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Reduce Your Carbon Footprint by Going Virtual

Laurence Tognetti
December 18, 2023

I. Introduction  

While attending in-person events can seem uneventful from an environmental perspective, the amount of carbon emissions produced by air travel, waste, and food production that occurs while you’re en-route, attending, and departing the event is exacerbated depending on the size of the event.   

The significance of reducing the carbon footprint of events must be considered, as the reduction would have several positive impacts on the environment, including mitigating climate change, stimulating the global economy, improving public health, and sustaining worldwide biodiversity. The less we are required to travel, the fewer negative impacts on the environment while enhancing the positive effects.   

For these reasons, transitioning to virtual and hybrid formats for events has become crucial in the fight against climate change and reducing carbon footprints worldwide. Through virtual and hybrid events, we reduce the need to travel and reduce waste and food production, leading to a cleaner climate and environment for everyone.   

II. Understanding Carbon Footprints  

Carbon emissions and greenhouse gases are the primary drivers of climate change. Human-caused (anthropogenic) carbon emissions and greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels, which produce carbon dioxide (CO2) and contribute to air pollution, which drives climate change by warming the Earth’s atmosphere. All this together is known as a carbon footprint.   

One definition of a carbon footprint is “the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event or product.” This includes automobiles, factories, airplanes, and food production, to name a few. The carbon emissions these activities produce contribute to the global carbon footprint.  

If carbon emissions contribute to climate change, carbon neutrality has the opposite effect, including reduced environmental pollution while improving public health and economic growth. Carbon neutrality also contributes to increased biodiversity while improving food security by reducing the impact of climate change on the environment.   

Image showing an example or a hybrid event on the Chati platform.

III. The Environmental Impact of Traditional Events  

As noted above, traditional events result in high energy consumption and environmental consequences through travel, waste, and food production. Some reports have estimated that 70 to 90 percent of the total carbon emissions from attending an event comes from travel alone, with each attendee accounting for 400 pounds of carbon emissions per day. This number can reach 2,000 pounds per day if substantial travel is required.   

These environmental consequences pose significant challenges for event organizers. While their priority is hosting a successful event, they must also account for the ecological impact their event will have. For example, the location of their event might benefit some attendees for travel while burdening others. If the event has tens of thousands of attendees, the organizers must ensure they have the right amount of food for everyone. Ultimately, this leads to a large carbon footprint for everyone.   

An image showing a hybrid event on the Chati platform.

IV. The Rise of Virtual and Hybrid Events  

To help mitigate the environmental impacts and organizational challenges of hosting traditional events, virtual conferences and hybrid events offer a cleaner and more efficient method of bringing people together worldwide without the need for travel, waste, and massive food production.   

The advantages of virtual event platforms include reduced—if not completely mitigated—travel requirements and reduced waste and food production while maintaining the same level of inclusivity and engagement as traditional events.   

Virtual and hybrid events have become the mainstream method for meeting the needs of an international conference. This is because they break down geographic barriers and successfully reduce carbon emissions from the reduced travel, waste, and food production that traditional events require. Additionally, virtual and hybrid events offer the same level of inclusivity and engagement as conventional events.    

V. Reducing Carbon Footprints with Virtual Events  

There are enormous benefits of virtual conferences for the environment. For example, a single-day virtual event with 200 attendees results in 66 times fewer carbon emissions than if that same event was held in person. A virtual conference with 5000 attendees also helps reduce carbon emissions, equivalent to 158 American households annually.   

Virtual and hybrid events can help event organizers and attendees lower their energy consumption, leading to a cleaner and healthier future for everyone. This comes from reduced travel, waste, and food production while maintaining the same level of engagement and inclusivity that traditional events offer.   

An image showing a hybrid event with the Chati platform.

VI. Conclusion  

While traditional events contribute to carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately, a large carbon footprint and increased climate change, virtual and hybrid events can ensure that carbon footprints are significantly reduced worldwide. By utilizing virtual and hybrid events, attendees and event organizers contribute to a carbon-neutral future, decreasing pollution and increasing public health.   

Sources: Impactful NinjaOur World In DataUniversity of MichiganIberdrolaBeaconLiveChatiChati (1)IEEE   

Written by Laurence Tognetti

Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran with extensive journalism and science communication experience for various outlets. He specializes in space and astronomy and is the author of “Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey”. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ET_Exists.

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