'Greening' our practice as facilitators

Hexenring in Freiberg by unukorno on flickr

Hexenring in Freiberg by unukorno on flickr

The two worlds I straddle - sustainability and process - interweave in all sorts of ways. And one of those ways involves challenging myself, and other facilitators, about the sustainability of our own practice.  And although I've called this blog post 'greening' our practice, of course there are the social and ethical aspects of sustainability as well as the environmental ones to consider.


There are some obvious, relatively easy things we can do to improve the direct impact of workshops and meetings.  At a recent IAF England and Wales meetup, we built a list of the things we are already doing: our 'easy hacks'.  Lots about resource-efficiency: reusing, refilling and recycling the paper, pens and other stationery we use. The IAF list also touched on travel - choosing a venue which is easy to get to by public transport and finding ways to make lift-sharing possible.

And venues sometimes do their bit too - the pictures after the list are from NCVO's meeting rooms in London.  If you're providing food: local, seasonal, plant-based and watch the waste!  I worked with a client recently who specified that all catering should be vegetarian. One venue excelled themselves, even including a vegan blackberry jelly.  The other clearly couldn't believe the request, and included ham and tuna sandwiches in the lunch. 

The jumbo in the room

And I'm glad that we picked up travel at our IAF meeting, because it really is the jumbo in the room.  This guide to running 'greener' meetings by the ICLEI contains the startling statistic that over 87% of the CO2 emissions associated with a particular conference were due to transport.  That paper we worry so much about? 0.5%. The inventory was done on an international conference in Brussels, which is a bit different to a workshop for people who are based nearby. But that's the point. Consider the distances and travel modes carefully.  How much can be done by meeting virtually?  How easy is it for people to get to venue by public transport?  Can you help people who need to drive, to car share? If people walk or cycle to the venue, is it safe to do so?  Make sure the details about where the event will be held are helpful to non-drivers.

Bang for your buck

There is a trade off between the benefits your participants get from the event, and the (negative) sustainability impacts it has.  Help your client ensure that the event has really clear aims (free download), is well designed and organised, and that participants get a fabulous experience which was worth it! 

A comic take on this

I explored the environmental impact of facilitation in the wonderful Sustainable Stand Up course I did recently.  See this video for what I found out.

follow this up

Here are some places you can find out more:

Thanks for ideas and leads

I got a great response from a couple of LinkedIn groups - Sustainability Professionals and the UK Facilitation Network. (These are LinkedIn groups so you need to be a member to see the posts.) Thanks in particular to Adrian Tan for pointing me towards the ICLEI guide mentioned above.