Water is related to the meetings and travel industry in many ways, and the Blue Community principles are another good example for orientation in organizing water-conscious events and for a respectful use of “water”.
2 Water aspects immediately catch the eye, when it comes to conferences:
1) Drinking too little has consequences
Drinking enough water is important for the concentration and well-being of the participants: If the conference participants drink too little, they will quickly become tired and have difficulty concentrating. There is a risk of headaches, and, in older people, dehydration can quickly lead to confusion. Sufficient (free) drinking water must therefore be made available to keep the participants fit.
2) See the bigger picture of your impact
Knowing and taking into account the local water conditions, and consciously dealing with them speaks for a responsible use of resources in the city where a conference/event is hosted.
Water scarcity and pollution of water are central challenges for many destinations – conveying respect for the precious resource to the conference participants, addressing existing problems and incorporating new experiences into the conference program, as well as supporting strategically important local initiatives through legacy projects are therefore worthwhile for visitors and local communities.
The Water Topic can help to create a new thinking and different connections. We would like to share some thoughts here and take the Blue Communities voluntary commitment as an example for event organizers to try new ideas.
Some brief background: The city of Freiburg has been a member of the Blue Communities, an initiative of the Council of Canadians, since 2022. The header picture shows Maude Barlow handing over the certificate to the Mayoress for Environment of the city of Freiburg, Christine Buchheit.
Freiburg is part of the 10 German Blue Communities in cities and is another example of the South-Western German destination’s strong commitment and the importance attached to water and its protection. 90 communities worldwide (cities, parishes, churches, orders and universities) are committed to the principles of Blue Communities for water as a shared resource for all and to:
- Recognize water and sanitation as human rights.
- Ban or phase out the sale of bottled water in municipal facilities and at municipal events.
- Promote publicly financed, owned, and operated water and wastewater services.
– understand water as a public good
– treat the water resources carefully
– advocate for water supply and sanitation in public hand
– Promote the use of tap water instead of bottled water
– and support other countries in establishing a functioning public provide drinking water supply
Here is a video on the Blue Community principles
As the meetings’ industry, we can implement these examples in our own community and set a good example. In Freiburg it is easy to follow the principles: tap water is of good quality and can be drunk from the tap. And a lot of other initiatives around water support legacy projects, new experiences and learning about the bigger picture.
Single-use bottles should never be used for conferences and meetings, but delegates should be encouraged to bring their own water bottles and fill them up from dispensers provided. The motto must be to avoid plastic waste, drink tap water and fill up the water bottle you have brought with you.
Tap water is the most strictly monitored foodstuff here in Germany and can be drunk anywhere without hesitation. The careful use of existing water resources should be a matter of course for everyone.
Other suggestions for good water behavior are
- Never throw cigarette butts on the ground or in the water.
Cigarette butts are toxic waste and must be disposed of properly. Just a single butt thrown into water, e.g. a river, poisons up to 1000 liters of water. Butts do not dissolve, they are not biodegradable but are made of cellulose acetate/plastic. Butts poison the groundwater beneath our feet and are a hazard to aquatic systems, fish and other aquatic life.Trillions of cigarette butts end up in the environment every year, where they release nicotine and heavy metals before becoming a plastic problem.
- Turning off the water while applying soap when washing your hands and showering, and while brushing your teeth helps to save many liters of precious drinking water. All in all, only 0.3 percent of the world’s water supplies are available to us as drinking water. In Germany, a person uses an average of 125 liters of water per day.
- Less consumption and eating no or as little meat as possible. The production of clothing and the production of meat, especially beef, requires enormous amounts of water, while growing vegetables requires a fraction of it. Better quality is a good parameter for buying clothing: for longer wear time or circular economy via second hand/ebay.When it comes to meat, the best way would be to avoid it or eat as little as possible. There are very good alternatives and many caterers have creative dishes ready that are only made from vegetables.
But lets get back to the topic of the Blue Communities: As already mentioned, universities can also join the Blue Community movement. At this point we would like to introduce Lina Graf, a student at the University of Freiburg who is particularly committed to water.
She and her fellow students are working on convincing the University of Freiburg to join the Blue Communities. (In Germany it is so far only the Philipps University of Marburg that has committed to the goals of the Blue Community since 2021. )
In a brainstorming meeting with students from different disciplines it was discussed what could be done at the university level in the areas of teaching, research and infrastructure to better implement the Blue Community principles.
From simple ideas such as more drinking fountains and a map of all drinking fountains on campus, also ideas for larger projects came up: these could be, for example, to offer a series of lectures on the subject of water in various courses. Or to include as part of the sustainability certificate, that students from all disciplines can participate in a course to identify the possible interfaces between their field of study and water. A key point is communication – to make students and teachers from all areas aware that their department also has something to do with water in some form.
Another suggestion in this context was to set up a (funded) award for water-related theses (sponsored by a water-related company) where students from all areas can submit their theses.
These ideas were presented to the Sustainable University Working Group and were very well received. The next step will be to present the idea of joining the Blue Community to the university management in combination with the recommendations for action that have been developed.
Collecting ideas for the implementation of water issues in the student environment for research, teaching and infrastructure corresponds to the idea for this series about destination-relevant water issues for travelers and conference participants in the city of Freiburg. Just as there is no lecture on environmental law in the law faculty in university, for example, there is also no evidence of engagement by the meetings taking place in an environment that is affected by water shortage.
Back to Lina and her plans: Further actions like initiating a series of water dialogues to discuss the principles of the Blue Communities with different target groups and from different perspectives are planned. Also, there are currently only 2 water dispensers (donated by the AOK – German Health Insurance) in the university building for the students – but there should be a dispenser on each floor. If you want to support a water-related improvement, it can be a good idea to donate such water dispensers to the students as part of a legacy project when bringing a conference to Freiburg.
The students have declared the upcoming World Water Day 2023 (March 22) as announcement date for their project.
Did you find any ideas for your own events to help water-related challenges in destinations? Also we in the meetings industry must understand that all our supply chains and stakeholders in different segments have something to do with water in some form. It is worth giving special protection and engagement to achieving SDG6 – for all of us.
Freiburg CVB shares content about water-related research, organizations, initiatives in their Green City with the meetings’ industry. The goal is to bring water and SDG 6 related action into the awareness of business events’ planners, as an innovative approach for meeting organizers to think in systems and to learn how to connect important sustainable development goals (like SDG for water) with the planning of meetings and events.
The global meetings industry has a strong voice and can use it to close gaps between awareness and action. Impact and purpose can be achieved through events. To directly intervene in the development of an SDG like No 6 through behaviour change, new on-site programs, governance, legacy, and demonstration of change across all sectors, is a practical step into sustainability for any conference. Use “Water” as your anchor to demonstrate engagement.
If you plan a conference and want to discuss water (or other) legacy concepts, contact:
Christina Fritsch, Project Head Freiburg Convention Bureau / MICE / Netzwerk
See you in Freiburg! https://youtu.be/pO7t6P8AQM8
More Ideas and Inspiration for ESG / CSR applications for Corporate & Association conferences
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Johanna Fischer, ecomice /FrauBlau SDG 6 practical measures for climate adaptation in the city of Freiburg