GreenTech LogoTeleGreen PicAs part of Earth Week 2009, TechSoup's GreenTech Initiative is holding a month-long TeleGreen Your Work campaign. Each week we will highlight affordable solutions to help you reduce your travel and ultimately save money. This week, we've got ten tips to help your nonprofit find ways to use technology innovations to work more effectively while cutting back your impact on the environment through travel and commuting.

Commuting to work and traveling for business is often unavoidable. There are many good reasons to travel: There is nothing like a face-to-face meeting to forge a relationship or read subtle body language cues; spending time immersed in a different culture opens our eyes, minds and hearts; traveling to a client, partner or donor shows them that they are important to you and your organization. However, many of us travel when not necessary. Not only does travel use up money and valuable time that you could be spending in other ways, but it's costly to the environment.

As the current economic recession continues to affect all of us, we at TechSoup.org are rethinking work-related travel (including commuting), just like may nonprofits and for-profit companies. TechSoup Global's GreenTech initiative has developed a list of 10 recommendations for reducing or eliminate business travel without completely losing the advantages of meeting face-to-face. We encourage everyone to use these suggestions to "telegreen your work," which is a term word we've coined for ways that organizations and individuals can use technology to save time, reduce travel costs, and reduce impact on the environment.

We believe that if you reduce travel and meet virtually and collaborate online instead, you can save both time and money. We know that there is a time and place for travel, but we believe that with the right tools, a little know-how, and some adventurous spirit, you can save money, be more productive, and lower your environmental impact.

What's Difference Does It Make?

• One 4,150 KM (2,578 mile) flight emits 762 pounds of CO2 per person, which is equivalent to 5% of the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of an average home for one year. The IPCC estimates that aviation emissions are currently 492 million tons per year and growing at a rate of 6% annually.

• Telecommuters last year saved 840 million gallons (PDF) of gasoline and reduced carbon emissions by almost 14 million tons.

• The Telework Coalition estimates that $20,000 per year can be added to the bottom-line of your organization per full-time teleworking employee in reduced real estate needs and related overhead expenses.

• Allowing your staff and volunteers to work remotely has proven to increase both productivity and job satisfaction.

10 Ways to Change:

Here are our 10 technology tips to help you reduce your need to travel:

1.    Measure your travel: Determine your organization's travel and commuting environmental footprint as well as the amount of money your organization is spending on travel. Make a list of meetings, trainings, and events attended by your staff or volunteers that might be suitable for teleconferencing, Web or video conferencing.

2.    Attend online trainings using a webinar service or screencasting to observe its effectiveness, and how you might use it to substitute for a meeting or training at your organization. Nonprofits and libraries can find discounted management and IT trainings through TechSoup Stock.

3.    Try out one or more telephone conferencing services. Some good options are: ReadyTalk, Care2Call, and FreeConferenceCall.com.

4.    Try one or more Web conferencing services. Some good options are: ReadyTalk, Microsoft Communicator, and WebEx.

5.    Check into video conferencing services. Some basic free options are: Skype and gmail voice and video chat.

6.    Explore an online virtual world environment like Second Life to see how that tool might provide a fun and more personal meeting environment.

7.    Use instant messaging technologies (chat/IM) like Skype, Pidgin, or AOL Instant Messaging (AIM) to allow more spontaneous communications. Or consider tools like Communicator 2007 that include instant messaging as part of a robust online communications package.

8.    Collaborate and share documents online. Some free services are: 4shared.com, GoogleApps Education Edition, Microsoft Office Online, Google Groups, and Yahoo Groups. Services with robust features include Microsoft Groove and MyFax, both of which are available to nonprofits and libraries from TechSoup Stock.

9.    Encourage staff to telecommute. Technologies like remote desktop software like pcAnywhere, virtual private networking (VPN), voice over IP (VoIP), and virtual PBX can help make working at home as effective as coming into the office. Many corporations and very large nonprofits have used custom-built VoIP infrastructures to facilitate unified communications for years, but VoIP products and systems have recently become more accessible for small-to-medium organizations too making it easier to effectively work from home and stay in touch.

10.    Look for conferences that have a virtual component or will be recorded and can be accessed online, such as the Craigslist Foundation's Nonprofit Boot Camp. Or ask a local volunteer or board member to attend and report back to your group instead of asking someone to travel.

What's To Come?

Here's what else you can look forward to during our month-long campaign:
  • Week two will be all about online training. More resources and another new article will be available next week.
  • Week three will be all about telecommuting. Mark your calendar and watch for more info about our webinar to be held on Wednesday, May 6 at 10 a.m. Pacific.
  • Our final week will be all about online collaboration. Again, more details and resources will be revealed as we move through the weeks of our campaign.
Don't miss our shocking stats page (scary!) to learn more about the negative impact (and benefits of reducing) travel. And if you've got quick tips and ideas to share with others, please share them in our online forums thread. Keep watching since there's much, much more to come!