Teleconferencing for the planet: wiping out Scope 3 emissions through remote meeting best practices

This article focuses on just one aspect of curbing Scope 3 emissions: business travel. Based on our experience at GreenerU, teleconferencing or remote meetings, when done well, can supplant a great many greenhouse emissions from road or air travel—and save you time and money in the process.

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Like the elusive walleye or escaped zoo hippos, Scope 3 emissions are among the most elusive of greenhouse gas emissions to wrangle.

Second Nature describes Scope 3 emissions for higher education institutions as “emissions from sources that are not owned or controlled by the campus, but that are central to campus operations or activities (e.g. non-fleet transportation, employee/student commuting, air travel paid for by your institution).”

Where campuses can upgrade equipment and fixtures to curb Scopes 1 and 2 emissions, Scope 3 reductions are dependent upon mass behavior change by hundreds or thousands of individuals on campus. And that is a daunting challenge for campuses aiming for carbon neutrality.

This article focuses on just one aspect of curbing Scope 3 emissions: business travel. Based on our experience at GreenerU, teleconferencing or remote meetings, when done well, can supplant a great many greenhouse emissions from road or air travel—and save you time and money in the process.

Let me give you an example. For me to travel from our office in Watertown to Boston for a meeting, I would drive 20 miles and be on the road for at least an hour. That means I’m contributing 18 pounds of carbon equivalent to our atmosphere, according to this model. After adding the stress and costs of driving, traffic, and finding parking, plus slowly choking our atmosphere, it’s difficult to make a case for meeting in person.

GreenerU’s consulting client list has included campuses as far afield as North Carolina, Michigan, and Texas. But in spite of our tight-knit relationships, we don’t spend a lot of time on the road. We typically host weekly hour-long check-in meetings with our key stakeholder groups—and thanks to technology, we can conduct these meetings just as effectively remotely as we might in person.

So how can you, too, host teleconferences effectively and smoothly? Though you will no longer need to have your tuxedo dry cleaned, get a blow out, or print out copies of your headshot (that’s how people prepare for in-person meetings, right?), there are still things to prepare and keep in mind to make sure meeting goes off with as few hitches as possible. (Because let’s be honest…technology.)

  1. Prepare your meeting goals, agenda, and materials as if you were meeting in person. Just because no one will be in the room, it is still important to prepare a detailed agenda and any documents you hope to discuss before your call. Make sure to send it out to your meeting attendees well in advance, and follow up the day before the meeting, too.
  2. Ask attendees to shut down unnecessary computer applications during the meeting. This will help people stay focused on the task at hand when calendar invites, Amazon advertisements, and emails are begging for their attention on their computer screens.
  3. Set up screen-sharing capabilities. Time is one of those underrepresented commodities in life. Sharing your screen will cut down on time wasted getting everyone (literally) on the same page. Before your meeting, establish a screen-sharing application (e.g., GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, Zoom, WebEx) for all meetings in which you hope to share documents. You can take full control of navigating your documents so that the client only has to worry about providing insights and feedback. See my tips and tricks for teleconferencing.
  4. Ensure a strong phone and internet connection. These may seem like no-brainers, but weak connections contribute the majority of disruptions during our remote meetings. Give yourself at least 15 minutes to set up all of your documents, your conference line, and your screen sharing before your meeting begins. This will give you enough time to make sure that you aren’t in, say, a black hole of cell phone service before your meeting participants join. And you can start your meeting focused on what’s important: the agenda.

By no means is teleconferencing a panacea for climate change, nor is it a substitute for an old-fashioned firm handshake and eye-to-eye contact. But for routine check-ins, long-distance meetings, and document review, we can start to chip away at this hunk of Scope 3 emissions through wise investments of our time and energies into hosting effective meetings remotely.

—Julia Weeks has been GreenerU’s program associate with the change management team since January 2017. She’s been on the other line in hosting remote meetings for the Ivy+ Sustainability Consortium, Concord Academy, and AASHE. She is always happy to take your call (781-209-5670).


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