Emerging interest in the impacts of airline travel and even “flight shaming” have seen a distinct increase across the events industry and at the corporate level recently. Reasons for this range from devastating wildfires, to dire warnings from the UN Climate Science Panel, to the emergence of passionate new voices joining the climate conversation.
Given this heightened awareness and desire to transcend the status quo, many companies both large and small have been asking themselves what they can do. At MeetGreen, after 25 years as a sustainable business, we believe our daily choices, starting with those we can most directly control, positively impact our shared planet and collective future.
In that spirit, one of the most direct and effective ways your company can reduce its carbon footprint is to take a closer look at its travel: particularly its discretionary travel. At MeetGreen, as sustainable event planners and environmental consultants, our revenue is often entirely dependent upon our teams being physically present and onsite at event sites across our country and the globe. As might be expected, the mileage connected to these projects fluctuates annually and falls less directly under our control.
However, those flights and trips our teams take that are not dependent upon contracted client deliverables we classify separately as “discretionary travel”. These trips frequently fall under the domain of business development, speeches, corporate events, and professional development…and they add up!
This chart shows how we have been able to significantly reduce our carbon footprint for discretionary air travel over the past years.
Step One: Get Curious
By focusing where we have most control, a great place to start is with your organization’s discretionary travel. Begin by taking a closer look and setting criteria for this travel. Ask yourself before each trip if it is necessary to travel or would a video call provide the same information. Could you learn online without attending in person? Is there a better way to get to the meeting such as train, mass transit, or carpooling? If you do need to travel, what other meetings can be accomplished in the same city to double or triple your efforts.
Step Two: Set a Baseline and Continuously Improve
Once you have set a baseline reflective of where your company is trending related to discretionary travel, it will be easier to reduce in the future because your decisions will be rooted in data and metrics.
Step Three: Create A Funnel And Don’t Be Afraid To Use It
By running discretionary travel decisions through a metaphorical “carbon impact funnel” with climate goals in mind, your company has the opportunity to make major strides in its reduction strategy. At MeetGreen, a company that averages between 12-15 full-time employees annually, through a combination of close tracking and keeping the ROI threshold high for committing to discretionary travel, we have been able to reduce our discretionary travel at the organizational level by 93% over the past 10 years. This translates to traveling 1.2 million fewer km against our original baseline in 2009.
Step Four: Offset What Can’t Be Avoided
There are times when the best decision is to travel by air and it can be mitigated by purchasing carbon offsets. If offsetting the full scope of your company’s emissions seems daunting, discretionary travel is a great place to start. Carbon impacts are frequently either reduced upstream or mitigated via offset downstream. Your company has the opportunity to do both, and there has never been a better time than now to get started!
Mindfulness has become a trendy buzzword, however, being mindful of air travel has never been more important to individuals and organizations. Always stop and ask, “Is there a better way to accomplish the same goal?” Never forget that a side benefit is less time in an airplane, no travel hassles, and even perhaps, being home for your child’s soccer game.