Sustainability Concept for FORTHEM Alliance Meetings and Events

Our policy

We consider it to be very important to reduce the environmental impact of the FORTHEM Alliance.
Therefore, we have compiled a list of suggestions about how to improve the sustainability of FORTHEM related events. You can download a condensed version here: summary of the guidelines.
A more detailed version is also available below.

Coming soon:

1. Launch event for the Sustainability Policy

This will be 'in person' at Universität Mainz on 10 October 2022. Further details will follow soon.

2. Sustainability Survey of the alliance

Subscribe here to get the link for the FORTHEM sustainability survey as soon as it goes online!

In this project we well evaluate through questionnaires how the current actions of Alliance partners accord with this sustainability concept then disseminate these results to the Alliance partners. A second evaluation in 1 year will determine if there has been any change in behaviour as a result of adoption of the policy, or ‘education’ about current behaviours.

Full Version of the FORTHEM Sustainability Recommendations

As highlighted by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, anthropogenic changes in Earth’s climate, related to greenhouse gas and particularly CO2 emissions, threaten the lives and livelihoods of billions of people. The planet and the global population are equally challenged to balance the need for critical natural resources with the impacts of obtaining them.

Universities undoubtedly play a great role in leading the necessary changes towards sustainability. FORTHEM Alliance members are committed to practising environmentally friendly behaviours that preserve global climate and resources, to supporting sustainability studies and research, and to educating others through demonstrating sustainable actions.

The FORTHEM Sustainability Recommendations offer practical guidelines for taking into consideration sustainability when organising activities such as meetings, projects, conferences, and summer schools. As the impact of both onsite and online events can be detrimental, the FORTHEM Alliance is committed to minimising the environmental footprint of its common activities. In order to fulfil the recommendations, we ask to consider the following areas of impact. Choosing multiple of the recommendations would provide the best outcome.

Additionally, to ease the implementation of the recommendations for any particular event, please follow these simple steps:

  1. Set an objective of ensuring sustainability of the event;
  2. Create an event plan addressing sustainability aspects;
  3. Appoint a person in charge of monitoring sustainability;
  4. Communicate and explain to participants plans to ensure sustainability;
  5. Let participants know how they can contribute and thank for helping ensure sustainability;
  6. Ask for feedback on sustainability measures from participants once the event has concluded;
  7. Report on the actions taken to ensure sustainability and the positive impact made;
  8. Take into consideration the results of the feedback and the report when planning further activities.


The level of GHG, especially CO2, emissions in the atmosphere has a strong impact on climate. One substantial source of GHG emissions from universities is travel, especially by plane. Choosing less emission intensive options for long distance travel contributes less to the greenhouse effect. For example, taking a train instead of a plane has only one seventh of the carbon footprint.

  • choose to meet online rather than onsite
  • choose lowest impact travel such as by trains, buses or ferries instead of flights
  • choose direct flights when trains, buses or ferries are not an option
  • negotiate group discounts on the lowest impact transport
  • purchase carbon offsets for travel when possible


Short distance travel can lead to accumulation of GHG emissions and can be a source of noise and air pollution. Lower-emission options help to reduce one’s carbon footprint and its negative effects.

  • ask participants beforehand about preferable lowest impact local modes of transportation (public transport, bicycle, e-scooter, walking etc.) to make sure everyone’s mobility requirements are met
  • choose venue and accommodation that is accessible by public transport, cycling or walking
  • advise all participants about how to use local public transport, and bicycle or electric vehicle hire and community car rental schemes
  • provide public transport, bicycle or e-scooter passes to participants
  • negotiate special offers on public transport for participants


The participants’ accommodation can play a role in contributing to unnecessary transportation and by that GHG emissions. Researching and choosing accommodation that has environmentally friendly policies, such as energy and resource efficiency measures, helps to ensure sustainability.

  • choose accommodation for participants in close proximity to the premises of the event
  • choose environmentally responsible accommodation


Our participants’ experience has demonstrated it is most effective to establish relationships with collaborators and between students and teachers in person, then carry out further communications virtually. Additionally, the dissipation of knowledge and sharing of good practices can increase agency in sustainability.

