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Web conferencing, voice and video conferencing, and
other types of remote collaboration have become a mainstay in the modern workplace. Many
of us still travel a lot to attend meetings, but we can be certain that rising fuel
prices are also a fact of life.
The cost of travel is becoming more
expensive. Travel also creates huge carbon costs to the environment. One 4,000-km (2,500-mile) flight for one person emits one
ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) — which is equivalent to 14 percent of a home's electricity use for one
So it’s actually a good thing that we’re doing more meetings online. In fact, one
of the most significant ways that IT can help the environment is that it enables us to meet
with each other online or in "virtual meetings."
Virtual meetings are live
or "synchronous" interactive meetings in which each participant sits
at their own computer or phone and is connected to other participants via the
Internet and mobile devices.
recommend using some handy online carbon calculators to estimate the cost of past
or future flights. Terrapass
Carbon Footprint Calculator and the Climate Care/Lonely Planet
Calculator are both easy to use and show how quickly travel adds up.
Another one I like is the EPA
Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator, which translates CO2 usage (in
tons) to equivalencies like barrels of oil used or percentage of a home's
electricity use for one year to give you an idea of just how much those
cross-country flights cost your organization and the Earth.
Meanwhile, virtual meetings just keep getting better and better. The expansion to mobile devices is probably the
fastest growing area of online conferencing. For a view of what’s going on
there, see Ginny Mies’s Video
Conferencing Apps: Take Virtual Meetings on the Road.
The software for a virtual meeting can be either a application downloaded on each
attendee's computer or a web-based application where the attendees enter a URL
to enter the conference.
These applications can be anything from low-cost, purely
Internet-based conferencing services like ReadyTalk to more complex multimedia applications like Citrix GoToMeeting. Both of
those are TechSoup donor partners.
The multimedia applications allow virtual
work groups to use the Internet to see each others' faces in small windows on
their monitors, hear each others' voices on computer speakers, deliver
presentations, edit files, and collaborate on whiteboards.
If you’d like to just try web conferencing, there are some free web conferencing services. Some interesting ones are:
Here are some other TechSoup nonprofit virtual
There are many other software and web-hosted
conferencing services available, plus programs like Second Life, where nonprofit
activists meet regularly in places like TechSoup's Nonprofit
Commons. Explore the options that will work best for your organization —
not only to lower your travel and fuel costs but to lower your carbon footprint
Image: Virtual meeting (Shutterstock)