Goldschmidt Conference’s Carbon Footprint
As the recent demonstrations across the world show, there is a growing awareness of climate change and its impacts on human society. While this is not news in our community, it does provoke an examination of how we, as a society of scientists, should contribute solutions.
The Geochemical Society’s largest program is the Goldschmidt Conference, which is developed each year with the European Association of Geochemistry (the societies are co-owners of the conference). In odd-numbered years, the conference is held in Europe with EAG as the lead organizing society; in even-numbered years, the conference is held in North America, with the Geochemical Society as the primary organizer. An exception is that about every 8 years, the GS plans the conference at a venue outside Europe or North America such as the 2016 meeting in Japan. Each year, 3,000-4,000 scientists from more than 60 countries come together for a week of great science and networking. This gathering leads to vital collaborations, career development, and the formation of new friendships. Since the meeting moves around the world, it also gives delegates opportunities to experience new places and cultures.
A large, international meeting also entails significant consumption of natural resources through the usage of a convention center and delegates’ travel. There is no denying the fact that Goldschmidt has an environmental impact. As more of us consider the carbon footprint of our travel, this raises questions about how the GS and EAG should organize the meeting. First among these inquiries is where should Goldschmidt be held?
Meetings in Europe permit some delegates to travel by rail, a more environmentally friendly mode of transport than flying. Train travel is efficient and quite practical in Europe, because of both the high population density and the excellent infrastructure. However, nearly 30% of delegates who came to Barcelona this year came from Asia or Australia. Another 22% came from North America. We also do not have good data on how many of our European attendees actually did take the train, rather than fly. Every year, irrespective of where the conference is held, the two largest countries in terms of delegates attending are the U.S. and China.
The Geochemical Society is international. Our members come from >70 countries with the following breakdown: 50% North America; 28% Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and the Middle East; and 22% Europe. At first glance, Hawai’i may not seem like a good place to hold Goldschmidt, since nearly everyone has to fly there. But for many scientists from Asia, Australia, and New Zealand, Hawai’i will present the shortest distance of travel to the conference they have had since the 2016 meeting in Yokohama, Japan. It’s also closer for many people in western North America than meetings in Europe. From our experience in 2016, we know that more Asian and Australian scientists are likely to attend next year since the venue is easier to reach. This will accomplish the important goal of making Goldschmidt accessible to scientists from all parts of the world, even if some who live farther from Hawai’i decide not to attend. (Nearly 800 Japanese scientists participated in the Yokohama meeting, for instance, compared to 180 in Barcelona.)
As we look into the future, the travel required to reach the conference venue will be a major consideration for the societies. So will the energy conservation program offered by the convention centers. We are happy to say that the Hawai’i Convention Center relies largely on passive cooling, and thus consumes far less energy than the substantial amounts required to actively cool most other large centers (read here about other green practices the HCC is committed to) . As they are confirmed we will post details of steps the conference is taking to reduce it's environmental impact at the bottom of this page.
We are also exploring options such as recording sessions so that people who cannot attend the meeting can still benefit from some aspects of it. We are increasing the options for networking and interaction while at the conference and looking for ways to maximize the overall value of the conference experience.
Travel and human interaction are still very important to the endeavor of science. Figuring out how to achieve this while also reducing our carbon footprint is a real challenge that will require many complementary solutions. We look forward to hearing your ideas at email@example.com. Comments sent to this address will be shared with the leadership of both societies.
- The conference will not be producing a printed program volume saving at least three full palettes of waste.
- The conference will be limiting the installation of carpet to areas of high use in the exhibit hall.
- To reduce plastics at the conferences, badge holders will no longer be provided. Lanyards will be clipped directly on the name tags.
- To further reduce plastics at the conference, no plastic water bottles will be distributed but water fountains will be available throughout the venue. Please bring your own travel bottle/mug to avoid using additional cups.
For those who cannot avoid travelling by plane, purchasing carbon offsets (or carbon credits) is a personal action that we encourage. The concept of carbon offsets is to reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions in one place to “offset“ emissions occurring elsewhere. When purchasing carbon offsets, you directly support projects that help develop new sources of renewable energy, promote energy efficiency, and encourage land-use and agriculture-based solutions (such as methane abatement). You can take up the option to purchase the planting of a native tree on the Hawaiian Islands to support reforestation efforts as part of your registration package. Delegates can also plant a tree independently via the convention centre site.
Several organisations now sell carbon offsets to compensate travel-related emissions. We have verified the legitimacy of the following organisations so we recommend using one of them:
- Atmosfair is an independent German non-profit organisation which offers offsets for greenhouse gases emitted by aircraft, cruise ships, long-distance coaches, and events.
- My Climate was spun off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich in 2002 as a non-profit climate protection organisation to enable climate protection with economic mechanisms such as price-tagging carbon dioxide and integrating externality into the market.
- South Pole, headquartered in Zürich, is a leading provider of global sustainability financing solutions and services.
Once in Honolulu, we encourage delegates to travel using public transport which is easy to use and very good value. Hire per ride bikes are available outside the convention centre.
Hawai'i Convention Center
The Hawai'i Convention Center takes a serious approach to their green initiatives. The Center has received multiple Green Event Awards from the State of Hawai‘i and the City and County of Honolulu for its commitment to environmental responsibility in planning and working with convention clients. A few examples are highlighted below:
- The design of the Center includes a canvas-type sail on the rooftop, allowing Hawai‘i’s trade winds to circulate throughout the building. This helps to vent off heat and reduces the need for air conditioning and the use of electricity for cooling.
- Recycled water is used to water plants and for cleaning facility.
- The center recycles glass, plastic, aluminum, paper and cardboard from events and all administrative offices. Center staff manages the collection and sorting of recycled products.
- Event-generated waste, such as foam core boards, displays and furniture, are repurposed and donated to local organizations that service those in need.
- The Center encourages a “buy local” procurement policy whenever possible. This extends to Hawai‘i-sourced food products and items created and produced in Hawai‘i, thereby reducing the shipping and packaging needs for products delivered to the Center.
- Food that is prepared but not served is donated to Aloha Harvest, which then distributes it to charitable organizations.