Multi-site CCL conferences: More climate advocates, fewer carbon emissions
By Philip Finkelstein
Climate change brings together individuals, groups and organizations across the country, and the world, working together to fix it. And while there’s power in numbers, we also have to consider how to work together without further contributing, sometimes severely, to our collective carbon footprint. For every international conference held on climate action, for example—whether it be in Paris, New York or Tokyo—attendees and organizers expend huge amounts of resources and emissions.
In order to address this within CCL, some volunteers in Eastern Washington and Idaho took a new approach to planning their most recent local conference. They decided to host the conference at a main site in Moscow, Idaho (near the Washington border) and connect via Zoom to a satellite site in Boise, Idaho, creating one big virtual conference. This multi-site approach allowed CCL chapters across expansive areas to connect and discuss important issues without requiring physical attendance. This lowered the carbon footprint of the conference, and it cut down on travel time and costs for volunteers, too.
Tim Dec, one of the main event planners for this event, had long wanted to do a distributed conference using Zoom to connect different venues. Living in the Bay Area, California, where he serves as the co-lead for the Silicon Valley North chapter, Tim also works on chapter development and support in Idaho because of some family ties to the state. Given his frequent travels between California and Idaho, he realized a multi-site virtual conference would provide big benefits in terms of accessibility and emission reduction. He continuously aims to increase the number of CCL chapters in Idaho, and this approach allowed more regional volunteers to actively participate without having to travel long distances.
Main site: Moscow, Idaho
When Tim first got involved, there was only one chapter (CCL Palouse Region) that covered Moscow, Idaho, and Pullman, Washington. Now that he has served as state coordinator of Idaho for the last four years, Tim felt he finally had all the pieces in place to try out a multi-site conference, believing it would facilitate participation in the rural area. CCLers in Moscow and Pullman volunteered to lead the organization of the conference, with co-leads Judy Meuth and Mary DuPree taking the reins to host the main plenary, panel speakers, and a live Climate Advocate Training workshop.
Satellite site: Boise, Idaho
As it would have been a long drive for chapter members in other parts of the state to attend the main conference in Moscow, CCL Boise served as a satellite site for the conference. Having been to plenty of conferences where speakers were videoed in, Tim figured a conference where all the speakers were videoed out to a distant site wouldn’t be a problem.
The Boise team’s site was the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church. In Boise, Victoria Craig lead the coordination of their site with technical support from Greg Weeks and Mark Altekrus to handle sound and video transmission. With the help of Mac Cantrell in Moscow, the programming at the main conference site was streamed to Boise and effectively drew in the crowd. Attendees at this satellite site also had their own live Climate Advocate Training workshop.
In this way, the project realized its goal in bringing members of several chapters together across different venues for meaningful face-to-face connections while providing interesting content and engagement from around the state and country. It went so well, in fact, that they decided to do another presentation, “Why the Weather?” by Steve Ghan at the University of Idaho to attract students and further increase engagement with the community. This was also very well attended, which Tim suspects led to a few more conference signups and increased interest in CCL.
Higher-than-expected turnout at these inaugural events is a good indication that the convenience of multiple sites helps draw in larger crowds, Tim feels. He hopes that this new approach will be adopted in future state and regional conferences. As there are so many areas in the country where distance, terrain and weather can challenge face-to-face conferencing, Tim is confident that this new method of collaboration can serve as a model for other areas, like Alaska, Montana and the Wild West region, where people are spread out and state-level conference attendance has formerly been relatively low. Not only will the adoption of multi-site conferencing bolster participation, Tim sees it as the perfect opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint. “I want our conferences to walk the talk,” he said, “and with a multi-site conference, there is minimal travel, time and cost needed to participate in a diverse and interesting state-level conference while doing just that.”