Can webinars make an environmental impact?
March 26, 2008 @ 10:00 AM | By InterCall Blog

Please welcome our guest blogger, Ken Molay . . . .

I’ve been enjoying reading The Green Blog and I applaud InterCall for helping to raise awareness and keep the conversation going about green initiatives. Consequently I was delighted when the gang asked if I would contribute an article about green trends from my perspective tracking the webinar industry. I stay pretty well connected with news and information from vendors and users of web conferencing technology through my own blogs in that arena (www.TheWebinarBlog.com and www.WebinarWire.com).

It’s certainly no secret that environmental benefits are a hot marketing trend at the moment. You can take your pick of pithy and (sometimes) witty headlines such as “Green Is The New Black”, “Green Is Sexy”, and “Green Is Good.” Web conferencing providers have an easy play in this space with the obvious benefits they can promote from meeting attendees forgoing travel in favor of remote participation.

Some conferencing providers have started providing “carbon reduction” calculators to help their clients estimate environmental impact reduction by not traveling to a central meeting space. Anything that helps people to think more about the subject and want to take a more active role in reducing their environmental footprint is welcome, and I would be the last person to denigrate vendors for their efforts. But even the most avid supporters of such calculators would have to admit that the estimation algorithms are crudely drawn at best.

The usual discussion around environmental benefits of virtual meetings centers on carbon output from commercial air travel, with perhaps a few extra points tacked on for automobile rides to and from the airport. I’ve always been a bit cynical about the air travel piece of the calculation. Those planes are flying fixed routes and carrying freight and mail in addition to your personal 250 pounds of body and luggage. The net incremental impact of you taking a seat on that flight or not might not be so very large (unless we all stop flying and the airlines cancel some flights completely). The percentage additional fuel burned to support each additional passenger probably isn’t all that much. (Disclaimer: I’m not a aeronautical engineer and I haven’t researched the real numbers. I may be all wet on this belief.)

But I think the impact calculators overlook some hefty additional environmental benefits that are harder to estimate, but very real. Consider the case of a virtual seminar, rather than a smaller team meeting or collaborative session with a few participants. Web seminars may have hundreds of people in the audience and may include several presenters, located in different cities or countries. If we ask presenters and attendees to travel to a central location for a physical meeting, it’s not just the air travel that impacts the environment. A meeting room that had been sitting dark now needs lighting, air conditioning, electricity for sound systems, vacuuming, possibly washed and dried tablecloths, and so on. Attendees use hotel rooms with yet more resources devoted to lighting, temperature control, washing sheets and towels, vacuuming, etc. If you serve meals or snacks to your attendees, you are responsible for additional transportation of the ingredients, along with the impact associated with cooking, serving, and clean up. Since individual attendees have no control over what foods or portion sizes end up on their plates, there is inevitable wastage (along with more clean up and disposal impacts on the environment).

Yes, I realize that even virtual attendees need lights on in their offices and have to eat, but these impact factors can be minimized when left to each person’s individual control. A conscientious person can choose the amount and type of food they want, when they want it. They probably don’t wash their sheets and towels every night. If they work in an open space office plan, they don’t even have individual lighting costs to contend with, since the office lights are on whether they are there or off at some remote seminar location!

All this is just my way of pointing out that web seminars can have an even greater environmental benefit than you might have thought at first glance. As web conferencing technology gets better, internet bandwidth and speed improve, and people become more accustomed to getting their information online rather than in person, we should see greater and greater use of large-scale web seminars. And that’s going to be a good thing for all of us.

>> Ken Molay is president of Webinar Success, offering production and consulting services to companies making use of web conferencing for structured events.

We’ve been talking the last few months about how businesses can get involved and what changes you can make at work. But I’d like to get back to where we started…the movement needs individuals to take small steps towards a large change. If you just aren’t sure what you could do to help stop global warming, I’ve got the solution for you: turn off your lights!

On Saturday, March 29th at 8pm local time, there will be a global action to go dark and turn off every light that you can. Earth Hour 2008 plans on showing how individuals can ban together to make a difference for the environment. And, along the way it might just show people that they can live without the TV and computer for an hour or so.

The event was started last year in Sydney, Australia and over 2 million people participated. Great landmarks like the Syndey Opera House and the Harbour Bridge were dark. This year the event is extending to cities like Chicago, Toronto, and Dubai. In the US, the Sears Tower, Golden Gate Bridge and the Georgia Dome will all be participating.

To date, over 150,000 individuals and 10,000 companies have committed to turning off their lights. Sky Magazine estimates that if every American household turns off their lights for only an hour it will prevent more than 16,500 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.

I will definitely be joining the efforts, and encouraging those here at InterCall and to do the same. If you’re a fan of Facebook, you can add this application and ask your friends to take the Earth Hour Pledge. (Oh, yes…visit the InterCall page on Facebook while you’re there!)

So now, the big question is – what are all of these people going to do in the dark? Last year Sydney had a few candlelight weddings. Chicago will have bowling by candle light and Toronto will host a free concert. Take the dog for a walk, go to the park with your kids, or just enjoy a nap! Will you be turning your lights off? (Good for you!) So, what are you going to do for a whole hour in the dark?

Carolyn Campbell
Senior Director, Marketing Communications
InterCall

Earth Day is April 22, 2008
March 12, 2008 @ 08:34 AM | By InterCall Blog

Earth Day started back in 1970, after Senator Gaylor Nelson pondered the idea for several years. Inspired by the student demonstrations of the 1960’s, Senator Nelson wanted to create a grassroots effort that would force the environmental issue onto the political agenda.  This year, Earth Day is on Tuesday April 22.  We’ll be hosting a webinar discussing how companies can grow their business through environmental initiatives.

But, we want to know what YOU are doing to celebrate Earth Day this year.  Whether it’s a personal initiative, a community event or a company campaign – post a comment and tell us all about it!

Carolyn Campbell
Senior Director, Marketing Communications
InterCall

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