BEATTIE MCNEAL, MPH, CIH, is an EHS client manager and ESG advisor at Langan Engineering and Environmental Services.
MANDIE KRAMER, MS, CIH, CSP, is a senior exposure scientist at ToxStategies.
MARY O’REILLY, PhD, CIH, CPE, FAIHA, is an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Albany School of Public Health and chair of the AIHA Stewardship and Sustainability Committee.
LYDIA FENG, MS, CIH, is a project manager at Forensic Analytical Consulting Services (FACS) in Los Angeles. Lydia is a WELL AP, LEED Green Associate, and Fitwel Ambassador.
LAURA ALLEN, MS, CIH, is a supervising health scientist and ESG Advisor at Stantec.
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Sustainability at AIHA Connect 2024
Improving the sustainability of the annual conference has been a priority for AIHA for some time. When selecting a venue, AIHA prioritizes contracting with facilities that are Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified and focused on energy conservation, water management, waste reduction, and greening capabilities in their structural design and operations. AIHA asks caterers to use locally-sourced food and beverages, participate in food donation programs for any leftover food items, and utilize compostable or other green options for serving ware.
Each year, the conference incorporates digital programs; ticketless registration; a digital passport game for the exhibit hall; digital signage outside meeting rooms and other signage made of eco board; badges made from recycled materials; recycling stations for paper, cans, bottles, and other items; and water refill stations that encourage attendees to use personal water bottles rather than purchasing plastic.
In 2023, the Stewardship and Sustainability Committee began working with AIHA staff to further address the sustainability of the conference. One of the newest features added for AIHA Connect 2024 is that attendees will be invited to assess their carbon footprint associated with attending the conference and consider purchasing carbon offsets during registration.
Carbon Offsetting Recently promulgated and pending regulations related to environmental, safety, and governance (ESG) performance have sparked discussion about the effects of business travel and conference attendance on our planet. One outcome of these discussions is carbon offsetting, the practice of performing or funding activities that lessen carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to compensate for the anticipated effects of a planned event.
When we travel to AIHA Connect 2024, whether by plane, train, or car, we contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. To offset these emissions, AIHA Connect attendees can choose to fund CO2-saving activities through purchase of a carbon offset. The funds are used to support third party-validated projects that reduce or remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Examples of these projects are landfill gas capture, forestry, industrial emissions reduction, clean energy from wind power, and methane capture from abandoned coal mines. Options for recommended carbon offset calculators and reputable CO2-saving activities are provided during registration for AIHA Connect 2024.
To offset emissions from travel to AIHA Connect, attendees can choose to fund carbon-dioxide-saving activities through purchase of a carbon offset.
Many online applications can calculate the funds required to offset your carbon emissions. The first step is to enter your transportation information for the event. The websites will calculate the metric tons of CO2 your travel will emit and convert it to a dollar amount, which you can donate to a vetted CO2-savings project listed on the site. While there is some uncertainty associated with this calculation and the expected benefit of offsetting projects, many organizations vet these websites for accuracy.
First Step Although an imperfect solution to reducing the root cause of carbon emissions, carbon offsetting is a valuable tool or, in OEHS terms, an administrative control. As OEHS professionals, we know all too well that exposures that are not assessed cannot be managed. Use of a publicly available and vetted carbon offset tool is a reasonable first step to understanding the carbon footprint associated with your attendance at AIHA Connect 2024.
AIHA welcomes ideas to make the annual conference more sustainable. Please send your suggestions to Bethany Chirico, AIHA’s chief experience officer, and Brynn Bradbury, AIHA’s senior manager for global meetings.
AIHA Connect 2024 will be held May 20–22 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. The venue has offset 100 percent of its energy usage through the purchase of renewable energy credits. In addition, the facility uses biodegradable service ware and minimizes waste through a sustainable purchasing policy, and its North Building was awarded LEED Silver Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. More information about green initiatives at the convention center is available from the AIHA Connect website. To view the conference program or to register, visit the conference home page.