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Explore Edmonton looking to attract more events to showcase city's net-zero capabilities

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Explore Edmonton is looking to convince the world that events in Edmonton take less energy.

A new video, centered on the city's capabilities to deliver net-zero events, was launched Tuesday as part of an international docu series, Sustainable Travel: Where Next?

"We know more and more that major conferences and events want to host their event in a city that is demonstrating leadership in sustainability," said Melissa Radu, sustainability manager at Explore Edmonton.

Radu said the campaign focuses on the Edmonton Expo Centre and the Edmonton Convention Centre as sustainable venues. The $150,000 budget will be used for targeted advertising to event planners and sustainably-minded corporations.

"On a global scale, our convention centres are performing very very well competitively against other convention centres both within Canada and internationally," Radu said.

In 2020, the Edmonton Convention Centre installed solar panels that generate 227,000 kilowatts of energy annually. When the Edmonton Expo Centre completes its current solar project in November, it will be the largest rooftop installation in Canada and generate an estimated ten times the energy of the convention centre.

"Part of this docu series is helping to promote that and make sure that people around the world know that when they bring their events to Edmonton, they're going to have a lower environmental impact," she added.

What sets Edmonton apart, said Radu, is that Explore Edmonton has a dedicated sustainability team to help reduce the carbon-footprint of events.

"When an event planner comes to our city, we're there every step of the way. To start with helping them to make more sustainable choices while they're planning their event," she said.

Explore Edmonton launched a carbon-neutral initiative earlier this year to help planners reduce event-related emissions. Radu said they've had six carbon-neutral events so far, with nine more upcoming, for a total of 2,000 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent prevented or sequestered.

"This campaign is actually helping us to start to change the narrative about what kind of events can be hosted in Edmonton. We're creating more awareness on a global scale, that when planned properly, events can be minimal impact," she said.

Robert Fisher, a professor of marketing at the University of Alberta, said advertising alone isn't always an effective tool - especially when there are preconceived notions involved.

Because Alberta is an oil and gas province, Fisher said it will be hard to convince people that we can also be environmentally sustainable.

"We have stereotypes about different parts of Canada, and Alberta as you say is not known for sustainability," Fisher said.

"You can't change these perceptions with just advertising," he added. "You can reach a lot of people very very quickly, but people are not very responsive to messages they don't already believe."

But it can be done by showing it, rather than telling it, and Fisher said Explore Edmonton has a better chance at convincing people that we are a sustainable place by bringing them in to actually experience it.

"The way that we are going to change people's perceptions about Alberta, about Edmonton, about the degree to which our community, our larger community – our province – is interested in sustainability is through action," he said.

"It'll be a long slog, and we won't change everybody's minds, but I think for most reasonable people I think this is the right way to go."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nahreman Issa 

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