Carbon Neutral Events: How to Move Forward Without Leaving a Carbon Footprint?

By Jorge J. J. Martínez

Climate change is one of humankind’s biggest challenges. One of the most crucial is reducing excess greenhouse gases (GHG), the most common of which is carbon dioxide (CO2), according to the last International Panel on Climate Change.

Combustion-derived greenhouse gases are an invisible enemy that will provoke catastrophic consequences for the planet. The responsibility for counteracting their effects falls to all sectors of society, but the MICE industry has its own work to do.

Stemming from the United Nation’s GHG Protocol, Sustentur A.C. has developed a program called Carbon Neutral Tourism which describes principles to understand, recognize and measure the impact of events.

Leadership in the tourism sector in terms of sustainable development exists and can be observed in meetings such as the recent Sustainable & Social Tourism Summit in Mexico or Climate Week NYC in the U.S., which will take place at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC.) The latter will propose a goal of carbon neutrality for the tourism industry.

Tourism and the MICE industry generate more CO2 than the national average

For years tourism was seen as “the industry without smokestacks” because at first glance it did not pollute as much as others. However over time we have seen that this isn’t so. According to international studies, the tourism sector generates approximately 8 percent of all the CO2 in the atmosphere.

If tourism were a country, that country would be fourth-largest polluter in the world. Although it’s true that a large part of that comes from air travel, tourism itself generates CO2 in a number of other ways. Recognizing these can help mitigate the damage.

According to data collected by Sustentur A.C. at important destination and national events in Mexico, each guest generates between 250 and 500 kg of CO2 per day. In contrast, the average Mexican resident produces 4,000 kg of CO2 per year. In other words, in one day the event can generate 10 percent of Mexico’s average annual CO2 production.

Trends, options and solutions

Production and consumption of electric energy and ground and air transportation generate a large amount of CO2. Designing energy-efficient and logistically responsible events is possible by using local products and transporting groups in appropriate-size vehicles.

Because new hotel developments inevitably cut down trees, an interesting new market has arisen in which in conjunction with tourism events, one can purchase “carbon credits” to be invested in reforesting jungles and forests, focusing especially on the trees that capture the greatest amount of CO2.

Renewable energy sources are clearly a way to improve the situation, however the tourism sector has not made much progress in this area because of the expense or because necessary procedures have not yet been put in place.

Among the strategies for reducing food waste—there are all-inclusive hotels that throw away up to 50 percent of the food prepared—is donating excess edibles to food banks or community kitchens.

At the end of the day, brands and services that contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases—in addition to helping the planet—will have greater engagement with clients, among whom there is a growing awareness of sustainable tourism.

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