Reducing the environmental impact of the EGU General Assembly

With more than 16,000 attendees, the EGU’s General Assembly, held in Vienna, Austria each spring, has a substantial environmental impact. For participants, this includes travel to and in Vienna, accommodation, food, and drinks. For organizers, this concerns the building in which the meeting is held, information media, badges, the catering we provide, the signage, and other additions made specifically for the conference.

To minimize the environmental footprint of Europe's largest geoscience event, the European Geosciences Union (EGU) has implemented extensive greening measures and continues to explore new ones. This webpage provides information on the numerous green initiatives and engagements that have allowed EGU, in collaboration with its partner congress organizer Copernicus and the Austria Center Vienna (ACV), to achieve more sustainability at the General Assembly.

EGU strongly encourages General Assembly attendees to help reduce the environmental impact of their participation by considering the following:

  • traveling by train, bus, metro, or bicycle to and in Vienna whenever possible,
  • bringing a reusable water bottle,
  • bringing a reusable coffee cup,
  • avoiding printing programmes, but instead creating a personal programme online and/or use the programme app.

Travelling

  • We encourage participants to travel by train to Vienna whenever possible. Overnight trains to Vienna exist from Rome (ÖBB), Zurich (SBB), and Brussels (ÖBB), as well as some large cities in Germany (e.g. Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Dusseldorf). A service from Amsterdam to Vienna is also being planned.
  • We promote a discount by the Swiss Federal Railways SBB and we continue applying for similar arrangements with other European railway companies.
  • Beginning in 2020, EGU will offset the carbon footprint for all attendees' travel through carbonfootprint.com.
  • In 2018 and 2019, voluntary carbon offsetting through EGU was used by 25% to 32% of attendees.
  • For travel within Vienna, including to/from the conference centre, we have included a local transportation ticket in the registration fee.
  • EGU promotes bike rental in Vienna and will provide a guarded bicycle parking lot at the ACV beginning in 2020.

Catering at the General Assembly

  • We have provided water fountains throughout the building and encourage attendees to bring their own reusable water bottles. This has saved about 30,000 single-use PET water bottles per year (based on the number distributed in 2017).
  • Coffee and tea are still served in single-use paper cups. In 2019 EGU began encouraging attendees to bring their own coffee mugs and offered reusable coffee cups for sale at the General Assembly. EGU strongly encourages attendees to bring their own multi-use mugs or buy them on site in 2020. Switching to multi-use coffee cups could save up to 100,000 paper cups at each General Assembly.
  • Since 2019, drinks offered during the daily Networking Break have only been served in returnable glass bottles.
  • From 2020 onwards, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer served at the opening, closing, and conveners' receptions will only be served in glass bottles and no longer in plastic cups.
  • Lunch bags provided at plenary and division meetings have vegetarian sandwiches. Beginning in 2020, these will no longer include bottled water.
  • Food boxes served at the opening and closing receptions are either vegetarian or vegan.
  • We strongly encourage our on-site catering partner to offer more selections of vegetarian and vegan food.

Information on the General Assembly

  • We no longer print a paper programme book and instead encourage attendees to access the programme online and/or through smartphones. This has saved about 1 million printed A5 pages per year since 2018.
  • The daily newsletter EGU Today went to fully digital in 2019, saving 15,000 double-sided A4 printed pages per year.
  • EGU note pads and most flyers, thousands of which are distributed at the conference, are printed on FSC-certified recycled paper, and the environmental impact of producing the flyers advertising EGU journals is offset.
  • From 2020, EGU pens distributed at the EGU booth will be made of bamboo rather than plastic.

At the General Assembly

  • Name badges consist of lanyards made of 100% recycled PET and a paper badge made of 100% FSC-recycled paper. From 2020, the paper badges will no longer be pocketed in a plastic sleeve.
  • The meeting's 1,500 sqm of signage is made out of polyurethane hard foam (PU). We have strived to reuse these signs as much as possible and limit the production of new ones.
  • From 2020 on, we aim to no longer have single-use carpet in the poster halls, limiting its use to inside PICO spots for sound absorption. This change will save almost 16,500 m2 of single-use carpet, which was previously shredded and reused for noise-absorbent mats for cars and house building.
  • Multi-use acoustic panels made of recycled PET will be used instead to reduce sound inside the poster areas.

Initiatives by the Austria Center Vienna

  • Solar collectors provide hot water for kitchens and restrooms.
  • Water is taken from ACV's own well to flush all of the conference centre's 240-plus toilets.
  • 7,000 bulbs were replaced with LEDs, saving 500,000 kWh/year.
  • The ventilation system was modernised in 2018, including the installation of a high-efficiency heat recovery system.
  • The ACV welcomes and certifies green meetings. More details can be found at ACV's CSR website.

More information

Feedback

EGU welcomes feedback and suggestions on how we can further improve initiatives aimed at reducing the environmental impact of the General Assembly. You can provide feedback through the annual General Assembly survey or by contacting the EGU Programme Committee Chair.