Written by: ELA President, Rie Macchiarolo
Our annual conference is our biggest event of the year. Those of you who have participated over the years probably have many fond memories of the in-person conference experience that included full session rooms, pleasantly crowded lunch tables, and running into colleagues in the hallways or at exhibitor booths that you would only see at the annual conference. When the pandemic forced us to move the conference to be virtual, it was unclear when we would be able to meet in person again. After the 2021 and 2022 annual conferences, we could not ignore the benefits of hosting this event virtually.
Hosting this event virtually allows us to:
- Increase the accessibility of the content. Participation is made easier for people who have childcare responsibilities, work responsibilities, or physical needs that would otherwise make it difficult or impossible to attend an in-person event. In addition, many of the sessions are recorded and made available to registrants after the event.
- Reduce the carbon footprint of the event. A 2021 study shows that moving in-person events to a virtual platform can reduce the carbon footprint of the event by 94%. By keeping this annual event in a virtual format, we believe we can do our part in climate change mitigation by reducing the need for travel and the inevitable food/material waste that comes with an in-person event.
- Include speakers and participants from far outside the New England area. We are an increasingly more connected world – the actions of one geographic area or community can have an impact on and offer insight to another. To that end we are changing the schedule of the conference slightly. This modification of the conference schedule will allow both our western and eastern time zone colleagues to maxmize their experience of the conference. By pushing the conference time back slightly, we will be able to accommodate a more diverse group of people from across the country.
Although the annual conference will be virtual for the foreseeable future, there will still be opportunities for us to gather in person. We plan to host our smaller regional events in-person or with a hybrid option. And keep your eyes peeled for spring and summer Eco-Tours that are in-person events where you can see the amazing work of our community in action. If you’d like to help organize a regional ELA member meet-up, please contact email@example.com for support.
On behalf of the ELA Board of Directors and staff, we thank you for the continued support, participation, and co-creation in helping us achieve our vision that all people understand and respect their connection to natural systems and take informed action to support ecological landscapes. We look forward to seeing you in February!
Rie Macchiarolo, Board President and Education Committee Chair