Are Sustainability Conferences Sustainable?

That was my thought as I sat down to a lovely banquet dinner to kick off the Low-Carbon Earth Summit (LCES) in Dalian China a couple of weeks ago. I was lucky enough to be on the keynote agenda at this conference and was sharing dinner with local dignitaries from Dalian and some sustainability luminaries from around the world.

My fellow keynoters hailed from Germany, Brazil, China, Switzerland, and the US. And one of the topics over dinner was the coming round of sustainability conferences, COP 17 in Durban, South Africa, next month; the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi in January; and Rio+20 in Brazil next June, all part of what the UN has dubbed its "Sustainable energy for all" initiative.

Which got me to thinking: Is it sustainable for all these experts to be flying around the world attending sustainability conferences? The "industry" of creating more sustainable business, home, and public environments should be a role model.

All of us involved in improving sustainability should take a look at our travel schedules and see if cutting one or more of those long-haul flights can be part of our "carbon diet" for the coming year.

And we should pay attention to technology-enabled alternatives, like the VERGE virtual conference run a few months ago by my friends at GreenBiz. Videoconferencing, webcasting, and other technologies can help habitual conference-goers like myself to separate participation in an event from travel to the event.

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