High energy prices and strong evidence of global warming have caused a growing number of companies and individuals around the world to take action to address these issues. This offers an opportunity for the learning function to provide a greener approach to delivery.
Traditionally, the learning function has been everything but environment friendly. We publish glossy course catalogs and marketing brochures; produce full-color training manuals; invite our employees to jump a couple of times a year into their cars or on airplanes to visit training sessions; and leverage large energy-consuming conference and training centers equipped with the latest technology. Reflecting on all of these elements of learning, it’s obvious there are a number of ways we can create a green learning environment.
Market and Communicate Electronically
Training catalogues, posters and other marketing materials easily can be replaced by online equivalents. This would save not just printing, but also mailing and transportation costs. And as many learning functions have discovered, it’s much easier and more cost-effective to make updates to online collateral.
Process Registration Online
Thanks to learning management systems and automated self-service registration portals, there is no need to have a paper-based registration and confirmation process. Still, a number of people have a habit of printing the confirmation, or are even asked to do so! Why not have it on an electronic format? If you issue a confirmation number or some other kind of identifier, there’s no need for a paper copy.
Create New Processes to Distribute Materials
As a learning professional, I admittedly have developed a habit of taking all training manuals home and storing them in my office. One step that could be taken is to provide all training materials on a CD-ROM or flash drive to all participants, thereby saving many trees and the energy required to produce the manuals.
Use More E-Learning and Online Performance Support
There is no doubt that taking learning on a computer compared with commuting to conference centers saves energy and reduces CO2 output. When you consider the sheer volume of learning still delivered in classrooms, it’s easy to see there are tremendous opportunities to make a bigger shift toward e-learning and online performance-support systems. This doesn’t help just the environment: It also can provide more effective and efficient learning and skill development opportunities for learners in a number of areas. Finally, leadership capability assessments, diagnostic tools and course evaluations can move online.
Reduce Travel With Innovative Technology
Supplementing and replacing knowledge-based classroom events with online solutions such as webinars, podcasts and communities of practice can offer the largest reduction in the impact of training on the environment. Additionally, smart choices can be made in travel (e.g., take a train vs. car, drive together with colleagues, combine training events with other meetings).
Support Greener Conference Centers
Much can be done to design and convert to energy-efficient buildings. Opportunities include green choices in heating, biodegradable or ceramic coffee supplies, lighting options such as motion-activated lighting systems and timers to regulate the use of energy, recycling, insulation and others.
So what prevents corporations from implementing a significantly greener approach to learning? As with any transformational change, the leadership of an enterprise must take it seriously and model the way by taking personal and collective action. Here are a few steps your organization can take:
• Create and promote a clear commitment and vision to support green learning as part of the overall corporate social responsibility strategy.
• Address change management early on. A broad-based communication plan must be formulated to acquire the support of the learning community for a green learning environment.
• Address the learners’ concerns. For example, in some situations, learners might prefer reading paper manuals rather than computer screens.
As the saying goes, what doesn’t get measured won’t get done. Therefore, learning functions should develop specific goals to make learning greener and measure progress made against those standards.
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