Sustainability at the heart of ‘green’ TEDx Vienna 2018

With a focus on reducing single-use plastics, serving responsibly-sourced food and recycling as much waste as possible, this year’s TEDx Vienna is set to become the most sustainable edition yet. Kathi Buiten, who is overseeing TEDx Vienna’s sustainability efforts as part of the project management team, talks to the TEDx Vienna blog about the logistical challenge of ‘greening’ such a high-profile event, and why it’s important for TEDx to take the lead on such issues.

Watching project management teams working in full flow can be a hugely impressive experience. With so many responsibilities and people to juggle at the same time, keeping everything under control and on deadline can be an exhausting endeavor – particularly if the project is a major event.

Increasingly the topic of sustainability is thrown into the mix of responsibilities, with major events expected to have as little negative impact on the natural environment as possible. Organisers will approach the topic in different ways: some may view sustainability as an unwanted distraction – just another job on an already long list of tasks.

Others, however, will embrace the notion and understand that to approach sustainability in a holistic way can not only mitigate negative impacts, but substantially improve the quality of the event.

Fortunately, the project management team for TEDx Vienna falls into the latter camp, and has worked tirelessly to make this year’s event the greenest edition yet.

‘Sustainability is the future’

“TEDx has a huge impact on society, so it’s important that it is seen to be doing responsible and sustainable things,” Kathi Buiten of the TEDx Vienna project management team says. “Sustainability is the future, so we looked at what we did last year in this space and realised we needed to do more. So we moved around this topic and made it one of the main challenges.”

And a significant challenge it has been, particularly when working with a stretched budget and relying on the support of sponsors.

But partners have been mostly supportive of the sustainability plan. Catering company Deli Bluem will offer attendees a selection of organic and vegan food, most sourced from local regions. Plates will be made from recycled paper and will be taken by Deli Bluem following the TEDx Vienna event for another round of recycling.

Waste partner MA 48 is providing different bins for different types of waste so that used materials from the event can be recycled as much as possible. During the event a number of volunteers will have the specific job of pointing people towards the correct waste bin so that landfill waste is kept to a minimum.

“We actually want to make a game around it, but we’re still thinking about how we can do this,” says Kathi. “Perhaps we can do a little quiz as a fun way for people to figure out what waste goes where. But it’s quite complicated to do waste management right.”

Steer away from plastic

TEDx Vienna’s project management team will hope that one area of waste management that won’t be too much of a concern is finding too much single-use plastics. To encourage attendees to steer away from plastic water bottles, their complementary goody-bags will include a partly biodegradable plastic bottle that can be filled up and reused as much as they want.

“Why would you need to buy water when we have such good water in Vienna?” she asks. “The bottles are one of the only plastic things we have at the conference and the team is super happy about that.”

Kathi and the project management team can be proud of their efforts to make the large-scale event so sustainability-focused in such a short period of time. After taking complementary advice from green event specialist ÖKO to help with the sustainability initiative, the aim of next year’s event is to achieve its full criteria and give the TEDx Vienna brand even more kudos.

“TEDx is a bit of a role model and guides people towards innovation and how they can live their lives,” Kathi adds. “We will ask attendees for their feedback because we want to give them the opportunity to tell us what they think we can do on sustainability. There are 1,000 attendees, so that’s 1,000 brains to get ideas from.”

picture credits: pixabay

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