Sustainability was a high priority at Bett 2023 – and rightly so. The halls were lined with eco-themed stands, with highlights including Samsung’s tree-shaped structure and Lenovo’s sustainable packaging displayed amidst a woodland backdrop. Intel even promised to plant a tree for every badge scanned at their 2023 stand; similarly, CTouch urged their visitors to book a meeting to discuss “reducing your CO2 footprint”.
On the surface, the message was clear: eco is in. But what were the actions beneath the aisles of green? In the past, sustainability has rarely factored into conversations surrounding education, and some have gone so far as to argue that an environmental agenda is outright incompatible with education. But vendors, speakers and attendees demonstrated real intent to make tangible change, making 2023’s show one of the most environmentally driven Bett events yet.
The Bett organisers did an excellent job of leading by example. The event itself was hosted in the carbon neutral ExCel, which, with its central London location, was a breeze to reach on public transport. Rather than eye-catching displays, Bett’s own sustainability agenda was expressed with clean, minimalist lines and subtly green décor. This carried through to the finer details: fewer promotional items, more sustainable food choices, and reduced waste.
The show organisers also claimed that onsite printing and collateral were reduced in favour of cloud-based storage solutions and iPads. All sponsors were encouraged to go paperless where possible, including switching from seat-drop collateral to QR codes.
To truly go the distance, the organizers could have standardised all the vendor stands, so visitors wouldn't need to transport between custom-made stands. This simple action would have reduced Scope 3 emissions even further. Plus, every participant could have the same limit on their emissions but still be able to choose how they want to use it, whether through bigger booths, brighter lights, or more devices.
“Bett demonstrated that most of the future tools will be made from recycled materials that can be easily refurbished and repaired. Designing products with energy efficiency and circularity in mind was evident,” Futuresource Consulting lead analyst Iryna Kazanchuk said of the offerings at Bett.
Indeed, the initiatives that most OEMs were pedalling involved using more sustainable materials for device hardware. Partnering with third-party companies to dispose of or recycle devices for their clients was another common theme. Dell showcased more offerings that are easier to repair and recycle, and Acer also offered a green-cycle free collection programme for old tech in Europe and South Africa.
When it comes to industry-wide change, a top-down approach is often needed. Naturally, the UK Government's Sustainability and Climate Education strategy – which places schools and colleges at the forefront of responding to climate change – featured in a lot of discussions at Bett. One solution to make changes faster is to give schools more responsibility over their sustainability, rather than relying on other organisations. At Bett, a lot of emphasis was placed on changing the curriculum to focus more on individual climate action. This could be effective in cutting out the middleman and causing swifter action. Plus, putting the power in the hands of schools may alleviate some “climate anxiety” among students, which is rampant.
But equally, a lot of the impacts of this will only be felt on a microscale. A lot of students (particularly older years) are already engaged with and self-educated on climate concerns. Educating students on immediate sustainable actions may help them feel empowered, but the impact of actions will be minor. On an institutional level, the path to sustainability is less clear.
It was good to see vendors and speakers give sustainability the deserved airtime. The need to have a unified sustainability strategy in education is instrumental to achieving long-term change, but immediate industry-wide changes were less evident at the show, which speaks of the magnitude of the issue.
Futuresource was proud to host out own pre-Bett mixer that explored some of the key themes of the event, placing an emphasis on sustainability in education. Covering sustainable hardware tools, software and strategies for educational institutions, we hope to cover the broad spectrum of sustainability within edtech. To get the full scoop on what went on at Bett 2023, including more on sustainability, download your copy of our post-show report now.
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