No items found.

TED’s Commitment to Achieving a Zero-Carbon World

Community Stories

Return to all

TED’s Commitment to Achieving a Zero-Carbon World

The TED community is all about big ideas and making a real impact, especially when it comes to tackling climate change. 

In 2019, TED had the opportunity to partner with the social enterprise, Leaders’ Quest to launch our first philanthropically funded, issue-specific initiative dedicated to championing and accelerating the ideas and solutions that lead to a cleaner, healthier, zero-carbon world. Since the launch of TED Countdown, the initiative has:

  • Generated more than 270 million views across 230 original pieces of content focused on climate solutions.
  • Raised $1.3bn in philanthropic giving for climate solutions in collaboration with TED’s Audacious Project.
  • Convened more than 3,000 attendees in person at major global summits and smaller focused events.
  • Hosted more than 1,000 TEDxCountdown events across the globe.
  • Produced multiple original films, including one airing on PBS stations around the US.

The TED Countdown Library now includes 238 talks on climate issues, viewed over 273 million times, equipping our global audience with actionable information. The Countdown Summit has also seeded 1,000+ TEDx Countdown events in 99 countries, amplifying Countdown content and sharing local stories of climate action.

TED Countdown Summit 2023

Building on the momentum of Countdown, TED is expanding its sustainability-focus across all conference events by leaning into eco-efficient practices and considering climate justice in logistics and planning.

A New Approach to Events

Did you know to meet the climate goals of the Paris Agreement, we should each consume less than 9.72kg of Co2e per week? And that a beef burger is equal to about half of that weekly carbon budget? 

TED’s sustainability-focused approach to events is being refined with a focus on improving internal capacity and measurement. However, TED is prioritizing sustainable event practices by focusing on four key areas: meaningful impact, mobility, meals, and materials. 


TED events only serve lower impact proteins, which is why you won't see beef or lamb on the menu. We are also working with Klimato to add a label on each Community Lunch dish to improve transparency about how much Co2e is on your plate so you can make more informed choices about meals. In addition, TED barista bars serve oat milk, which has a lower environmental impact compared to other milks. It’s also shelf-stable to enable donation should any be left over.

TED donates food from all events and has provided enough to prepare 3,151 meals for local charities in host cities, including Vancouver Food Runners, since 2020. A further 10,900 kilograms of leftover snacks and beverages have been donated to local nonprofits, such as Quest Grocery Markets, which combats food insecurity by providing healthy, affordable food to Vancouver families.

At TED Countdown 2023 in Detroit, all unserved food was donated to Metro Food Rescue. 

"Food donations from the TED Countdown Summit provided enough food for more than 2,500 hot meals in Detroit, including being received by 50 veterans living in transitional housing with our partner Volunteers of America. High quality catered food is very valuable to the agencies we support and partnerships with event organizers like TED show it's as easy to donate food as it is to throw it away. When you are planning your next event just remember that someone within a mile of the event venue always needs dinner, and by working with local agencies in cities like ours, event organizers and caterers can help fulfill that need and cut emissions."

–  Chad Techner, Founder/CEO, Metro Food Rescue

TED Countdown Summit 2023


In 2023, TED cited a 15% impact on the environment by reducing the footprint of all TED conference events. This involves fewer long-haul flights for staff, speakers and contractors which meant a 31% drop in travel emissions compared to 2021. Air shipments were eliminated, which reduced freight and delivery impacts by 75% over 2021.


TED achieved a three-fold reduction in plastic use in 2023, which led to a 52% reduction in CO2e for overlay compared to 2021. In addition, reusable service ware is used wherever possible. This includes at the barista bars for the TED Conference, where a partnership with Mugshare helps keep an estimated 13,500 disposable coffee cups out of the waste stream each year. If disposables are necessary at outdoor functions they are composted. 

The bespoke refreshment bar created by local social enterprise, ChopValue is crafted entirely from 26,454 recycled chopsticks, storing 36,347g of CO2 emissions. TED has also dramatically reduced the use of plastic signage at its events, helping to reduce the carbon impact of graphics by over 50% since 2019.

Meaningful Impact

Building on the mission of Countdown, TED is making climate-oriented investments in host communities. In Vancouver, TED’s Climate Investment is supporting two organizations: the Aboriginal Housing Management Association (AsHMA) and the Sustainable Workforce Coalition. 

AHMA is a network of 55 Indigenous housing and service providers in British Columbia. AHMA’s Members oversee 95% of Indigenous housing units across the province for those not living on reserve. Their housing portfolio includes over 5,500 units that provide homes to an estimated 10,000 Indigenous individuals and families living in urban, rural, and northern regions of BC, with over 2,000 additional units currently under development. The grant to AHMA will contribute to new staff positions, supporting deep energy retrofits for Indigenous housing. This project creates a meaningful impact to:

  • Electrify homes, improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions
  • Enable safe and stable housing at an affordable cost.
  • Provide co-located and culturally appropriate support services.

For each dollar invested in Indigenous housing each year, a conservative estimate for social return on investment is about $7.40, which includes an estimated $2.90 in government savings from decreased service use.

The Sustainable Workforce Coalition (SWC) is a regional member-based initiative to help catalyze a fair and prosperous transition to a net zero economy for workers in the Metro Vancouver region through convening, research, and programming. Working with organized labor, businesses, community groups, and government, the SWC takes a worker-centered approach to minimize the impacts of environmental policies on workers in affected industries and to ensure that new opportunities in the “green economy” will include those previously excluded from the high-carbon economy. The catalytic grant from TED will support the SWC’s work throughout 2024 and in two particular areas: convening and storytelling.

We invite the TED community to join us in this effort. By working together to share ideas and take action we can have an even greater impact!

Learn more about sustainability at TED and TED Countdown.

Learn more
Learn more
Learn more
Learn more

Upcoming Conferences

See what's coming up and submit your application to attend. It's our way of getting to know you better!