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Sustainability at #CiSAC24: Making the environment more than a conference buzzword

With our Annual Conference just two weeks away, our Communications and Marketing Manager, Julie Thomson, highlights some of the ways that Children in Scotland staff are working with children and young people to make the event more environmentally friendly.

When I first joined Children in Scotland a year ago, some of their ways of working were quite new to me. The comms team invested a lot of time crafting great digital-only publications, like the Learning Guide (click here for more), for example, and my first reaction was – why don’t we print these and get them into distribution? The answer was simple and to the point. Because the young people we work with wanted us to be a more sustainable organisation, and reducing our print output was a big part of that.  

It didn’t take me long to see just how extensive the co-working relationship was between the organisation’s staff and young people's advisory group, Changing our World (click here for more), and the positive impact this had across the board. Sustainability is firmly on the agenda, and every decision – from our use of AI, to the menu options at our events – is considered in the context of its environmental impact. There is a real sense that not only are we working smarter for our planet, but that we are promoting the voices of children and young people across our work, which is exactly what our vision (click here for more) states. 

It came as no surprise then that after engaging with Changing our World on our Annual Conference 2024 (click here for more) planning, sustainability was a key driver. Here are just a few of the ways that Children in Scotland is trying to make the event more environmentally friendly this year.  

Cutting down our conference programme 

It may seem like a small contribution to reducing paper consumption, but ultimately one that we hope is a step in the right direction in our sustainability journey. This year we have reduced the pages in our printed conference programme by 37.5% and have created an online hub to house further details – like speaker bios and exhibitor information. This event will give us a chance to assess delegate feedback on the online parts of the programme, as well as find the important balance between promoting digital channels and keeping everyone ‘present’ for what is ultimately a fairly rare in-person, non-digital, learning experience. Our hope is that we will strike this balance and strive to make the conference programme fully digital in 2025.  

Murrayfield – again?? 

Our last annual conference in 2022 took place at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, and we are aware that in different times, the expectation may have been to move to a new city or venue every year. There are some very good, and sustainable, reasons why we haven’t done this in 2024. As anyone in the events game will know, scoping out new venues takes a lot of time, effort – and mileage – to get something appropriate in place. By choosing to go back to venue well known to us, we have significantly cut down our road miles. Furthermore, the fact that Murrayfield is so well served by transport links across Scotland, it allows us to encourage the use of public transport to reach our event. 

The menu 

There is substantial evidence emerging that vegetarian and vegan diets have a significantly lower environmental impact than those that use meat products. While we’re not here to preach to anyone about dietary choices (or indeed lack thereof – one meat-appreciating coeliac here, living in a household with multiple other food allergies...), we have decided to make more sustainable and inclusive choices for our annual conference lunch menu. All standard menu choices will be vegetarian or vegan, with dietary requirements also catered for. With just a couple of weeks to go, our catering order sits at 80% vegetarian and 20% vegan.  

Ditching the delegate bags 

There is growing concern around the environmental impact of textile production, and just because your delegate bag is made of cotton and can be reused or recycled, doesn’t mean you will keep it forever, or that it will one day complete its unreliable journey to becoming your next pair of socks. Reducing consumption of these products is really the most effective way of being sustainable, and we’ve taken that on board with the decision not to offer delegate bags at our 2024 Annual Conference.  

And it’s not just the bag itself. With our renewed focus on sustainability, Children in Scotland pens, notebooks, and printed flyers are all a thing of the past – instead, look out for our QR codes around the event to find out more information about our work (I’m not sure how many QR codes you can fit on one printed A4 page, but you know we’ll be going for the world record!) 

A journey to sustainability  

I mentioned a sustainability journey earlier and I’ll come back to this point. We want to do the very best to meet every expectation for this event – whether in the quality of the speakers, in the connections that we are creating between people in the sector, the varied learning, or indeed the sustainability aspects. Small steps, rather than giant leaps, help create balance between these sometimes-competing concepts. One thing we can be sure of is that we are now in the right direction of travel, with the voices of children and young people firmly guiding our path.  

Tickets are still available for our two-day Annual Conference on 29-30 May at Murrayfield Stadium. Click here to find out more and book your place. 

About the Author

Julie Thomson is Communications and Marketing Manager at Children in Scotland.

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Annual Conference 2024

Join us on 29 & 30 May at Scottish Gas Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh

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Participation and engagement work

Find out more about how we embed the inclusion and participation of children and young people in our work

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