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Part of university’s activities is also organising several conferences, seminars and other similar events. All this also means consumption of resources and impact on environment. We have put together some tips and hints that could be taken into account in order to be a greener university. It is up to the organisers of the events to decide what and how many of these things will be put into practice, depending on the concrete situation.
The tips are grouped into categories so they are easier to follow. Any questions, additions or feedback can be directed to green university specialist Elen Peetsmann (firstname.lastname@example.org).
We also want to remind that a good event has balance between the quality of content and small environmental impact.
- Avoid using too much paper. Make information materials available online, print on both sides of the sheet, use recycled paper (Cyclus Office for example). Event feedback can also be collected via electronic questionnaire form.
- Publications can be made on recycled paper and with environmental friendly inks. Eesti Maaülikool orders the majority of its publications and materials from company named Ecoprint which has several eco-labels.
- Small gifts and other items given to participants and speakers don’t have to be in a bag. Their amount and necessity should be also critically reviewed. Prefer products that are produced locally, made out of reused or biodegradable materials (special pens, local herbal tea, etc).
- When using plastic name tags ask the participants to return them after the event so they can be reused. You can do it by simply putting a box with big text next to the entrance.
- In decorating use native flowers, trees, branches etc.
Why is this good: both smaller use of materials and using recycled and biodegradable materials reduce the final amount of waste ending up in a landfill. Smaller use of paper saves trees which are important producers of oxygen. The closer the materials have been produced, the smaller are the emissions from their transport. Using the materials several times makes for lesser production which means less raw materials and energy being used.
Food and coffee breaks
- Prefer local and/or organic food and drinks, snacks made in Estonia, seasonal domestic fruits and vegetables. In stores there is wide selection of Estonian dried berries available for example.
- Prefer Fair Trade coffee (also tea, cocoa, sugar). More info about Fair Trade here (UK website).
- Instead of tea bags offer herbal tea from big thermobottle.
- Instead of small packed sugarcubes prefer unpacked sugar in a bowl, and if possible, Fair Trade sugar. Alternative is also Estonian honey.
- Instead of packed coffee cream use milk or cream in bigger packages that is poured out into the creamcup.
- Instead of bottled water choose tab water in a jug and add lemon or cucumber slices etc. In Estonia the quality of tab water is the same as bottled water. More info here (unfortunately only in Estonian).
- Instead of plastic cups and dishes use washable ceramic or biodegradable dishes. If you cannot avoid plastic dishes, do not use foam plastic which has biggest negative impact on environment.
- In order to avoid using (plastic) cutlery and dishes, serve finger food.
- Prefer products with less packing. If possible, prefer recycled or biodegradable packages.
- Don’t throw away food leftovers that are still suitable for eating. In many places it’s common to pack the leftovers as take-away to employees.
- When ordering catering, ask about the above mentioned things. Things only change when the clients are clear with their demands and wishes.
Why is this good: the transport of local food causes less emissions and has used less energy. Organic farming doesn’t use chemicals that harm the environment. Fair Trade gives better living conditions to workers in Third World. By buying local food, you support the local producer. The less the food is packed, the less waste is creates and less waste will end up in landfills.
When organising an event outside the premises of Eesti Maaülikool, try to take into account these aspects:
- Choose a location which is well connected with public transport and/or by foot. If needed, arrange a bus transport to the location so that participants wouldn’t have to use their personal cars.
- Ask if the accommodation place or venue pays attention to saving energy and water, recycling etc. In Estonia, there are 22 accommodation places with Green Key label that proves they are following certain environmental criteria. More info here.
Why is this good:by reducing the amount of transport of the participants, less emissions are relased and less fossil fuels used. Smaller energy and water use have also smaller impact on the environment.
Important note: when putting into practice these tips, show and explain them also to participants. In this way, their environmental awareness will also rise and it helps to understand better some of the aspects that at first might seem a bit uncomfortable. Some good examples from European Commission's Green Week.