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The 5,000-strong conference supported by sustainability

From cutting down on paper to carpooling, the organizers of Concordia’s Acfas Congress are keeping the environment in mind every step of the way
March 25, 2014
By Lucas Wisenthal


UPDATE: Marie-Josée Allard, director of Hospitality Concordia, was recognized at the fourth annual Sustainability Champions Gala on March 13, 2014 for her commitment as chair of the Acfas Congress logistical committee.

This spring, from May 12 to 16, Concordia is hosting the 82nd Congress of l'Association francophone pour le savoir (Acfas), the largest multidisciplinary gathering of knowledge and research in the French-speaking world.

Five thousand scholars from 30 countries will converge on the university’s two campuses for 172 colloquia on dozens of subjects and more than 3,000 conferences. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, a sprawling group of employees and volunteers will be working to ensure that the event runs as smoothly — and as sustainably — as possible.

With that in mind, Concordia and Acfas are putting a series of eco-responsible measures in place. These actions range from cutting down on printed materials to encouraging congress participants to carpool.

However subtle some of the measures may seem, each one plays an important role in guaranteeing an environmentally friendly event.

Here are seven ways that this year’s Acfas Congress will be supporting sustainability.

1. A reduction of printed materials

It’s no secret that an event of Acfas Congress’ scope requires a vast amount of printed material. But this year, the organizers have trimmed the traditional program booklet from 380 pages to a svelt 48.

It’s also printed on paper made locally from 100-per-cent post-consumer fiber — which means the material was previously used and reprocessed. Along with other Afas-related materials like posters and leaflets, the booklet uses EcoLogo-certified vegetable-oil-based ink.

Researchers and attendees will also be encouraged to avoid paper altogether by consulting the Acfas website and mobile app to learn about programming. And at the end of the week, organizers will collect the booklets in designated recycling bins for further use in art projects.

2. Eco-friendly name tags

Acfas presenters will wear name tags inserted in locally sourced plastic sleeves.

At the end of the event, the sleeves will be collected and earmarked for the next edition of the congress. Anyone who puts their name tag in the recycle bin is entered into a competition to win an eReader.

3. Sustainably produced T-shirts

As is often the case at major conferences, the congress will provide its volunteers — the people who help make the event possible — with Acfas T-shirts to make them more readily identifiable.

These Ts will be produced in Quebec and made from 100-per-cent organic cotton. The local manufacturer is also promoting sustainability by turning over one per cent of its profits to charitable organizations.

4. Conference carpools

Acfas is attracting attendees from across Quebec and around the world. While some will have to fly to Montreal, others will be driving.

To help the latter group, the organizers set up a carpooling system by way of, a site that connects those travelling by car with nearby people heading to the same destination. The idea, of course, is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions the conference generates.

To sweeten the deal, those who carpool will be eligible to win one of two $30 gift certificates from Mountain Equipment Co-op.

5. Sustainable food and drink

Let’s face it: coffee is a concern at any conference. At Acfas, the ubiquitous beverage will be of the fair-trade variety.

All food will be locally sourced, while water will come from refillable pitchers — a measure in line with Concordia’s ban on the sale of bottled water from vending machines on both campuses. Finally, the wine served at the event’s welcome cocktail will be provided by Quebec producers.

6. The Green Team

Throughout Acfas, a Green Team or Brigade verte — a group comprised of volunteers — will ensure that Concordia’s trash cans and recycling bins are where they should be and that waste is disposed of properly. Want to lend a hand? Volunteer at the Acfas Congress.

7. Every little bit helps

When it comes to sustainability, every detail counts. The organizers of this year’s congress have chosen to use dark-coloured tablecloths for a simple reason: they’ll require fewer washes than white ones. Any way Acfas can save on energy use is a win.

The 82nd Acfas Congress takes place at Concordia University from Monday, May 12 to Friday, May 16, 2014.

Find out more about Acfas.


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