Carbon reduction: Guidance issued on the impact of meetings on NHS carbon emissions targets


NHS trusts are being urged to rethink their approach to the organisation of meetings in a bid to reduce carbon emissions.

The Health Protection Agency is urging administrators to consider everything from the venue in which meetings are held, to catering options and waste reduction as the NHS strives to reduce its CO2 output by 80% by 2050.

New guidelines have now been drawn up, which state: "The Health Protection Agency acknowledges and fully supports the UK Government's commitment to environmental management and its corporate and social responsibilities for sustainable development.

"For training courses, meetings, conferences, seminars, exercises and other events where there is a need to gather many people together in one place, there are significant opportunities for ensuring that environmental impacts are minimised or eliminated, while providing social and economic benefits."

Under venue choice, the advice includes:

  • Asking potential venues for their environmental policy including waste management and recycling, energy efficiency, local sourcing and purchasing and the provision of fair trade products
  • Choosing naturally-lit venues if possible
  • Choosing a venue that has good public transport access to reduce the need for delegates to use their cars
  • Booking the least amount of space and time, minimising unnecessary lighting, heating and air conditioning and avoiding waste
  • Choosing venues which offer in-house technical equipment and support, avoiding the need for transportation

Catering services should also be sustainable, the guidance states. Tips include:

  • Asking for the venue's environmental policy and their supplier requirements
  • Planning requirements carefully to avoid waste if people do not turn up on the day
  • Ensuring dietary requirements are catered for and offering vegetarian options
  • Selecting meals using seasonal local produce wherever possible
  • If serving fish, ensure it is from sustainable sources
  • Ensuring tea and coffee is fair trade
  • Providing tap water, not bottled mineral water
  • Minimising the use of individually-packaged food and drink items
  • Using reusable crockery and cutlery

Finally, the guidance deals with the issue of waste generated at meetings, advising trusts to:

  • Use double-sided printing for promotional or event material printed on paper that has a high recycled content
  • Consider video conferencing and/or recording of the event for wider access
  • Plan portable generic display materials and signage rather than creating displays just for the day
  • Feature the even name and date on a holding slide, rather than producing printed graphics and make use of plasmas, projected or electronic signage where possible to direct delegates
  • Ask exhibitors to ensure their materials are produced on recycled paper and printed double side
  • Provide delegate packs on arrival and do not send prior to the event
  • Use whiteboards rather than flipcharts
  • Give out CPD certificates at the end of the event, rather than posting them
  • Ask the venue to recycle any paper waste and provide recycling bins
  • Provide re-usable name badges and collect them at the end
  • Only give out pens if needed, do not include them in packs
  • Avoid distributing paper copies of all slides. Instead provide downloadable versions via email after the event

The guidance states: "This is not an exhaustive list and not all the points listed here will be relevant for all events, but we hope they will provide a starting point in improving the sustainability of our events and in choosing suppliers who can help the process.

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A spokesman for the NHS Sustainable Development Unit added: "It is essential that NHS staff provide a high-quality health service and do so in a sustainable way. Organising sustainable conferences, meetings and events will help reduce the total NHS carbon footprint."