With demand for eco-friendly, or at least eco-friendlier, conferences on the rise, more and more meeting organisers are looking for green solutions. Putting together a sustainable conference will always require planning and work, but certain destinations like Estonia have some huge natural advantages that make the job a lot easier.
Sustainable Naturally – A Clean, Green Country
One of the natural advatages is size, and here it’s a case of the smaller the better. Estonia’s primary conference cities, Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu, are all cosy and compact, making it easy to get from place to place by foot. Instead of burning fossil fuels, not to mention time and money, travelling from hotel to meeting venue to restaurant, delegates will be enjoying quick strolls, typically around 5- 10 minutes long. For delegates meeting in Tallinn, the distance from the airport to the city centre is just 4km, and a direct tram connection means it’s reasonable to skip the transfer bus entirely.
The short-distance advantage works outside the city as well. For example, organisers who want to add an even larger green element to their conferences by incorporating nature walks, tree planting or cleanup activities (all of which can easily be arranged) will find that nature areas are never far away – usually within a few kilometres of the city limits.
- How Green? Estonia ranks among the eight greenest countries in the world, according to Yale University’s 2016 Environmental Performance Index.
- Untouched: As much as 50% of Estonia is covered by forests. Add the peat bogs and other nature areas and the wilderness coverage goes up to 70%. The average population density is just 29 people per km2, among the lowest in Europe.
- Just walk it. Everything is so compact and close by in Estonia’s conference cities (Tallinn, Tartu and Pärnu) that getting to most places requires only 5 to 10 minutes of healthy, low-carbon foot power.
- Take a deep breath. The World Health Organization has rated Estonia’s air quality as the 7th best in the world. The tap water is also pure and drinkable.
- Be part of nature. Estonia is surrounded by beautiful nature, there is no need for long drive in order to feel and experience the fragile but breath-taking Estonian nature.
- Enjoy the quietness. Estonia has a low level of noise pollution, which gives a great possibility to enjoy the calmness and greenery of the surrounding.
Local & Organic
One of the fundamentals of sustainability, especially where conferences are concerned, is using locally-sourced products. In catering, the recommendation is to keep ingredients as local, organic and seasonal as possible. As luck would have it, the dining trend in Estonia is a perfect fit for this strategy. The emphasis among the country’s chefs and catering companies is on Nordic Cuisine, which emphasises use of local and seasonal products. These might be berries and mushrooms from the forrest, domestically farmed herbs and grain, or fish and game from local suppliers. It won’t be hard, therefore, to find dining options that fit sustainability criteria.
On a similar note, the tap water throughout the country is pure enough to be served in restaurants, which negates the need for bottled water during meetings, and the waste and pollution associated with plastic containers.
In the early 2000s, Estonia made world headlines by being the first country to adopt online, paperless government, a move that saved several hectares of forest and a good chunk of money annually. For nearly two decades now, paperless business operation has been the norm in the country.
- It’s all online. Estonia is one of the most advanced e-societies in the world. Work and data have largely moved to cyberspace, drastically reducing the use of paper. The same trend means that bank card payment is accepted pretty much everywhere.
- Free Wi-Fi. It’s easy to stay connected and go paperless in Estonia by using the free, reliable internet connections that are available in all hotels and meeting places.
- Green Key: Estonia offers a variety of hotels and venues carrying the international Green Key label. The green key certified hotels and venues can be found here: www.greenkey.global/green-key-sites/
See our recent blog post Tips for Green Meetings for practical advise.
The UN, in its Sustainable Events Guide, provides a complex and wide-ranging sustainability checklist that covers everything from social inclusion to percentages of volatile organic compounds in cleaning products.