Project Carbon: Initial Steps

Virgin Airlines flight

After some preliminary research into green events, we focused on identifying the effects of Devoxx UK.

  1. What are the direct effects of Devoxx UK on the environment?
  2. What are the indirect effects?

The dividing line for direct and indirect was ‘within our control to change’. So arguably, attendee travel is a direct effect: without the conference, this would not happen. However we cannot prescribe modes of transport on attendees, so it is indirect.

 

Direct effects Indirect effects
  • Devoxx HQ power
  • Tickets and lanyards
  • Promotional products for attendees (bag, t-shirt)
  • Promotional materials for the event (on site signage)
  • Speaker gifts
  • Shipping 
  • Mark and Katharine travel
  • Affiliate transportation (photographer, AV, volunteers)
  • Power: attendee charge points
  • Power: hosting session (projector, lighting etc)
  • Power: exhibition space
  • Catering
  • DevRoxx party
  • Attendee transport
  • Attendee accommodation
  • Sponsor transport
  • Sponsor accommodation
  • Equipment transportation
  • Speaker transportation
  • Speaker accomodation
  • Sponsor paraphernalia
  • Sponsor catering (e.g. if bring coffee machine)

 

Once we’d decided what to look at, we could start building an idea of the carbon footprint of the event in 2019. We will use this to measure improvement versus 2020.

In terms of the progression of a plan, a few things co-evolved. We started a Trello to look at each different area listed above and track our progress. For example researching environmentally friendly bags. We started a roadmap of what we thought we could achieve by May 2020. We started to make preliminary estimates of our carbon footprint based on 2019 data.

The venue Devoxx UK is held in, The Business Design Centre, has been operating as a Carbon Neutral® Venue for 10 years. A looming suspicion became more realised. Power consumption isn’t the biggest effect on the environment of Devoxx UK. Transport – speaker, sponsor, attendee and organiser – is. And this is harder to change.

Attendee and speaker transport can be estimated based on the addresses given on the tickets, and assuming certain modes of transport. For example assuming that if an attendee office address is over 100 miles away from London, that they flew economy. If they were closer, that they drove in an average petrol engine car. We can build a worse-case scenario view. 

Then we can look at mitigation. For indirect, uncontrollable effects like transport, how, how much, and how effective is offsetting? And is this how we *should* be achieving carbon neutrality? For example, Heathrow plans to use offsets to make it carbon neutral by 2030, despite being one of the world’s biggest car parks and directly increasing emissions by millions of tonnes of carbon1. By some commentators1, offsetting is something of a wild west, were it’s possible to pay what you want for however much carbon you want. It is an easy way to assuage guilt, but perhaps not the only angle to come from. The more we looked into the effects of the conference on the environment, the more avenues of exploration appeared.

1 https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2019/aug/02/offsetting-carbon-emissions-how-to-travel-options

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