Monday, June 16, 2008

from the conference

I just returned from the ACA conference in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where my grand plans to blog about the environmental aspects of the conference during the conference were dashed by an epic East/West softball game, a trip to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery where I saw an amazing painting by Attila Richard Lukacs and some other nice works, and other things that made the four-day pass as quickly as the gas it took to get there.
The conference was at the Crown Plaza Lord Beaverbrook, though I didn't stay there. It was a nice place, and although there were some concerns that the recent floods in the area would affect the hotel, the conference went on as planned and was quite good.

A few weeks ago, I posted about efforts the organizers have made to reduce the environmental impact of the conference. Rather than make conference bags, they chose to give out reusable grocery bags from the local co-op. There were packets with what I think was the minimal amount of paper a conference could distribute (I ended up not using my Carr McLean notepad because I brought my own - but many others used them). The bulky conference program was not printed.

The hotel is apparently certified by TheGreenKey, which I still don't know a whole lot about. It used reusable dishes and cutlery for everything but one box lunch, which was just a recyclable cardboard box. Fredericton's recycling however, leaves much to be desired. There was no sorting bins or compost bins I could find anywhere in the city. I forgot my coffee mug, so I was glad to see the conference provide reusable cups during coffee breaks. I used two Tim Horton's paper cups and no less than one dozen mini coffee cups instead of my signature stainless steel mug.

I drove with a friend from Halifax, and we spent around $130 on fuel for the zippy Pontiac G6 we rented. The 2005 G6 gets around 26 MPG but it seemed better than that somehow. Many delegates flew to the conference of course. Because it was a national association, the delegates mostly came from within Canada. This conference was not international in scope like some of the conferences Anthony posted about recently.

You could say our reliance on all the hotel's electricity and energy usage was limited to the actual conference because we stayed with a friend. I think conferences could do a lot more to link delegates with local, affordable home-stays or something else more friendly and less wasteful than a large hotel, but Fredericton is a small place and it wouldn't have worked there. Or worked well at least. Transportation would become an issue and it'd be hard to argue that it was in any way reducing the total "carbon output" or helping with any other measure of the associations environmental impact.

For my first conference, I must say I enjoyed myself a great deal. I know everyone thinks about these things, and the city's recycling program (or lack thereof) was definitely noticeable to me and many other delegates.

The notion of associations taking a stand on things such as sponsorship, politics, and other aspects of our non-professional lives came up once or twice and I wondered what it would do to cities without strong recycling programs if major associations only opted for cities that met a certain set of criteria, like sorting boxes in the streets and conference venue for instance. I really didn't generate a lot of rubbish outside the hotel, but when I did, I had no choice but to use the system at hand. It made me cringe a bit. Would cities respond to this kind of outing? Would hoteliers lobby the city?

Food for though I suppose.

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