Increase Your Carbon Footprint – Move Your Content Online
People, Planet and Profit: these are the three factors that the United Nations incorporated into standards for public sector full-cost accounting and other benchmarks. Called the triple bottom line, these three pillars make up the evaluation of an organization’s commitment to social responsibility.
Shifting printed meeting material to online formats saves money and gives you green bragging rights. But I’ve come to the conclusion that the move will not move your organization’s triple bottom line rating to a higher level.
Consider my arguments…
Triple Bottom Line Pillar 1: People
As an organization that creates and delivers knowledge, your responsibility to the people you serve is to make sure they receive that knowledge. Your content delivery method (i.e., the types of media) may be a barrier to the delivery of knowledge if you limited the methods. Believe it or not, many people still prefer to print before they read.) See our article “Debunking the Myths of the “Paperless Conference.”
While attendees of all ages value and learn with print, consider (yes, this is a bit stereotyping, but…) your senior, long standing member, over 60, a leader in your community, who has been reading your content in printed form for years. Can you afford the cost to turn him down – make getting his/her content more difficult? Heck, maybe it makes good business sense to make it easier (less expensive or free) to provide him/her a printed version. Just a thought.
Triple Bottom Line Pillar 2: Planet
Moving your conference content online will not reduce the energy consumed in sharing that content… it can actually increase your carbon footprint.
The cost to store and access data is NOT free – data centers are a huge consumers of energy resources – not just to run computer but to provide air-conditioning, battery backup, lighting, expenses that add up to 60% of the cost of a Data Center. And unless you have your conference content locked down on a server the world can’t see (bad idea at least for a portion of your content and helping your organization stay relevant) your content is indexed on dozens, of if you are lucky, hundreds of servers.
Our government in 2007 estimated that our energy use by computer data centers would double by 2011 and by 2020 the CO2 emissions will grow to be twice the airline industry’s emissions.
Are attendees, non-attendees printing their handouts?
Our estimates are that personal printers (especially inkjets) are 4 to 20 times more costly to run than the specialty printers at Omnipress and result in more waste. Using a printer to produce books or handouts for attendees and shipping them to an event is more energy efficient and cost effective than making attendees print things out at home.
Triple Bottom Line Pillar 3: Profits
The key to generating profits is to provide value, and it’s an organization’s job to determine just what that value is. If your attendees, members, and I’d go so far as to include your entire community, if they value the content you provide and want to consume that content in digital or printed media – is any media bad? Does that not contribute to your mission and your triple bottom line? Saying it a different way, do you really think it makes good business sense, good for your mission, to deny them of that content, deny them of learning and thus deny your organization of profits?
The bottom line is there are cost-effective, environmentally balanced, valuable ways to use the efficiency and reach of electronic communications with the power of print to streamline your content delivery – solutions that align with your triple bottom line that benefits people, the planet and profits.
Are you adding value with your electronic distribution of content or is it just a cost-saving decision (while ignoring other costs) and justifying it by calling it “green”? Let’s bring back some meaning into the intent of the “green” movement. We have taken our environmental impact serious for years.
What do you think?
Does your organization consider your triple bottom line when you make decisions?