Greenpeace: Take a page from your paper-waste playbook

Conferences may not be fully virtual for a while -- but surely they can use less paper

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In Greenpeace's defense, perhaps there's a compelling reason to distribute paper materials when electronic materials are readily available. Maybe studies show that the press is more likely to cover your story if you give them tangible material as a reference and reminder -- and the more you give them, the more they'll write.

That argument shines a light on the challenge organizations have in embracing greener practices: striking a balance between sustainability and business success. GreenNet certainly would've been greener had it been a virtual event, for example, with a Web portal guiding attendees to streaming video presentations, chat rooms, and PDFs.

But would it have attracted as many people? Would it have been as interactive and engaging? Would it have been as successful? Having checked out a couple of online events, I'd have to say no. As it stands, the technology isn't really available to provide an equivalent experience with a reduced environmental impact.

Sure, telepresence, videoconferencing, and other collaboration tools can work just fine for e-learning -- where the focus is generally on just one person -- or in face-to-face meetings. But for the time being, there's really no way to pull off a larger-scale forum or conference, the success of which relies on the ability for a large group of people to interact. Don't take my word for it -- Dennis Yang at Techdirt shares this view.

Organizers of GreenNet did, by the way, make efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the event, including carbon offset. Distributing lunches in individual cardboard boxes, in which each food item was individually wrapped or packaged in plastic, seemed a little less than green, but that strays from the IT topic until such time that we can distribute calories over IP.

I do think, however, that Greenpeace, of all organizations, could have used a green-tech forum to better demonstrate how technology can be used to make business processes greener. Why hand out three pages, some in color, in a paper folder with a business card when one piece of paper (or perhaps even none) would suffice? Every little bit of conservation helps, right?

This story, "Greenpeace: Take a page from your paper-waste playbook," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in green IT and read more of Ted Samson's Sustainable IT blog at

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