Sustainability Initiatives –

Environmental Quality at SETAC Events

“SETAC’s mission is to support and facilitate the development of principles and practices for the protection, enhancement and management of sustainable environmental quality and ecosystem integrity.”

With this in mind, we are convinced that not only we should strive towards organising sustainable events, but that SETAC, as organiser of large events, can play a role in having more sustainable products and initiatives in the meeting industry. Although the influence is sometimes limited, we think that every step is important.

A sustainable event balances environmental, social and economic responsibilities. Our objective is to organise events in a way that minimises potential impact on the environment.

Below you will find a list of initiatives that are in place for the Helsinki meeting and for future events.

Read as well about the sustainability efforts from the Messukeskus Expo and Conference Centre.

  • SETAC Europe contacts all hotels listed on the meeting website to inform them about the importance of taking sustainable initiatives to reduce waste, energy consumption, etc.
  • Sustainability playing an important role, catering supplier Fazer revised and updated in 2018 their sustainability approach to transform their company into a modern and sustainable food company.
  • Fazer’s four goals are:
    – 50% less emission
    – 50% less food waste
    – 100% sustainably-sourced catering
    – increase of plant-based food
  • Fazer only works with local companies making an effort in minimising the amount of wrapped food.
  • Leftovers from the cafeterias, restaurants and from our meeting are donated to a local charity organisation.
  • Tap water is provided – Helsinki’s tap water is one of the best quality tap waters in the world (please bring your own reusable bottle)!
  • Biodegradable cups and dishes are used to avoid plastic use. (The additional costs for using porcelain tableware for all participants would cost around 70,000 euros.)
  • Since a couple of years, we have introduced “Wednesday – Veggie Day” (vegetarian food only). We are considering increasing the number of veggie days as from next year.
  • Although the majority of the participants will have to fly to Helsinki, we encourage you to consider taking the train or otherwise to take direct flights (which decreases the impact considerably).
  • As from this year, we have a carbon offset programme available. Read more about it below.
  • The city of Helsinki offers free public transport to 2,000 participants during the meeting. The congress centre is located at walking distance from the train station. It only takes five minutes to take you from there to the city centre.
  • SETAC Europe will as much as possible strive for sustainable events, which will be mentioned in the request for tender for future destinations.
  • 88% of our participants still require a conference bag. Unused bags are given to local schools and/or charity organisations.
  • The number of printed abstract books has reduced considerably over the last 5 years.
  • The programme book is printed on FSC-certified
  • We have reduced the number of pages over the years and reduced its weight by 24%.
  • We have limited the number of inserts and encourage sponsors and partners to choose an advertisement instead.
  • All announcements and invitations are electronic.
  • We encourage participants to use the mobile app as much as possible.
  • Any eco-friendly notebook that is not used at the meeting is donated to local schools and/or charity organisations.
  • Badges are eco-friendly and the lanyards are reused at future meetings.
  • Flags and banners are reused every year.
  • Prior to the meeting, exhibitors will receive an e-mail encouraging them to reduce waste as much as possible, including a message of reconsidering their policy regarding gadgets, etc.
  • SETAC’s policy on sustainability will be integrated in the exhibitor’s manual.
  • Carpet is only provided in conference centres if they are 100% recycled. In Helsinki carpet is converted into new conference bags for other events.
  • When choosing the menus for our socials we always ask for sustainable local food.
  • Attendance to socials are mentioned directly on the badge and no more tickets are distributed.
  • The Messukeskus Helsinki, Expo and Convention Centre, has been granted ISO 14001 environmental management certification. They comply with environmentally sustainable principles, laws and regulations and are part of the Sustainable Meetings Region in accordance with the Scandinavian Sustainable Meetings Accord of the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).
  • Key environmental goals are cutting energy consumption, reducing the amount of waste and recycling 100% of the generated waste.
  • At the venue, SETAC Europe uses as much digital signage as possible.

As a participant, you can also contribute in making a difference! Here are some ideas:

  • Use public transport to come to the meeting and if this is not possible, try to reduce the number of flights and use public transport for your home – airport travel
  • Have a look at our carbon offset programme
  • Use the free public transport in Helsinki
  • Find a sustainable hotel in the area through green-key.org
  • Bring your own bottle to refill with tap water
  • Use the waste bins in the correct way
  • Put your badge and lanyard in the special bins or drop it at the registration desk
  • Reuse the towel/soap in your hotel
  • Rethink before you order a printed abstract book or a USB stick (downloads are available)
  • Try the vegetarian menu at the banquet
  • ……… and so much more!

If you have any ideas on how we could improve our efforts in organising a more sustainable meeting in the future, please contact Barbara Koelman.

Carbon Offset

The Paris agreement aims to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.  It was calculated that the average amount of COa person should produce should not exceed 0.6 t CO2per year in order to halt climate change. The current amount produced by a citizen of the EU is 8.4 t/yr.

Traveling to the SETAC Europe 29th Annual Meeting in Helsinki will leave a significant carbon footprint and poses the question of whether the long-term environmental benefits of the meeting justify the excessive CO2emission due to participants traveling from all over Europe and beyond. Previous research on the environmental impact of a SETAC Symposium* showed that approximately 91 % of the carbon footprint originates from transportations. A flight from Brussels to Helsinki almost equals the amount that was calculated as the maximum CO2 production per person and year acceptable to meet the Paris targets.

SETAC is convinced that science can play an important role in addressing the relevant issues, assessing the risks and providing solutions for sustainable management of environmental resources. Our statement Environmental Quality Through Science® reflects that vision. We also think that the personal communication between researchers, the exchange of results and ideas and collaborative projects are essential to further the science in the most efficient manner. For that reason, we organise scientific meetings to bring together scientists from across Europe and beyond. Nevertheless, the carbon footprint of these efforts should not be neglected and SETAC promotes the offset of this footprint by supporting projects to reduce carbon emissions. If you have not yet selected to offset your travel emissions when booking your ticket, we encourage you to visit one of the many websites that are available to do this (e.g. www.goldstandard.org an initiative of the  WWF and other international NGOs) and donate to certified projects to help to reduce CO2emissions.

*Life Cycle assessment of the  SETAC Europe 22nd LCA Case Study Symposium by Marcial Vargas-Gonzalez & Elsee Ekambi (Quantis, Switzerland).