Back in the days when I donned a suit and tie, it wasn’t unusual for me to travel for hours to attend meetings of an hour or less. I was reminded of this insanity recently when a colleague still working in the “real” world expressed frustration at having to travel for half an hour for a very non-productive 5 minute meeting.
These are common scenarios and a waste of people’s time and lives, not to mention impact on business productivity and profit. But they also have a huge environmental footprint.
In our society, often technology moves much faster than people adapt to it. Meetings, conferences and seminars are certainly one of these areas. The tools to help minimize the negative business and environmental impacts of meetings are already here and are very effective.
The environmental impact of meetings
Aside from the general impact of the fossil fuel industry, think of all the emissions involved with transporting the millions of people who travel to and from meetings each day. Travelling by car to meetings is bad enough, but when it comes to flying; the news is even worse.
So much air travel is business related and according to a recent WWF study, due to the way emissions from airplanes interact with the upper atmosphere their warming effect is thought to be greater than equivalent emissions at ground level – around 2.7 times. The study says that aviation fuel related emissions account for 5% – 10% – of the total impact of carbon dioxide on climate change.
The case for online meetings
While telecommuting full time isn’t for everyone, most businesses can take advantage of technology to reduce meeting and conference travelling impact by holding them online. Video conferencing and online meeting services have come a long way in recent years.
The services and software now used include all sorts of amazing features such as video, chat, private audio, application sharing and whiteboards that everyone can interact with.
As long as you have a broadband connection, these services work very well and are quite easy to use. I’ve been increasingly using online conferencing over the last couple of years and they are far superior than just getting by with email and phone calls.
Online meeting services are also excellent for webinars – the online version of seminars.
A study on business travel in Europe prepared for ETNO and the WWF in 2006 concluded that by replacing 5 – 30% of current air travel with online meetings and video conferencing, it could reduce carbon dioxide emissions anywhere between 5.59-33.53 million tonnes annually
A 2007 Telstra report found that video conferencing could avoid 2.4 million tonnes of Australian business related carbon dioxide emissions annually, equivalent to 0.43% of Australia’s total
Given the figures for Europe and Australia, imagine the millions of tonnes of emissions could be saved in the USA each year through increased uptake of online meeting and conferencing. For business, the extensive use of online meeting services is something that can also be used for promotional purposes in terms of the company’s environmental commitment.
Free trial online meeting and video conferencing services
If you’d like to give online conferencing a whirl for your business or company, here’s a couple of free trial services:
GoToMeeting: Host unlimited online meetings.
GoToWebinar: Host unlimited online meetings and deliver unlimited Webinars for up to 1,000 attendees at a time.