Are Virtual Events Sustainable?

There’s no denying we are in a climate emergency. According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies since 1975, two-thirds of the warming has occurred, at a rate of roughly 0.15-0.20°C per decade.

To reduce carbon footprints many large event organisations are opting for sustainable virtual events as a way to engage their audiences globally! In this blog, we’ll discuss what virtual events are reducing and how they are sustainable as well as how you can host a sustainable virtual event.

 So…  you might be wondering what are virtual events?

To put it simply, it’s an event where people can get together and interact digitally through a virtual platform. With the first virtual event taking place in 1993 (which was a virtual tradeshow presented by Alan Saperstein and Randy Selman from Visual Data Corporation) they’ve been happening for many years. However, they’ve become even more popular recently due to the pandemic. Most of us were working from home and the only way we could communicate was virtually as lockdowns, travel bans, and social distancing guidelines came into force.

Let’s skip to the main point, how sustainable are virtual events and what exactly are they reducing:

1. Travel

There is controversy with regards to whether virtual events improve sustainability due to a reduction in travel. This is because flights will not stop if, for example, 5 delegates don’t get on a plane. However, could you argue that the demand for travel would be reduced?

An example where virtual events reduced impact was at Cisco’s virtual Global Sales Experience. This event was attended by 19,000 employees. If everyone had attended this event in person, it would’ve been responsible for emitting the equivalent of 84,400 tons of carbon into the atmosphere. This was just for one event alone!

Not only this but we also thought about the transportation of equipment, food, and supplies that are needed for an event. If these are not locally sourced this can have a huge strain on CO2 emissions!

2. Waste

There’s no denying an event of any size creates a huge amount of waste. This waste can come from wrappers, plastic bottles, packaging of equipment and supplies needed to run the event.

According to a study carried out in the United Kingdom, 13% of the plastics that end up in landfills come from the events industry!

If we can start to run events virtually this will take a massive strain off landfills as less non-decomposable waste is produced.

3. Energy

Despite the usage of computers, servers, etc. used when creating and viewing the virtual events you would still be saving a significant amount of energy. This is because you would not be using excessive amounts of facilities like water, heating and aircon.

Evidence that supports this is the BSR 2020 virtual event that was going to be a three-day conference. Using the MeetGreen uncarbon calculator they worked out that in total they saved 942,196kg CO2e! This is the equivalent of 160 households’ emissions for a whole year!

The sustainability of virtual events | The Benefits and its Potential | The Benefits and its Potential | 3D Virtual Platform Experience | Metaverse Hub

4. Food Waste

When running an event there’s a massive demand for food consumption. Whether this be from the delegates who are staying at a hotel, or the event venue itself. This not only increases potential food waste but also food packaging waste from wrappers or plastic bottles.

Planning a sustainable virtual event

To ensure a successful sustainable virtual event, careful planning and execution are essential. Here are some key considerations:

1. Define Your Objectives and Audience

Before diving into the planning process, clearly define your event’s objectives and target audience. Understanding your goals and the needs of your audience will help shape the content, format, and overall experience of the event. Consider what value you want to provide and how you can best engage and connect with your attendees virtually.

2. Choose the Right Virtual Event Platform

Selecting the right virtual event platform is critical to the success of your event. Look for platforms that offer robust features such as live streaming, interactive sessions, networking capabilities, and analytics. Ensure that the platform aligns with your sustainability goals by offering eco-friendly features, such as energy-efficient servers and carbon offset programs.

3. Create Engaging and Interactive Content

Virtual events require engaging and interactive content to keep attendees interested and involved. Consider incorporating live polls, Q&A sessions, virtual breakout rooms, and gamification elements to enhance participant engagement. Leverage multimedia content, such as videos and infographics, to deliver information in a visually appealing and digestible format.

4. Minimise Resource Consumption and Waste

Promote sustainability by minimizing resource consumption and waste generation throughout the event. Encourage digital registration and ticketing, provide electronic event materials, and reduce the use of printed materials. Consider offering digital swag bags or sustainable giveaways to replace physical promotional items.

5. Engage Speakers and Attendees

Ensure that your event provides opportunities for speakers and attendees to actively engage and network. Incorporate live Q&A sessions, panel discussions, and virtual networking events to foster interaction and collaboration. Encourage participants to share their thoughts and insights through social media channels using event-specific hashtags.

6. Follow Up and Gather Feedback

After the event, follow up with attendees and gather feedback to assess the success of your virtual event. Send post-event surveys to gather insights, suggestions, and testimonials from participants. Use this feedback to improve future events and to show your commitment to continuous improvement.By incorporating these planning considerations, you can host a successful sustainable virtual event that engages your audience, promotes sustainability, and achieves your event objectives.

So are sustainable virtual events the future…

Well, quite potentially. With Facebook announcing their rebrand to ‘Meta’. Zuckerberg is making huge advances on the metaverse and hopes to transform Facebook from a social media network into a ‘metaverse’ company within the next five years. This being the virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.

And it’s not only Meta that’s changing the internet experience…

Many companies across the world have had an impact on the metaverse. One of these being Metaverse Hub. Metaverse Hub is a 3D virtual platform that enables individuals and organisations to create interactive gathering experiences. As technology partner to planetSHINE, the Metaverse Hub platform was recently used for the COPtimism experience as part of their hybrid event. This event showcased sustainable brands that are doing their part to help the environment and hosted live webinars, that are still available to watch on-demand!

The sustainability of virtual events | The Benefits and its Potential | The Benefits and its Potential | 3D Virtual Platform Experience | Metaverse Hub

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