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Elinor Falkman, head of communications for the KTH Energy Platform.
Elinor Falkman from the Energy Platform challenges the conference organisers of the KTH to create the most environmentally friendly events possible. This will improve KTH's credibility, she suggests. (Photo: Christer Gummeson)

'Paper cups don't exactly scream credibility'

Published Dec 04, 2012

If KTH is to become credible in environmental matters, it needs to practice what it preaches. Or more precisely, what it researches. This is the view of the Energy Platform's management, which decided on a completely ecological profile for the Energy Dialogue conference. Now all the other conference organisers at KTH are being challenged to do the same thing – but even better.

"KTH represents leading global research in the field of environmental technology. At the same time we are quite bad at paying attention to sustainability on a day-to-day basis. It looks bad when a researcher stands before an audience and presents the latest technology for solar panels, whilst the audience sip coffee from paper cups", says Elinor Falkman, head of communications for the KTH Energy Platform.

Based on this, the Platform's management decided to lead by example and follow an ecological concept in the organisation of the Energy Dialogue conference.

"Nevertheless, that's not to say that our conference is the best possible from an environmental perspective. But the ambition was to create a profile as ecological as possible. So now we are challenging other conferences at KTH to make an even better environmental profile for their events."

When over 200 participants gathered for the Energy Dialogue dinner, they were offered locally produced, organic food. Many of the products had the Fair Trade mark and food produced in different countries was produced in an environmentally conscious manner. All service sets were porcelain or glass. The waste that was not recycled into bio-gas was carefully sorted and transported away by bio-gas powered vehicles.

30 per cent extra costs

But you get your money's worth. In comparison to traditional conferences, the food and arrangements were 30 per cent more expensive. Included in this was the extra cost for waste collection and for the transport and cleaning of the porcelain. But of course it was worth it, states Elinor Falkman.

"Yes, absolutely. If through our research, we indirectly place demands on society to adopt a sustainable approach, we must also do this ourselves in our workplace; otherwise we lose our credibility. Work for a sustainable future always starts at home", says Elinor Falkman.

Considering that KTH arranges hundreds of large and small events and conferences annually, she believes that the challenge for other arrangers to create environmentally friendly conferences will eventually lead to great environmental gains.

"I view it as a kind of friendly competition that will hopefully result in many new tips on savings and suggestions for environmentally friendly initiatives".

For their part, Energy Dialogue recycled the plastic name badges used by participants at this year's RAE Conference. This provides both environmental gains and financial savings of around SEK 4,000.

"Of course there are many more similar environmental advantages we can become aware of through learning from each other at KTH", she says.

Complete solution from the catering firm

"To make the conference possible, the Energy Platform turned to what is one of Stockholm's best reputed catering firms in terms of sustainable thinking", says Elinor Falkman.

"A prerequisite was that those delivering the food already had an offer that covered our needs. They gave us a solution for the entire concept", she says.

An important aspect was to inform the conference participants of what was expected from them by KTH. The printed programme contained detailed descriptions of the food's origin, the waste management and transport. Furthermore, a representative from the catering firm explained the ecological concept on-site during Energy Dialogue.

The theme of this year's conference is 'Global Challenges and new KTH initiatives', and it therefore feels especially important for the Energy Platform to hold a conference that is in line with the ambitions of the research", Elinor Falkman explains.

"If KTH are to be a university that appeals to future students and researchers, it is important that we start to arrange environmentally friendly and ecological conferences before the solutions for sustainable energy technologies are complete" she says.

Text: Christer Gummeson

Read more about the Energy Dialogue conference