The third and final day of William and Kate’s visit to Boston will culminate in the glitzy Earthshot awards ceremony this evening with $1.2million prizes going to a new generation of innovators to help scale their climate-fighting solutions.
Among the finalists are a company which captures planet-heating carbon emissions and stores them in rocks; one which replaces wasteful plastic packaging with a seaweed alternative, and a “greenhouse-in-a-box” concept for smallhold farmers.
But how does the royal tour’s own eco-credentials shape up?
Eco-approach to awards bash: Green carpet, vegan dining and carpools for camera crews
The second annual Earthshot Prize awards will take place on Friday evening at the MGM Music Hall at Fenway Park in Boston.
The Earthshot awards A-list presenters – including Rami Malek, Daniel Dae Kim, Catherine O’Hara and Shailene Woodley – will travel to the venue in electric or hybrid vehicles. Guests have been asked keep their red-carpet outfits sustainable by wearing something vintage, re-used or recycled.
Menus at the event will be vegetarian or vegan food, and locally sourced.
The red carpet is being replaced with a green one (and it will be recycled when the event is over). Over three acres of native and locally-grown plants will decorate the carpet and the show itself including New England mixed evergreen and deciduous trees.
All the flower displays have been grown within 100 miles of the Boston venue, and pots will be wrapped in burlap to keep them as green as possible. After the event, plants and pots are being donated to Boston city’s forestry division to be replanted in spring in public schools and local neighborhoods.
The awards ceremony’s set has been made using materials that can be reused or recycled, and all lighting is LED battery-operated.
When it comes to filming, the Earthshot Prize organizers have relied on local crews and equipment as much as possible, with meetings also held over video calls where possible.
Single-use plastics were banned across production, and there is a strict zero-waste-to-landfill policy.
For heavy equipment, the organizers said that logistics company, DHL, was being used because of their “Go Green” programme which has significantly lower emissions than other freight providers.
BBC Studios Productions have flown ten crew members to Boston for the event. However the total number is 150 which was reached in part by using local workers from Boston. Others traveling from New York have been asked to take the train, or to carpool if they have heavy kit. Other staff that have flown out from the UK are staying in a hotel that is in walking distance of the Fenway venue.
When it comes to “unavoidable flights”, carbon emissions have been totted up and balanced by taking part in what’s known as a “book & claim” scheme, organizers said.
The scheme means that even if the flights taken did not use sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), it allows airlines to buy the cleaner fuel and transfer its sustainability attributes to other flights.
SAF is made from sustainable resources including forestry and agricultural waste, used cooking oil, and green hydrogen, and mixed with fossil jet fuel to cut emissions. It’s described as a “drop-in” because its ready to be used without changes needed to the aircraft or infrastructure.
The event organizers told The Independent that experts and consultants in climate change, renewable energy, event sustainability, power efficiency and carbon emissions management have been involved in making the event and broadcast as sustainable as possible.
“Unavoidable emissions will be offset via selected projects chosen for their credibility, long term viability and benefit to the environment,” they confirmed via email.
A climate-friendly approach to the royal tour
While quantifying the overall carbon footprint is tricky, there has been efforts to cut emissions on this royal tour.
The Prince and Princess of Wales have been travelling around Boston in hybrid Range Rovers. (The royal favorite currently comes in “electric hybrid” and “mild hybrid” options, with a fully-electric version coming in 2024).
William and Kate arrive at Boston ‘climatech incubator’ in hybrid Range Rover
They also checked into the Four Seasons in Boston. The luxury hotel has created its own sustainability initiatives including electric vehicle charging stations for guests, vegan and vegetarian menus, and linens and towels replaced every third day unless guests ask otherwise.
And while Meghan Markle was filmed boarding a private jet after a speaking engagement at a female empowerment event in Indianapolis earlier this week, William and Kate eschewed the ultra-high carbon-emitting mode of transport for commercial flights with British Airways.
The Prince and Princess of Wales were captured in cell phone pictures by a fellow traveler en-route to the US on Wednesday.
The choice of commercial air travel is hardly surprising considering the dire optics that would accompany a transatlantic private jet trip by members of the British monarchy to hand out awards to people working to save the planet.
In 2019, the Prince of Wales’ brother, Prince Harry, was widely criticized for launching a sustainable tourism initiative weeks after taking multiple private jet flights. Last year, Harry and wife Meghan also flew private during a trip to New York to attend an event aimed at tackling the climate crisis.
While flying overall is hardly a climate-friendly pursuit, commercial air travel is better for the environment than private jets. A 2021 report from the European transport campaign group, Transport & Environment, found that private jets are five to 14 times more polluting than commercial planes, per passenger.
Then again, the carbon footprint of a first-class passenger is still much higher than traveling in economy (it’s all down to how much space your seat is allocated).
A recent analysis in The Guardian found that the emissions of a first-class passenger on a British Airways long-haul flight is about five and a half times that of an economy-class passenger. Earlier research, conducted by the World Bank in 2013, found that first-class travelers can have up to nine times the carbon footprint of those sitting back in economy.
BA and other airlines have pledged to become net-zero by 2050 and are investing in the development of more sustainable aviation fuel and zero emissions hydrogen-powered aircraft.
Passengers can also take part in off-setting for flights – which essentially aims to “neutralize” their proportion of an aircraft’s emissions by investing in carbon-reduction projects like reforestation and renewables.
The Independent has contacted Kensington Palace to ask if the Royal couple are using a carbon offsetting plan for their transatlantic flights.