Scientists frequently speak out about the dangers of climate change, and I'm sure there are many scientists who make concious choices for their own lives with a view towards sustainability. But are there any examples of concerted efforts to make the day-to-day running of the scientific community itself more sustainable? In particular, are there any such initiatives with respect to scientific conferences?

  • 1
    I agree with the close voter that this question is too broad. Can you perhaps narrow down on the question about conferences? What are the sustainability concerns there, that the scientific community should be addressing?
    – LShaver
    May 15, 2019 at 13:22
  • I agree, it's probably best to focus on 1 particular aspect to avoid making this too broad.. May I propose all the travel to conferences?
    – THelper
    May 15, 2019 at 17:30
  • I'm not looking for a comprehensive overview, but rather for concrete examples. I hope this is now clearer from the way I have rephrased the question. Indeed, travel is the most obvious concern. But even with the question as broad as it is, my feeling (as a scientist) is that there simply are no examples of the kind I'm looking for. I'll happily narrow the question down if someone can convince me that, on the contrary, there are indeed “too many” such initiatives. May 15, 2019 at 20:59
  • 1
    Related question on Academia. May 17, 2019 at 12:31

1 Answer 1



While not specifically a scientific conference, earlier this year I attended Greenbuild in Chicago, USA. Greenbuild is organized each year by the U.S. Green Building Council (which also runs the LEED program) and is intended for

professionals in architecture, construction, engineering, planning, and interior design who depend on thoughtful and ethical solutions which promote wellness and resiliency in construction and urban development.

Sustainability objectives

Since 2002, Greenbuild has run a sustainability initiative to track and reduce the environmental impact of the expo across several categories. Reports from previous years are available here, and the most recent report (for the 2018 expo) is here.

Here are the current "sustainability objectives" from 2018 onwards:

  1. Move Toward a Zero Waste Event
  2. Advance Stakeholder Education and Engagement
  3. Improve Sustainable Sourcing
  4. Improve Performance and Tracking Methods
  5. Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  6. Positively Impact Communities
  7. Lead the Event Industry Through the Advancement of Sustainable Event Management Initiatives

Actions taken

Some of the actions taken for the 2018 expo to meet this objectives include:

  1. Reducing physical size of printed materials and only distributing to those who specifically request them in advance of the expo
  2. Required training for expo volunteers on how to sort waste
  3. Eliminating single use plastics from food and beverage services
  4. Providing more vegan and vegetarian meal services
  5. Partnering with ride-share services to provide incentives to attendees, reducing miles driven in personal vehicles.


Obviously some of the stated objectives are difficult to objectively track or measure, but I pulled out some of the numbers that are being tracked from the available reports:

Year     GHG (lbs/    Waste diversion    Landfilled waste 
       participant)        rate          (lbs/participant)
2002       1115                               
2003       1069                               
2004       1036             48                  2.8
2005        983             26                  
2006       1005             27                  3.0
2007        781             91                  0.8
2008        933             76                  1.5
2009       1247             51                  6.4
2010        883             87                  0.8
2011        841             73                  1.9
2012       1218             86                  1.0
2013        828             67                  2.1
2014       1426             72                  4.8
2015        831             71                  2.2
2016        866             90                  1.1
2017        509             91                  0.5
2018        635             86                  0.7

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