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280 Billion Balloons of CO2e = 1 World Cup

April 26, 2011

For our first lab experiment, we decided to demonstrate what an event carbon footprint really looks like, and how easy it is to produce carbon dioxide from simple activities.

In our test run for the experiment, we used 1 cup of vinegar and 1 tablespoon of baking soda and were able to easily fill a balloon from the carbon dioxide created. Perhaps we were bitten by the Hollywood bug, because for this version, we decided to double the ingredients, perhaps a bit unnecessarily.


To fully inflate a party balloon (about 1 cubic foot of volume), you need about 10 grams of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e). To help to provide some perspective for the carbon footprint of some typical meeting and event activities:

  • A night in an average hotel =  2,650 balloons. This is for a hotel with some “green” credentials, estimated as producing about 24 kilograms, or 53 pounds of CO2e.
  • An air flight from Vancouver to Rome, return, = 300,000 balloons. This flight would produce just over three tonnes of CO2e, per person, economy class.
  • A mega event, like The World Cup = 280 billion balloons. The 2010 World Cup is been estimated to have generated about 2.8 million tons of CO2e, including all of the air travel and accommodation of teams and fans.  This is the same volume of about 3,181,818 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

We hope you enjoy our first lab experiment!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 26, 2011 10:22 pm

    Wow, such great ambassadors for the modern woman: not enough to be beautiful and funny, but smart, too! Love the glasses.. Safety First! Great initiative and much needed. Whatever we can do to help give context. The natural next question, though, is the ‘now what?’.. So many organizations are fearful that a raised awareness of the costs of carbon emissions spell doom for meetings and events. We don’t want to contribute carbon emissions but what to do? Offsetting costs money (not appealing) and reducingon site attendance erodes revenue. Adding elements of virtual technology can reduce emissions but this is hardly a fix for most big events. So, great to have perspective of the size of the problem. Now what?
    Dramatically reduce the burning of fossil fuels.. the answer has to be there, somewhere. We can-and should- measure and offset carbon emissions from our meetings and events and we can–and should–select suppliers who themselves have selected renewable power, but changing what fuels transport is the big and complex challenge the industry needs to address with a collective voice and money for research and development.
    Great job, thanks for this!

    • April 27, 2011 10:39 am

      We’re blushing!

      There are definitely problems with traditional ways of “offsetting” an event footprint. Maybe it’s time to look at the whole problem a little differently. Instead of saying “business as usual” and offset the damage, we look at how to do business better, starting with our supply chains. Management accountants have what they call a management control system (MCS), which they describe using a three-legged tool analogy. The three legs must be in balance for the system to work. For sustainable events, the three legs might look like the carbon footprint of the supply chain, meeting the objectives of the event, and minimizing the financial footprint. Maybe we need to set a “carbon budget” for events just like a financial one, one that promotes efficiency of resource use and continuous improvement. But first, we need to create your “collective voice” — a meeting of the minds in the industry to define the issues and create a collective strategy.

  2. April 27, 2011 2:45 pm

    ok, you two are hilarious. are you sure you are in the right profession?

    Great video. love the context. totally agree with Michael’s comments – now what?

    Good to keep advancing the discussion the industry needs to have.

    Bravo!!

    • April 27, 2011 6:40 pm

      Thanks! We’re trying to live up to our motto “Success is measured by both laugh lines and bottom lines.” FYI – the number of Olympic swimming pools we mentioned would cover Sweden more than 10 times!

      Seriously though, you and Michael are absolutely right that we need to advance the discussion and act. There is also a great opportunity to go beyond simply neutralizing the impact of meeting and events.

      Thanks again for the comment!

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