Greening the Blue

Green Conference

“Sustainability” is probably one of the most frequently used terms during the last few years. At every UN Conference, every High Level meeting, every panel discussion, at some point someone talks about sustainability. When people hear that word, they tend to think “Oh no, not again”, thereby implying “There has already been so much talk about it that I don’t need to deal with it any more.“  But instead of thinking “oh no, come on“, we should say “NOW, come on!”

Sustainability is the capacity to endure. This means that our lifestyle ensures the same level of livelihood for future generations. Our actions in the present have to give our children and grandchildren the chance to live in the same way or even better. This is the basic principle of survival and conservation of the species. What applies to animals in this case also applies to human beings. That’s how easy it is – theoretically.

“One of our main responsibilities is to leave to successor generations a sustainable future”, said former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. And this affects all of us. We do not have to argue about the presence or absence of a natural or man-made climate change at this point – our resources are limited, the world population is growing, and we have the responsibility to ensure equal livelihood for future generations. That’s all that counts.

At MUN Conferences all over the world thousands of students discuss topics related to environmental issues and try to find solutions. This is a great initiative, but not enough. What happens after all these hours of talking? Nothing. That is the reason why a group of young students decided that it was time to stop talking and start acting. Therefore, in 2009, BIMUN/SINUB organized the first “green” MUN Conference worldwide in Bonn, Germany.

What is a “Green Conference“? A Green Conference meets three criteria: It is environmentally friendly, sustainable and CO2-neutral. Its aims are to reduce and compensate the negative environmental effects created by the conference and to raise awareness among participants and visitors. Organizing a Green Conference sounds complex, but it is neither difficult nor expensive. There are many little steps that every MUN can take to become an environmentally friendly conference, such as

– waste reduction and separation: use recycled paper, reduce the amount of paper by digital data transfer, provide different rubbish bins, replace disposable tableware by reusable cups, offer regional and fair-trade food

– reduction and compensation of inevitable carbon dioxide emissions: encourage participants to use public transportation; use carbon dioxide-neutral server, copy-shop and mail service; calculate the amount of the emissions resulting from travels, transportation, energy consumption at the conference venue etc. and cooperate with a compensation project (e.g. reforestation of rainforest)

– raise awareness: inform participants, visitors and sponsors about your project; explain the measures taken in detail; refer to a possible implementation in daily life; provide information during the conference about ecological footprints, innovative technologies such as solar chargers for smartphones etc; organize events like a “Green Coffee Break” and encourage participants to exchange information about the situation in their home countries.

“Green” does not mean “boring”. There are many funny ways in which your association can contribute. How about ordering an energy generating dance floor?

There are many things that MUN organizers can do to make their conference special. Organizing a Green Conference is a good way to assume real responsibility. Not only many MUNs have adopted this idea, but also UNYANET itself is aiming at making its events sustainable, e.g. the next GA in Ljubljana on 19-23 August 2013. Even the UN has launched its own campaign “Greening the Blue” in 2010 to create a more sustainable United Nations. It is time to turn your MUN into a “Green Conference”!

If you have any questions about how to organize a green MUN or meeting, feel free to contact the UNYANET Sustainability Officer Ms. Tjalke Weber at tjalke.weber@unyanet.org.

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Tjalke Weber

Ms. Tjalke Weber is the Sustainability Officer of UNYANET. She is a B.A. graduate in German-Italian Studies from the Universities of Bonn and Florence.

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