The True Carbon Cost of Training

The True Carbon Cost of Training

When we consider the cost of a training session, mostly we think of the financial side; hotels, trains/hire care, the hiring of the venue, catering etc. But there is another side to all Face-to-Face (F2F) events that is rarely measured.

Despite how much media attention the current climate crisis is receiving, we continue to make journeys to training events that are avoidable. Though virtual engagement is on the rise; swapping F2F meetings/training/conferencing to a digital is only slowly catching on in some organisations.

But are they aware of the full, true cost of this choice?

Last year, we worked with a client who were interested in saving money on their training. They realised they weren’t tracking the cost of travel for the workshop participants; often these costs were absorbed into personal or local cost codes, so there was no way of knowing exactly how much of the budget was going into travel and hotels when it was related to Learning and Development (L&D).

They were mainly interested in the financial cost to the business but had not really considered the carbon costs to the environment with all the travel.

First, some details.

The F2F workshop was the topic of “Time Management” and was set to last 3 hours. It was delivered in Peterborough, a city in the centre of the UK. It was scheduled for a Monday morning, which by its nature, incurred extra cost due to some participants having to stay overnight the day before.

There were 14 participants coming from all over the UK; from as far as Edinburgh and Exeter.

Here is an approximate breakdown of the carbon created from their journeys. (Note: all journeys have been calculated as returns).

Three of the participants were coming from Peterborough but the rest travelled from; -

Liverpool to Peterborough – 12.58 kgs

Newcastle – 66 kgs (for 2 participants)

London – 26.24 kgs (for 2 participants)

Tunbridge Wells – 19.34 kgs

Edinburgh – 49.16 kgs

Exeter – 43.49 kgs

Birmingham – 15.8 kgs

Lincoln – 9.42 kgs

Bristol – 29.55 kgs

Total - 271.58 kgs

That’s enough to fill a double decker bus with CO2! Or to provide the energy use of an average house for 7.63 days. That’s is an incredible amount of carbon that could have been mitigated by using Virtual Training rather than F2F and doesn’t take into consideration the carbon generated by the workshop itself nor the overnight stays incurred by the journey!

For participants travelling overseas it gets even worse.

For a workshop in Amsterdam, held midweek with fourteen participants from around Europe the carbon cost reaches a staggering 3,922.02 kgs in flights. That is enough carbon to provide a house with energy use for 110 days.

The carbon costs for a workshop held in Chicago, with participants from all over the USA, works out even higher.

Carbon costs like these are unnecessary when Virtual Training is an option.

We were already running virtual workshops for the company but only when they didn’t feel they had enough people to justify a F2F workshop.

Due to this surprising hidden cost of travel, they decided to run the workshop virtually next time. People logged in from similar locations to the above around the UK. We reduced the workshop to 100 minutes long and still covered all the original content.

The feedback from the participants was just as strong as the F2F session, it took less time to run and the travel cost was reduced to zero. This meant there was no additional cost to the company and significantly less impact on the environment.

Have you thought about how you could lessen your impact on the planet and lessen your own spend at the same time? What F2F events can you take virtual?

Want to learn other ways you can reduce your L&D carbon footprint? We have loads of ideas in our free ebook - How L&D Can Its Part In This Climate Emergency. Click the button for the download.

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