Towards more sustainable conferences in science

Adriana Wolf Perez, PhD
2 min readMar 23, 2024

After several lockdowns and ´Zoom Fatigue´, many of us cannot wait to travel to conferences again. From a social perspective, in-person conferences can be more exciting and engaging, however, from an environmental and inclusivity viewpoint, conferences should certainly improve.

Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

The biggest culprit of carbon emissions generated by conferences is undoubtedly air travel. One way to limit travel miles is to survey attendee´s locations and host the event in the city closest to the largest number of people and a venue that is well connected by public transport. The Thoughtful Travel campaign (@flyingless) aims to raise awareness about pollution stemming from air travel in academia and support greener ways of conferencing. Many funding bodies have started initiatives to support more sustainable ways of travel (e.g. train or car sharing) or financially support innovative sustainable conference ideas (e.g. The Company of Biologists).

Hybrid-formats combine an in-person event with a virtual component, which seems to be a good compromise in terms of reducing travel and can be more inclusive for financially less well-off scientists and research groups. Further, it gives scientists from different time-zones the chance to follow the conference at suitable times without being jet-lagged or neglecting childcare or other duties.

Lastly, the environmental footprint of in-person conferences can be improved in many ways. Hosting events in certified green venues (e.g LEED or BREEAM) is more energy efficient and water conservation, recycling facilities and sustainable procurement are in place. Further, offering vegetarian or vegan options instead of meat reduces carbon emissions. Partnering with food redistribution organisations can help to reduce food waste from conferences, and water refill stations help reduce single-use plastics.

Do you want to hear more about this topic?

Listen to the podcast where we talk to Viktoria Lamprinaki from the Company of Biologists about the “Sustainable Conferencing Initiative” which aims at promoting virtual conferences and reducing air travel in academia:

Disclaimer: This article has been previously published as a newsletter article. The author decided to make these available to the public to make resources available to help scientists all over the world to conduct research in a more sustainable manner.