Setting new standards in sustainable event deliveryAustralian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) Conference 2018
Event: Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) Conference 2018
Dates: 21-25 October 2018
Location: Gold Coast
Venue: Southern Cross University, Gold Coast Campus
Sustainability is of high importance for members of the Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE), with attendees of its biennial conference mostly academics and teachers with an interest in environmental education. A 2018 conference theme of Creating Capacity for Change meant it was critical to set an example in sustainable conference design. With delegates from across Australia and overseas, minimising the conference’s impact on the environment was going to take vision and creative solutions.
The key objective of delivering a conference that was socially and environmentally responsible was to explore ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. This mindset influenced many aspects of the conference design and delegate experience.
The intention of sustainability was communicated from the moment delegates were presented with name badges created from sustainably sourced wood. Featuring a burned-on logo and laser-cut names, the badges could be reused as drink coasters after the conference.
To reduce printed material, Arinex created a conference app where delegates could view a digital program, download abstracts and communicate with other delegates. One printed program was available at each room and volunteers were on hand to help with delegate enquiries. Delegates were encouraged to bring their own notepads and pens to reduce paper waste. In addition, all sponsor signage was digital.
Food and beverage
One of the biggest decisions was to introduce 100% vegan menus to reduce the impact that processing meat has on the environment. Food was prepared by a local organic caterer and served in bamboo dishes with wooden cutlery. Delegates were also encouraged to bring their own keep-cups. A compost bin was set up to collect food waste to be used for a committee member’s chickens.
Venues and accommodation
The venue and accommodation options were chosen to reduce travel and encourage walking where possible. The conference venue, Southern Cross University, is located adjacent to the Gold Coast Airport. Delegates could also walk to the venue from a range of hotels and apartments within 10-12 minutes.
The conference dinner venue, Currumbin RSL, was selected for its outstanding sustainability initiatives including 100% organic waste composting, rainwater capture and usage, onsite beehives and a 25kw solar panel system. The table centrepieces were recycled sculptures created by a local primary school. Organic wine was made available for each table.
To complement a conference program focused on environmental education, immersive local experiences were arranged for delegates. One trip saw delegates board an EduCat catamaran – one of the Queensland Department of Education’s 25 Outdoor Environmental Education Centres. The group experienced marine environmental education provided to schools before arriving at South Stradbroke Island where they toured environmental and Indigenous cultural highlights.
Another field trip titled Native Habitats and Bush Interaction for Learning, hosted by the Numinbah Valley Environmental Education Centre and Silkwood School, saw delegates experience the natural educational resources within the stunning Gold Coast Hinterland landscape.
In addition, a new virtual plenary session featured a live connection to an environmental educator at Reef HQ Aquarium, which is the National Education Centre for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. This engaging session allowed delegates to speak directly with the educator as he showcased a virtual learning experience from within the aquarium.
Arinex supported the AAEE Biennial Conference 2018 Organising Committee to deliver on the theme, Creating Capacity for Change by introducing practical and creative solutions to deliver a conference that was socially and environmentally responsible.
Sustainability initiatives such as a digital program, wooden name badges and a vegan menu reduced the conference’s environmental footprint while delegates were supported to take a step further by making environmentally conscious choices around accommodation and transport. The OC also undertook a carbon offset to compensate for the environmental impact of transport for all attendees to and from the conference.
Along with engaging keynote speakers, local field trips showcased the stunning natural environment of the Gold Coast and surrounding areas, leaving delegates inspired and motivated to incorporate new ideas into their own education activities.
Really pleased by the vegan/reduced waste/mindful structure of the conference.”
Excellent conference, I walked away with a bunch of useful tools, great insight and am feeling revved about environmental education.”