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Going virtual reduces Hub's environmental impact

One positive outcome of conducting our November 2020 assembly virtually was the reduced environmental impact

27 January 2021

One of the consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020 was the disruption to academic conferences. For the Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub, the November assembly, which was originally planned to take place in Cali, Colombia, was not considered to be safe. It was instead carried out as a virtual assembly. While it was a disappointment to cancel the in-person assembly, one positive outcome of conducting a virtual assembly was the environmental impact that was avoided from dozens of people not travelling across the world.

Using Life Cycle Assessment methodology and the International Civil Aviation Organization’s carbon calculator, the amount of carbon and water that was saved was calculated, based on 77 people flying to Cali, staying in hotels, and dining in restaurants for 10 days. It was found that the Hub saved 2,255,263L of water and 142,996kg of CO2e.

Methodology

The number of people that would have travelled to the assembly was calculated using the average of the attendance of the past two in-person assemblies in Malaysia and Ethiopia (taking into account that assistance from host countries were higher). 

For the flights, the International Civil Aviation Organization’s carbon calculator was used to estimate the amount of CO2 generated per passenger, per flight. The tool allows the user to enter the typical flight path (e.g. New Delhi - Amsterdam - Bogotá  Cali) for a more accurate calculation. This method was applied for the expected number of people from each Collaboratory travelling roundtrip to Colombia. The Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment tool from Carnegie Melon University was used to calculate the water impact from the flights using standard “purchasing” model and the “economic activity” using the price of each airline ticket. 

Carnegie Melon’s Life Cycle Assessment tool was also used to determine the CO2e and water impact of assembly participants (excluding those that already live in Cali), staying in hotels and dining in restaurants for 10 days during the assembly. The model was also used under the category “economic activity” by applying the average room cost of £635 for a 10-day stay at the Intercontinental Hotel in Cali and assuming £5.50 per meal.

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Carbon footprint infographic

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