Going Green in Manchester

“BABCP recognises that we are in a climate and ecological emergency. The health of the planet is inextricably linked to human health and wellbeing” (BABCP Climate and Ecological Emergency Statement, 2024).

Having released a clear statement regarding the climate and ecological emergency it is exciting to see the Board are striving to make the 52nd BABCP conference our most environmentally friendly conference so far.  Members of the Climate Change SIG recently met with Board members and event organisers to explore ways to make this happen.

Manchester University is an excellent choice for a sustainable conference as the venue is fully committed to embedding sustainable processes across the University campus, leading the way with programmes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and committed to reaching zero carbon by 2038. Last year the Times Higher Education Supplement ranked Manchester University first in Europe and second in the world in its social and environmental impact based on the United Nations Sustainability and Development Goals.  The University aims to reduce its own carbon footprint, to lead by example and to influence behavioural change in others.  For more information visit here.

Research shows that one of the biggest changes we can make to reduce our carbon footprint is to reduce the amount of meat and dairy we eat. A quarter (26%) of global emissions comes from food, 58% of food emissions come from animal products, and 1/2 of these are from beef and lamb (Poore & Nemecek, 2018).  According to the [WWF] dairy and meat products provide only 32% of calories consumed in the UK, and less than half (48%) of the protein, but livestock and their feed account for 85% of the UK’s total land use for agriculture. WWF Press release.

UN experts have shown that switching to a plant-based diet can help fight climate change.  A major report prepared for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes that the West’s high consumption of meat and dairy is fuelling global warming.  The scientists highlight the fact that more people could be fed using less land if individual’s cut down on eating meat.

Research from Oxford University shows that a vegan diet has just 30% of the environmental impact of a high meat diet.  In line with this, we are excited to announce that the catering at the conference will be predominantly vegetarian, with plant-based options. This choice will give delegates a chance to try something different whilst making less impact on the environment. We know this might be a new way of eating for some, but we invite you to embrace the change and consider the positive impact on the environment.

It can be interesting to compare the carbon footprint of our food choices.

One glass of dairy milk per day contributes 229kg per year to your annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (and requires 45,733 litres of water in production). One glass of oat milk per day contributes just 65kg of GHG emissions per year (and 3,512 litres of water).  One serving of beef every day would equate to a massive 2820kg of GHG emissions per year (the equivalent of heating the average sized British home for 447 days). One serving of beans per day is equivalent to just 36kg of GHG emissions and heating a home for 5 days. See more in this BBC report.

Consideration has also been given to the impact of food waste. Manchester University ensure all unused food is donated to those in need, including a community fridge set up earlier this year. Food waste itself is collected and recycled into soil conditioner. The catering team will also be using washable crockery and cutlery, not disposable, to prevent further waste from single use items.

Delegates are encouraged to travel to conference by train or bus. It is estimated that the carbon footprint of driving an average size petrol car to Manchester from London is 38.59kgCO2e, compared to 11.52kg CO2e for making the journey by train.

If you need to travel by car, car sharing is encouraged.

Manchester offers sustainable and accessible public transport links.  In the city centre, buses are free of charge and all buses and trams are wheelchair accessible. The Metrolink trams are fully electric and the buses travelling on the Oxford Road corridor to the university, are increasingly electric or at least low emission. Check out the bee transport network  which also explains how you can conveniently pick up a pedal or E-bike to enjoy the freedom of the cycle paths and where to locate docking stations. (There is one right by the conference at University Place.) For maps and disability access guides see here  and the AccessAble App.Manchester.

Manchester has fine historic parks and new green spaces have flourished with a section of Oxford Road by the university designated for bus, cabs and pedal cycles only. You can relax in seating in Brunswick Park alongside the conference venue or Gilbert Square across the road or take a walk around the tree trail in the peaceful oasis of Whitworth Park.

You’ll find recycling stations dotted around for any picnic waste.  For more information about the green spaces and walking tours in the vicinity of the university follow this link.

Organisers balance the need to lower our carbon footprint with the practical needs of delegates. Sustainable green lanyards (plastic free and made from bamboo) will be available, and we will be encouraged to reuse these at future events.  Sustainable bags will still be available but of course you are under no obligation to take one.  Event organisers are exploring the possibility of using an App to share the conference programme, making it available on the website and trialling displaying the information on digital screens throughout the venue.   The popular ‘At a glance’ paper program will still be available, and organisers are looking to have these sourced sustainably.

What to bring?

  • Reusable Water bottle – water refill stations are available throughout campus
  • Reusable coffee cup – washable crockery will be used to prevent waste so if you prefer your coffee in a to-go cup please bring it with you
  • If you don’t want or need another reusable bag, please bring an alternative such as your conference bag from years gone by

An online programme covering 4 streams and the keynotes will be available to delegates unable to attend or choosing not to travel this year.  Despite our best efforts, a conference of this size generates significant carbon emissions. Delegates may want to explore the option of offsetting to further reduce their impact on the environment with schemes like Ecologi offsetting.

We are excited to be part of the change we need to see. We are aware we may not get everything right first time but invite you to join us on this low carbon journey. Please let us know your thoughts either through using the feedback form, or visiting our interactive table at Conference.

Claire Willsher , BABCP Climate Change Special Interest Group