 conference in Charlotte, we did even more to reduce waste, incorporate “re-use” into our planning and production practices, and rely more on electronic distribution of information and materials relating to the event.

HDR Inc., a conference sponsor and long-time project partner, is our Sustainability Advisor for this annual conference and provided resources to calculate the event's estimated carbon footprint and support related to incorporating sustainable considerations into meeting planning and delivery. They also identified and coordinated with a reputable carbon offset provider to offset the carbon impacts of the conference.

Addressing the Carbon Footprint of the 2011 Conference
The carbon footprint for conferences is largely related to travel to and from the conference, as well as lodging for participants, meeting facilities, planning, and event activities. The 2011 NPSG conference was attended by almost 1,400 people.  The total estimated carbon footprint for the 2011 event is 1,587 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The following is a breakdown of contributions to the carbon footprint for this event:

  • 86.6% related to air travel for participants to and from the event
  • 10.2% related to event space and lodging for conference participants and staff
  • 2.8% related to ground travel and tours
  • 0.4% related to planning and follow-up

To address the carbon footprint related to the event, participants were offered the opportunity to offset the carbon impacts related to travel and participation in the conference by adding a nominal $11 to their conference registration fee. Those that made this voluntary contribution are recognized as Climate Champions on the conference web site and had a sticker on their name badge during the conference that acknowledged their participation in this important effort. Offsets were purchased from Native Energy (more information below). Native Energy By participating in this opportunity, meeting attendees support innovative projects that fund the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and result in other sustainability benefits. Offsets for this year’s event come from the Rainier Biogas Farm Methane to Energy Project in Washington State, which is a collaboration of three family dairies in building a centralized waste-to-energy digester. The project has multiple sustainable and economic development benefits for the community, the environment and the family farmers, and will result in a reduction of more than 4,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually. The carbon reductions are validated and verified through the Climate Action Reserve or the Voluntary Carbon Standard.

Our goal for offsetting the impacts of this year’s event was to achieve a ten percent participation rate. The LGC reserved this volume of offsets up front from Native Energy in order to ensure the achievement of our goal.

A total of 124 attendees voluntarily offset 6% of the event’s carbon impacts, effectively displacing the emissions generated by all the event space, the conference tours, and ground travel. The LGC offset the additional 4% needed to achieve the 10% goal.

Putting it in Perspective

It can be difficult to conceptualize what "carbon footprint" calculations mean but here are a few references to help us all put it in perspective:

The estimated CO2 equivalent impacts related to this event are equivalent to:

  • 353 average global citizens - annual CO2e emissions
  • 303 average US cars - annual emissions
  • 256 average US households - indirect CO2e emissions related to electricity consumption
  • 76 average US residents - total annual CO2e emissions

The purchase of 98 metric tons of offsets is the equivalent of:

  • The energy used by 8 homes for one year
  • Avoiding almost 250,000 miles driven in an average car

HDR is an employee-owned architectural, engineering and consulting firm with more than 7,500 professionals in 165 locations worldwide. HDR, Inc. HDR offers clients the best possible economic, social and environmental value by delivering integrated sustainable solutions. The Sustainable Solutions Program supports HDR's collective effort to deliver high-quality sustainable solutions by catalyzing the skills, knowledge, and ability of professional staff. HDR's Sustainable Solutions Program includes an internal Corporate Sustainability Initiative, a Climate Change Initiative, and services in the following areas of expertise: buildings, mobility, water, energy, waste, community, site development, and economic and environmental modeling. Learn more at http://www.hdrgreen.com.

Our Conference Climate Champions

These individuals and organizations made contributions to reduce the carbon footprint of our event and support greenhouse gas reduction projects.

  • Download the full list (PDF) of names and organizations of our Climate Champions that participated in the voluntary offsets.

†These calculations are based on factors from the U.S. EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, and Global Warming Mitigation Factoids from A Consumers' Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers, Clean Air-Cool Planet. The term "global citizen" represents the estimated average CO2 emissions of each and every person around the world.