Dwayne Hodgson

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The work and adventures of Dwayne Hodgson,
+ Learning Designer & Facilitator at learningcycle.ca
+ Storyteller & Photographer @ thataway.ca

7 Ways to "Green" a Workshop

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As I mentioned in an earlier posting, I have recently taken a job with The Natural Step Canada, a non-profit organization that helps organizations and companies become more environmentally and socially sustainable by applying a science-based framework for analysis and planning.

TNS Canada and it international affiliates in 9 countries, have worked with a partners as diverse as IKEA, Home Depot, Interface, the Town of Whistler, Nike and the City of Ottawa to help them apply these principles in a rigorously and to become more sustainable.

Greening Our Workshops: 7 Ways

As the Manager of TNS Canada's Sustainability Learning Programs, I help organize a lot of learning events on how individuals and organizations can take meaningful actions to become more sustainable. Where possible, we encourage our clients to make use of our award-winning eLearning programs and online webinars, thus minimizing the need for travel and reducing their carbon footprint.

However, we still find that the quality of learning and community-building that face-to-face workshops provide is hard to beat, and so we continue to offer in-person sustainability leadership programs across the country.

Of course if you are going to talk about sustainability, you have to do your best to walk that talk. We strive to make these meetings as sustainable as possible with regards to decisions around travel, food and beverage, energy and other resource use. For example:

1. We choose workshop locations that are easily accessible by public transit (bus, intercity bus and train where possible) and cycling.

2. We purchase carbon offsets annually for all of our air, rail or car travel undertaken as an organization. While not a perfect solution, the money raised from carbon offsets supports projects that reduce greenhouse gases. Here are two gold-standard providers of offsets: Less http://www.less.ca/index.cfm & Offsetters http://www.offsetters.ca

3, We do our best to reduce waste by avoiding disposables, and reusing and recycling what we can of any workshop materials (e.g. name tags, flip chart paper, post-its, tape, handouts).

4. We print any handouts and guidebooks on post-consumer recycled paper.

5. For every learning event that we host, we estimate how much electricity we’ll use for A/V equipment and lights. We then purchase the equivalent amount of "green electricity" from Bullfrog Power, a company that produces renewaable, small hydro and wind-powered electricity.

6. We ask that our caterers, where possible, should:

a. Purchase fair trade, organic, shade-grown coffee, tea & sugar.

b. Recycle cans, metal tins, bottles, and paper

c. Purchase local products -- organic if possible -- for meals and snacks

d. Use bulk condiments wherever possible (vs. individual packets for sugar)

e. Have pre-consumer composting in the kitchen (what is PRE-consumer composting??)

f. Use reusablemugs and glasses instead of Styrofoam containers , as these are derived from petroleum.

g. Provide pitchers of tap water and glasses instead of water in plastic bottles.

7, In our pre-course Learning Needs & Resource Assessments, we describe what we are doing to become more sustainable and invite our workshop participants to choose one action that they'll undertake to reduce the impact of their participation. We then discuss this during the workshop. It's a great way to get people thinking about -- and acting on-- the topic.

Some Good Initial Steps, But More to Do

Making our actions truly sustainable is an ongoing process. Although we haven't figured it all out (for example, we still need to find a recyclable marker supplier, and we still rely on flying facilitators to courses in other cities), we're pleased that with a bit of creativity, and a modest extra cost, we are able to walk the talk.

For additional ideas on how to green your learning events and meetings, please see:

USFI’s Planning Green Meeting Checklist

Environment Canada’s Green Meeting Guide

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Meetings Website

Your Turn:

What is your best idea for making learning events or other meetings more sustainable? Please post your comments below.

Portions of this blog entry appeared previously @ www.thenaturalstep.org