Climate Issues and the SMBE

The local organizing committee of the 2020 SMBE meeting in Québec City, supported by the council of the Society, has clear goals for the upcoming meeting regarding sustainability : to offset the carbon cost of travel to the meeting and to take specific actions to lower the overall environmental footprint of the meeting. We are unanimously enthusiastic about taking action now.

We propose four ways to address this question at the 2020 meeting in Québec city:

1) the society will participate in mitigating the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions that result from travel to the meeting by paying for carbon offsets initiative and by matching carbon offset actions taken by SMBE members travelling to the meeting.

2) the local organizing committee is focusing on on-site measures to lower the general environmental impact of the meeting.

3) the local organizing committee is organizing a workshop during the meeting to collect ideas directly from society members to define the future of SMBE meetings. regarding ways to reach a nearly-neutral or carbon neutral SMBE meeting

4) the society is in the process of finding ways to provide access to the 2020 conference talks online for members who choose not  to travel.

Several different sources show that travel results in at least one third of all carbon emissions related to academic activities. It is thus an important aspect to change if we aim for a nearly-neutral 2020 conference. The contribution of the society to this goal for the 2020 meeting is two-fold. First the society will make a US$10,000 contribution to carbon offsets measures for the 2020 meeting. Second, the SMBE will match carbon offsets paid by delegates, up to an additional US$10,000.

The SMBE council has chosen a carbon offset project set in Québec to make its contribution of US$10,000. Depending on the number of participants and their origin, this will compensate a certain percentage of carbon emissions. We plan to ask participants at registration to indicate their origin and mode of travel, to help us tally the actual carbon footprint of travel to the meeting.

For the delegates who also wish to directly compensate their carbon emissions, we will provide links to three reliable companies, and members will have the option of using other organizations if they prefer. The society will match carbon offset contributions made by delegates when they provide documentation of their contribution. Delegates simply can mail a screenshot of their carbon offset transaction to the conference management company MCI ( MCI will collect these data and provide weekly updates on total offsets in order for the society to make the matching contribution as well as to help us track our carbon footprint. Estimates of the total number of tons of carbon offset, and of how close to neutral we are, will be publicized and discussed during the business meeting, on day 2 of the conference.

The proposed companies:

Planet Air

Carbone Boréal


Several measures will be taken to minimize our ecological footprint during the conference.

Plastic reduction

-Plastic free delegate material (name tag, delegate bag)

-Water for all events is provided in pitchers or fountains instead of bottles

General waste reduction

-Plastic-free and low-waste coffee breaks. ex: Real cups for coffee, bulk dispensers for milk, cream, juice, sugar, and butter; utensils provided, stir sticks for coffee made of wood, not plastic

-Plastic-free and wasteless lunches (reusable dishware, no boxed lunches, the kitchen has bins for composting and recycling, etc)

-Commitment to reclaim at least 80% of waste materials and compostable products generated by all convention activities.

-Convention center distributes unserved food that has not left the kitchen to shelters and transition homes

Reducing the footprint at the source

-Menus feature local products


-We will offer a weekly transit pass for purchase at a reduced rate during registration

-We will have a message on the registration site that encourages train and bus travel for people having less than 12 hours of travel. The train and bus stations are in the city center and conveniently connected to the convention center

-We favoured hotels that are walking distance (for most choices where blocks of rooms were taken) or on a major public transport route (for a few others that are less expensive, like the campus residence)

-We will organize a volunteer team to welcome delegates at the airport and organise ride shares, or direct them to public transport (and give them their weekly transit pass if they bought on upon registration)

-Main meeting site and Banquet site are a 5 minute (beautiful) walk apart

It is extremely important to engage members of the society to bring forward the best ideas and discuss steps already taken by other societies as examples. The team of SMBE 2020 volunteers, composed of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, is organizing a workshop at lunch on the first full day of meeting to discuss possible future steps that the society can take with its meetings. The goal is to decide together on the next steps that will be taken for the 2021 meeting and forward,  building upon the actions taken at the 2020 meeting.

Discussion topics will include: frequency of SMBE meetings, creating regional meeting hubs on each continent that are virtually connected to reduce travel distance, enabling virtual attendance by invited speakers and presenters, etc

Members of future LOC (SMBE 2021 and possibly 2022) will attend, as well as a representative of the SMBE council. The representative from this meeting will also report back to council at the business meeting on the next day.

The LOC and council are presently discussing the possibility and feasibility of recording talks during the 2020 meeting in order to offer remote access to talk content after the meeting. This will be a first step towards a model of remote attendance with official registration for speakers and listeners. How this model will be implemented fully at SMBE conference will be discussed and decided on during the Monday workshop.

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