  • choose to meet online rather than onsite, but whenever possible, first meetings of collaborators and between students and teachers will be held in person
  • use environmentally responsible search engines, e.g. that invest in environmental projects, such as Ecosia
  • distribute online sustainability guidelines before onsite meetings, events and projects based on locality
  • devote a part of the agenda to discussions and activities concerning sustainability aspects of the project and the project's topic
  • enable sharing of good sustainability practices within any event


A conscious use of available devices can help to conserve energy. Reusing and borrowing or renting also does not contribute to the energy-intensive processes of production and exploitation of rare materials. For example, the production of one laptop equals the emission of almost 250 kg CO2 or around 1000 km travelled by car.


  • use existing or rent tech and equipment such as computers and projectors
  • minimise purchases and purchase new tech and equipment with respect to resources
  • use energy saving modes and turn off devices when not in use


  • organise the activity in premises with energy efficiency measures in place
  • organise the activity in premises with natural light


The production and use of paper has a negative impact on the environment. For example, the production of 1 kg of paper requires about 440 L of water. Reducing the use of paper and other materials helps to conserve water resources, to limit the use of fossil fuels needed for production, and consequently minimises the amount of waste and pollution.


  • disseminate informational materials such as agendas and abstracts online
  • use whiteboards or digital screens for posting important information such as schedules
  • use emails instead of letters when possible
  • use electronic forms with electronic signatures when possible
  • provide an online registration process
  • offer digital poster sessions


  • use recycled or FSC certified paper when printed materials are necessary
  • print double-sided and reduce the print size from full page to half or quarter sheets while making sure the text is accessible to everyone
  • order prints from environmentally responsible print shops
  • purchase carbon credits to offset purchase of materials when possible

Promotional materials:

  • contemplate whether promotional materials (e.g. bottles, bags, t-shirts) are necessary
  • ask participants beforehand whether they need promotional materials to not create surplus
  • provide reusable promotional materials made from sustainable and ethical materials and sourced from responsible vendors (e.g. organic textile bags, organic textile face masks, recycled reusable bottles, recycled paper notepads)


Food production has environmental impacts that are generated throughout the production chain. Land use change, the use of fertilisers, cattle grazing, the production of manure, and food transportation are responsible for the release of GHG into the atmosphere as well as soil and water pollution. In addition, about one third of the total production of food for human use, ends up as food waste.


  • ask participants beforehand about preferable lowest impact food choices to make sure everyone’s nutritional requirements are met
  • offer vegan and vegetarian options by default at events and prioritise plant-based protein options
  • offer plant milk for coffee and tea by default at events
  • if necessary, choose sustainable and ethical animal products such as meat, dairy and seafood
  • prefer caterers devoted to using local, seasonal and certified organic produce
  • label food with sustainability information, e.g. organic or lower carbon footprint

Packaging and tableware:

  • avoid offering individual packaged and pre-packaged food items
  • avoid single-use tableware and utensils
  • serve food on reusable or environmentally friendly tableware and with reusable or environmentally friendly utensils
  • provide water from pitchers or dispensers equipped with reusable or environmentally friendly glasses
  • provide water in glass over plastic bottles
  • provide coffee and tea from pitchers or dispensers equipped with reusable or environmentally friendly cups
  • ask participants to bring their own reusable cups and bottles

Food waste:

  • avoid over-ordering by ordering the minimum amount of food based on the number of attendees
  • provide food in buffet or bite-size style small and combinable portions to reduce waste
  • encourage participants to bring reusable containers and take home leftover food
  • provide leftover food to food-rescue services or via food-sharing apps


Recycling waste means recovering materials for repeated use rather than disposing of them in landfills and incinerators. Considering the amount of energy required to produce products from raw materials, and the difficulties of disposal, recycling waste can reduce raw material consumption, energy use and associated GHG emissions.

  • minimise the possibilities of waste occurring
  • provide clear instructions about the importance of recycling waste
  • provide clear instructions about the possibilities of recycling waste on event premises
  • provide multiple stations of clearly labelled bins for different types of waste (paper, plastic, glass, metal, organic, mixed), depending on your country´s recycling system


Dissemination of results encourages further discussions between participants and interested parties. Enabling cooperation can be a way to explore options to become active.

  • promote the activity online and on digital screens on campus
  • disseminate the results of the project online
  • enable cooperation with environmental organisations, including NGOs and student initiatives
  • participate in and distribute announcements supporting sustainability and environmental campaigns (e.g. clean-ups of campuses/parks/beaches/oceans, zero waste initiatives)