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ALTC 2010: Why waste a good crisis? Delivering an exclusively online international academic conference

Terese Bird, Simon Kear, Richard Mobbs, Emma Davies

Cloud created by:

The Cloudworks Team
31 August 2010

Extra content

Carbon footprint report for the online conference being reported on in Why Waste a Good Crisis?

Learning Futures Festival 2010 (LFF10) Carbon Costs


Between 7th & 14th January Beyond Distance Research Alliance (BDRA) held its annual conference, Learning Futures Festival 2010 (Positively Disruptive), online.

The conference comprised:

8 daily Keynote speakers;
8 daily summaries/introductions from Prof Gilly Salmon
24 papers ;
16 Second Life events
6 asynchronous events  (spread over several days).

Totalling over 50 hours of live presentations.

Printed publicity for the conference was kept to a minimum; BDRA etal using existing mailing lists and Web sites. This attracted the following registrations.

Registrations for LFF10

The conference attracted 231 attendees whose distribution is shown in the following table:

Type of Registration




External (International)


External (National)


Internal to UoL


Keynote Speakers (International)


Keynote Speakers (National)




Virtual Travel Miles

If every registrant were to attend the conference in person then the total mileage covered is shown in the following table:

International “attendees” (47) would had flown (round trip)

282273 air miles

External National “attendees” (80) would have driven (round trip)

20939 road miles

Carbon Footprint Savings of Conference

In calculating the CO2 saving for the conference we have made the following assumptions:

Assumptions International Attendees:

Each attendee had a 50mile round trip to the local airport
All International flights flew into London at an average of 0.44lbs of CO2 per air mile[1]
Train to Leicester[2]
Taxi to Oadby
7 nights stay

Assumptions National Attendees:

All UK attendees used their cars and no-one travelled by train. [1]
Every car was a Ford Focus average annual mileage 12,000 = 8695lbs of CO2 per year

Assumptions UoL Attendees:

All UoL attendees used their cars.
Every car was a Ford Focus average annual mileage 12,000 = 8695lbs of CO2 per year
An average 8miles round trip to the Oadby Conference Centre.

Carbon Footprint Calculation (International)


Ibs of CO2

47 attendees 50miles roundtrip to airport


282273 air miles @ .44 lb per mile


Train roundtrip


Taxi to Oadby


Accommodation (47)




Carbon Footprint Calculation (National)


Ibs of CO2

20939 miles @ .44lb per mile


Accommodation (80)




Carbon Footprint Calculation (UoL Internal)


Ibs of CO2

88 * 8 miles @ .44lb per mile


Accommodation (80) (non-residential)




Carbon Footprint Savings of Conference


Ibs of CO2

Carbon Footprint Calculation (International)


Carbon Footprint Calculation (National)


Carbon Footprint Calculation (UoL Internal)




Conference Carbon Footprint – Balancing the Equation

It is estimated that the average PC puts 1000lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere every year[3]. This equates .92lbs of CO2 per 8 hour day. If we were to assume the extreme case where every attendee was online for 8 hours, then the carbon cost of the 8 day conference is shown in the following table:


Carbon Footprint Calculation of Conference Attendees


Ibs of CO2

231 * 8days * .92





This gives a CO2 saving of:

CARBON SAVING: 226730.57lbs of CO2


1. terrapass : Accessed 19 Jan 2010. 10 trips very evaluated to give an average of .44lb per air mile.

2. : Accessed 19 Jan 2010 (London to Leicester  return 46.2 lbs)

3. Green IT Toolkit :,1000000121,39283396,00.htm Accessed 19 Jan 2010


Other Calculations (approximate)

47 Flights 80 cars = 102,000lbs of CO2

156,262.4lbs of CO2


Dr Richard Mobbs
Beyond Distance Research Alliance, University of Leicester
January 2010

Terese Bird
13:48 on 7 September 2010 (Edited 13:50 on 7 September 2010)

Embedded Content


Terese Bird
2:36pm 7 September 2010

If they build a discussion board, will they come?

Juliette Culver
3:11pm 7 September 2010

I'm not at ALT-C so didn't see the talk but was curious if they compared e.g. number of international participants with previous non-virtual years? I'm guessing you'd get more international participants at a virtual conference than a real-life one. I'd also interested as to how different the figures are if you assume people travel by train rather than car.

The annual OU conference might have comparison interesting stats here given it was held virtually this year but in real life in previous years. 

Terese Bird
4:51pm 8 March 2011

Hi Juliette,

No we didn't do the report that way. It does make sense to do it the way you describe; I take your point about the virtualness of the conference encouraging international participation where there would not have been as much. We did the report simply based on everyone who attended virtually, and how much CO2 would have been spent if they attended physically.. and subtracting how much CO2 is spent by a PC being turned on for 8 hours per conference day.


In case you are interested, our next international Learning Futures Festival is happening 13-15 April 2011, early bird rates until 25 March ---


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