A Plastic-Free Conference? Well, nearly…!

There’s always something that goes wrong… for us it was a 10pm phone call from the sound and video team the night before the conference to tell us that, “unless it’s an overcast day tomorrow, no one will be able to see the slides.”

The reason?  We had ordered a marquee with blackout liners to block out sunlight around the staging area so that the presentation slides could be seen on the big screens.  The marquee that arrived didn’t have any liners, and there was no way to add them.  Needless to say we didn’t sleep much.

When we started planning for this conference many months ago we were determined to walk the talk by making every aspect of the event as low impact and environmentally sustainable as possible.  So that meant no single use plastic, locally produced foods, heritage and native produce, recycled paper – you get the idea.

So we had recycled paper name tags printed locally instead of plastic coated tags, brown paper bags instead of glossy conference folders, proper crockery, cutlery and glassware instead of disposables. Organic milk in glass bottles from Mossgiel Farm, bread made from Scottish grown heritage flour sourced from Scotland the Bread and made by our local bakers The Earth’s Crust Bakery, stunning hydroponic grown salads with edible florals from Salad Brew just a few miles along the road, Scottish barley in the cold salad dishes and our own cheese, rose veal and ice cream.   

Of course the weather was not overcast; as is so often the case in May in south west Scotland, the weather was absolutely glorious. 

But we have to admit, it was plastic that saved the conference. 

Our farm team went on an early morning dash to our local agricultural supplies yard to buy a roll of thick black plastic silage sheet, normally used as a liner for silage pits.

At 8am, as our delegates were arriving for breakfast, we started to wrap the marquee in it. At 8.30am when David was supposed to be leading our first – and fully booked farm tour – he was instead standing in the bucket of the loader, underneath all the silage wrap at the top of the marquee.  The farm tour was 20mins late setting off, but it worked.  The marquee staging area had been darkened enough that the slides were able to be seen and the presentations could go ahead as planned.

So we didn’t entirely avoid plastic, but we did avoid single-use plastic.  Now that its purpose as a marquee-wrap has concluded we will use the silage sheeting to line our silage pit.  Once it’s finished doing that job, it will go 20miles up the road to Solway Recycling where it will be turned into an eco-hen coop, a dog kennel or a picnic bench.  

A big thank you to the farm team who saved the day, to our speakers for being so understanding and to our fantastic sound and video team, Abby and Dave, who sweltered underneath that black plastic wrap all day while seamlessly managing the sound, video and livestreaming.