Association of Colleges conference goes veggie

Conference organisers say it comes as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions

Conference organisers say it comes as part of efforts to reduce carbon emissions

The Association of Colleges (AoC) will provide a meat-free only menu at its annual conference this year as it attempts to reduce its carbon footprint. 

Delegates attending the two-day event in Birmingham in November will also be charged a carbon offset fee alongside registration costs. 

The move to a vegetarian-only menu for meals during the conference and its flagship gala dinner – believed to be a first in the sector – has received mixed reactions from college principals. 

“There’s a good chance someone on my board is going to ask what we’re being asked to spend £75 + VAT [the fee to attend the gala dinner] on to be honest” one principal told FE Week. Other sector figures are planning events at nearby restaurants, FE Week understands. 

However, another principal said: “If we really believe what we say about the seriousness of the climate crisis, then we have to do things differently, including how big events like conferences are run.”  

According to the AoC, last year’s annual conference generated 125 tonnes of CO2, and the veggie-only menu is one of several ways the association is looking at cutting the event’s carbon footprint. 

A £2.50 “carbon offset fee” is charged alongside the conference’s £475-plus VAT registration fee (for member colleges), and exhibitors are being asked to avoid the use of single-use plastics. 

Rachel Almeida, head of events at AoC, said: “Like other organisations, AoC is looking at its impact on the environment and we are finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint. 

“One small way to reduce the carbon footprint of annual conference further is to provide a meat-free menu. 

“We are also asking exhibitors to avoid single-use plastics and we have appointed a contractor to gather leftover materials from the exhibition hall and give them a second lease of life. 

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  1. If anyone is griping about this I think that’s really disappointing. This is an excellent move, and shows leadership. Everyone can eat vegetarian/vegan food, and nowadays it’s every bit as delicious and nutritious as eating meat, as well as being more inclusive and better for the planet. (Whether the cost should come down is another matter, but feels like a bigger issue about the financial model of the whole enterprise.) Well done AoC, this is great.

  2. Matt Hancock

    I haven’t attended since the start of the pandemic and this certainly won’t encourage me to return.
    I have absolutely nothing against meat free food, I just don’t want it rammed down my throat.