Greening the seventh summit of ROI Community
06/12/2012 06:16
Young entrepreneurs group implementing initiatives to lower the environmental impact of their latest summit.

To offset the carbon footprint that participants are creating in flying to and from their summit this week, the ROI Community will be providing solar water heaters to 51 needy Israeli families.

From Sunday through Thursday this week, young entrepreneurs are gathering in Jerusalem for the seventh annual summit of the ROI Community, a global network of Jewish innovators established by Jewish American philanthropist Lynn Schusterman.

This year, however, in addition to providing its usual training workshops and networking platforms for the participants, the summit is also going green.

While it is still early in the greening process for the ROI Community, the organization has already made drastic improvements, said Irene Rompa, a Dutch environmental consultant for the summit.

Rompa started out as a volunteer for TedxAmsterdam and then performed greening operations at TedxSummit in Qatar this spring, where she met Beto Maya, director of gatherings and recruitment at the ROI Community, who asked her to green the summit.

“We’ve been doing conferences for the past seven years and I think that slowly we came to the realization that these conferences have an impact on the environment,” Maya told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “In today’s world it’s impossible to avoid thinking about how to make these things happen and at the same time to lower the impact of what we’re doing.”

Already, the summit is employing several new green tactics, Rompa told the Post.

In order to fly in the summit participants, the ROI Community calculated that it is creating a carbon footprint of about 300 tons of carbon dioxide, she explained. The organization is therefore investing in solar water heaters for 51 Israeli families in need of replacing their diesel boilers, which will generate the amount of clean energy equivalent to the footprint they are creating.

“It comes down to awareness,” she said.

When attendees arrived to the conference, they each received a refillable water bottle to discourage them from using disposable plastic bottles and encourage them to simply drink from the Jerusalem tap, according to Rompa.

“That will save tons of plastic,” she said. “It’s not just a plastic bottle, it’s the production of the bottle and water and the waste from the bottle.”

Meanwhile, in the hotel where the participants are staying, ROI Community staff installed signs in each room instructing attendees to reuse their towels and coffee cups, Rompa explained. At the conference itself, there are special recycling bins where participants can separate their waste, which will then be brought to a recycling center and to a small community that will use the food waste for compost.

“It’s a way of trying to set an example,” Rompa said. “It’s a very international crowd so I hope if they get inspired in a way if they take this in and bring it home to their home countries, it can leave a legacy.”

While the summit has already made vast improvements in its greening policies, there is still much work to be done, according to Rompa.

For example, some targets for next year could be minimizing the materials distributed in the gift bags for the participants and making them more sustainable, as well as switching to a vegetarian menu, she said.

“This is the first year that we’re making an effort as to how we can improve for next year,” she said. “It’s a starting point.”

For next year, Rompa also said some good ideas might be to work with suppliers closely, to make sure all paper is FSC certified, the catering is sustainable and the conference providers have green visions.

As far as Israel as a whole goes, Rompa praised the country for its “very visible” plastic bottle collection in the streets.

However, she also suggested that Israel could install more water fountain taps on these same streets.

“I don’t see in the taps in the streets,” she said, noting that in Holland, the government is actively installing fountains in the middle of the streets. “If you put water in the streets then people wouldn’t have to go buy plastic bottles.”

She also encouraged the government to speed up its implementation of a recycling system for different waste streams, since it has launched positive initiatives in this area already.

All in all, however, Rompa was pleased with the progress Israel as a whole was making environmentally and both she and Maya hoped to see an even greener ROI Summit next year.

“In today’s world there are two kinds of people – the people into environmental things, carbon offsetting and the people who are cynical about it,” Maya said. “My goal is that by doing this with leaders from all over the world, we will be able to make this more of a norm in events all over the world.”