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UZH for Staff

Organize a Sustainable Event

Hybrider Event
With a hybrid format, the environmental impact of international events can be massively reduced.

Around 220 sizeable conferences are held at UZH each year, in addition to several smaller catered events and meetings. International events in particular can have a considerable impact on the environment – primarily due to the participants’ travel arrangements, as the following table illustrates.

Treibhausgasemissionen einer Konferenz
Impact on the climate of a three-day conference with 800 participants. It was assumed that this conference takes place in Central Europe and thus around 60% of the participants are still able to travel to and from it by train. A higher proportion of air travel would considerably increase the GHG emissions. (Further information please see sustainable event guidelines)

So how can you make sure your event avoids these environmental pitfalls as far as possible? The university’s guidelines on sustainable events, adopted by the Executive Board of the University in 2018, provide valuable recommendations in this area. They address topics such as travel arrangements, waste avoidance and accessibility. Here are some of the key tips from the guidelines.

Consider the following, in particular:

  • For international events, the best way to reduce the environmental impact is through formats that avoid some or even all travel. These include fully virtual meetings and decentralized events at different locations that are connected virtually (hybrid hub events). If this isn’t possible, participants should travel by train whenever possible.
  • Recommend accommodation that is close to the event venue and is particularly environmentally friendly or has a strong social commitment. For example, look for environmental certifications, the use of renewable energy, and accessibility. If a hotel hires people with disabilities who struggle to find jobs on the market, this should be viewed positively.
  • Go for sustainable catering options. Food should be vegan or vegetarian and use seasonal products. Also look for regional and organic food. To avoid food waste, only order as much as participants will actually eat. Instead of bottled water, we recommend providing tap water. By doing so, you contribute to UZH’s Blue University goals. Check the sustainable catering guidelines for advice on choosing sustainable catering options.
  • Borrow furniture and tech equipment, if possible. For example, you can borrow counters, flowerpots, artificial flowers, coat racks or name badge sleeves from the President’s Services Event Management team. You can also borrow technical equipment and electronics.
  • Avoid waste by doing away with printed materials and giveaways whenever possible. Giveaways for participants and gifts for speakers could end up being left behind or thrown away. Cotton bags aren’t really sustainable either, as they need to be reused around 80 times to have as little impact on the environment per use as a plastic bag made of mostly recycled plastic, according to the Blue Angel criteria (Hischier et al. 2014).
  • You can also draw attention to sustainability matters in the event’s surrounding program. For example, inform the participants and speakers about the sustainability measures in the invitation or as part of the welcome address and show them how they can contribute to sustainability themselves.

Get organized in good time

Organizing an event requires good preparation. It makes sense to consider sustainability aspects from the very start of the planning process. The Sustainability Team and the President’s Services Event Management team are happy to advise and assist you.