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How We Make Our Meetings More Sustainable

How We Make Our Meetings More Sustainable

Sunset in Asheville, North Carolina, where the 2024 July ESIP Meeting takes place. Photo credit: Douglas Rao

Meeting sustainability matters to the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) community. This year, ESIP rolls out a new sponsorship with Element 84 focused on reducing waste and making food, beverage and transportation more sustainable.

Communities like ESIP are aware of our impacts on our planet. Whether you manage data about air quality, sea level rise or extreme weather, our community is confronted with the evidence of our changing planet daily. As we live into our mission — to empower innovative use and stewardship of Earth science data to solve our planet’s greatest challenges  — we have to consider the impacts of our gatherings.

But there are many aspects to consider in meeting sustainability. This year we are grateful for the support of Element 84 – our Sustainability Sponsor who have challenged us to continue to reduce the environmental impacts of our meetings and have provided us with the resources to implement some of the following practices.

Our community values hybrid.

The ESIP community is mostly virtual and active 52 weeks a year, supporting nearly 30 Collaboration Areas. Twice a year, we gather as a whole community to share our work more broadly, connect with old friends and meet new colleagues! This cross-community work is essential, but it also can have negative environmental impacts. Eliminating travel is one reason why the ESIP January Meeting has remained fully virtual since January 2021. Although ESIP community participants get creative with less impactful travel when we do gather in person.

For many years, ESIP has offered both in-person and virtual options, allowing participants the joy and camaraderie of gathering in person or the lower impacts and increased flexibility and accessibility of virtual participation. While the connection between the in-person and the online spaces aren’t always perfect, we are told we offer a strong approach to hybrid meetings.

We aim to reduce waste.

Here is how:

  • Encourage everyone to bring reusable water bottles
  • Make reusable lanyard designs (Remember to bring back yours from last year, and return the lanyard for future use!)
  • Print paper name badges without plastic sleeves
  • Use badge stickers and reusable pins instead of plastic ribbons
  • Prioritize electronic meeting materials
  • Offer meeting swag on demand rather than automatically providing it

Food and beverage matter, too.

While respecting the need to accommodate a variety of food allergies and dietary preferences, for July 2024 we will be featuring an expanded selection of vegetarian food options to make that choice more palatable for all! 

Whenever possible, we look to serve food in reusable dishes over single use containers.

Transportation — how we get around.

In choosing a meeting venue, we try to find locations close to major airports and train lines, and that are walkable locations in cities and states with equitable policies for all. At the same time, we work to keep our meetings accessible and affordable and only choose venues that will offer federal per diem hotel rates to our entire room block. This combination of factors is a bit of a unicorn. 

This year our meeting venue is a bit outside of Asheville and there are not many public transportation options. To help reduce the number of individual vehicle trips, ESIP is covering the costs of the hotel shuttle for meeting participants to get downtown on Wednesday evening and to our FUNding Friday poster making at New Belgium Brewery on Thursday night. 

If you are excited about sustainable meetings and planning, join the ESIP Meetings Committee. We will caucus for committee members at the close of the Annual Business Meeting on Friday in Asheville.


This blog was written by Susan Shingledecker from ESIP with edits from Allison Mills.

ESIP stands for Earth Science Information Partners and is a community of partner organizations and volunteers. We work together to meet environmental data challenges and look for opportunities to expand, improve, and innovate across Earth science disciplines.Learn more esipfed.org/get-involved and sign up for the weekly ESIP Update for #EarthScienceData events, funding, webinars and ESIP announcements.