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 Meetings 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/from and within Vienna whenever possible,
  • booking eco-friendly accommodations in close proximity to the congress centre and reachable by public transport (free ticket included in registration),
  • bringing a reusable water bottle,
  • bringing a reusable coffee cup,
  • avoiding printing programmes, but instead creating a personal programme online and/or using the programme app,
  • bringing the name badge lanyard from a previous EGU conference,
  • avoiding the distribution of flyers or other printed materials,
  • avoiding the production of waste and, in particular, the utilization of single-use materials wherever possible,
  • applying a strict waste separation by using the provided compartments inside the congress centre.

Travelling & accommodation

  • Attendees are asked to compare the different means of transportation for their individual travels. Such a service is offered by various sites (e.g. the German website www.greenmobility.de).
  • We encourage participants to travel by train to Vienna whenever possible. Overnight trains to Vienna are available 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 are continuing to apply for similar arrangements with other European railway companies.
  • EGU offsets 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 provides a guarded bicycle parking lot at the ACV. Bicycles can be rented through CityBike Vienna, Donkey Bike, or, close to the ACV, at Copa Cagrana Rad und Skaterverleih.
  • We encourage participants to choose eco-friendly accommodations. Various eco-labels for hotels are available.

Catering at the General Assembly

  • We provide water fountains throughout the building and encourage attendees to bring their own reusable water bottles. Since 2018, 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 to be disposed in separated paper waste compartments. 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.
  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beer served at the opening, closing, and conveners' receptions is only served in glass bottles. Until 2019, plastic cups were used at these large special events.
  • 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 flyers 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 are 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 reuse these signs for at least 5 years and limit the production of new ones. These signs are stored directly in the ACV to avoid transport.
  • We have no single-use carpet in the poster halls. Regarding sound absorption inside PICO spots, we use multi-use carpet. Compared to 2019, this saves 16,500 sqm 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 are used to reduce sound inside the poster areas. These panels are stored in Vienna and reused for at least 5 years.
  • We advise attendees to avoid the production of waste wherever possible, to utilize multi-use materials, to strictly separate waste, and to avoid the distribution of flyers or other single-use materials.

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

On-site contact at ACV

For further information about Green Meetings at the ACV, the criteria for Green Meetings, or practical guidance, please contact the ACV Green Meeting Agent Sascha Tretenhahn and visit the ACV website.

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, by contacting the EGU Programme Committee Chair, or by contacting Copernicus Meetings.