How many congresses have you already attended after the summer holidays? How many working trips or field works have you already organised? Or better said, how many luggages have you already prepared?
If we know well enough the water scientists’ world, we are sure that the answer is definitely: more than one.
In a previous post we discussed about the possibility of reducing our water footprint while attending a congress or travelling for work, showing which items we generally bring with us with the attempt to decrease our waste production and ecological footprint. We really believe that this option is worth to be shared and considered, but what happens when, once at the congress, you realise that you are just a “little drop in the ocean”, and despite your efforts, you are still surrounded by a lot of (generally) unneeded items that will shortly become a waste?
The temptation of giving up is always around the corner, especially if you have an idealistic temperament and –like us– you feel like having everything all at once. Probably bringing your own water bottle or coffee cup won’t make a big difference if everyone will keep drinking bottled mineral water and using single use glasses/cups. But what if someone will approach you and ask why you are avoiding single use items and maybe will be inspired to do the same by your actions?
So if you also feel that the world is too full of plastic wastes and coffee cups for adding yours, why not considering bringing your own stuffs also when traveling for work? Maybe this will be the driver towards a more conscious congress organisation and lifestyle, like it is already starting in many contexts worldwide.
Of course wastes are just a minor component of the overall impact of our annual congress life. In fact, until all meeting will happen via web-based platforms, attending a conference would always imply a significant portion of CO2 emissions that can’t be avoided (unless you actually stop attending meetings). A good compromise can be the use of CO2 calculator tools permitting to assess the carbon footprint of your flight and suggesting possible compensation strategies supporting different projects worldwide. In addition, several airline companies nowadays have specific programs that allow you to reduce the effect your air travel trough different compensation measures. Maybe by considering also this option your next congress trip could have a lower impact on the environment and you will be happy to share it with your colleagues!
In fact, altough it is true that we are just little drops in the ocean it is also true that we live in a highly interconnected society where actually “every drop makes the ocean”. So, why not trying to better engage ourselves and make a real RWS community happen?!
This post has been inspired by all the discussions we had in the last two months while attending different congress. We would therefore like to acknowledge everyone who shared their opinion with us and stimulated these reflections.