Conferences and Your Carbon Footprint: The most expensive and least efficient way to access new information

May 24, 2016

Summary: Most of the time and effort and money invested in traveling to a conference has nothing to do with learning; we should consider the lack of learning efficiency, or learning inefficiency, and the massive costs in transportation, plus the residual carbon footprint


Air-travel leaves a huge carbon footprint

Article: Specific Climate Impact of Passenger and Freight Transport Environ. Sci. Technol., 2010




What time-money costs are involved in "going to a conference"?

  1. Trip planning: flight, hotel, car. 

  2. Flight costs $750, car/taxi/shuttle $100,

  3. hotel at $150 per night for 3 nights

  4. Travel: packing clothes/computer/toiletries (.5-1),

  5. to airport parking (.5-1),

  6. check-in and waiting (.5-1),

  7. time spent passing security (.5-1),

  8. flight, (2-4 hours),

  9. finding/using taxi/shuttle/rental to hotel (.5-1)

  10. Care/sitting/supervision children/pets—$200 is common; not included in tabulation

  11. Searching for and buying food at new location: hassle, more expensive: estimated here at 1 hour per 2 days X2 (add $50 for travel/lost food)

  12. Not included here is social time and time spent at vendor’s tables where you may/not pickup glossy catalogs (mostly never read)

  13. Actual attendance at presentation = real value = this is the learning process and experience: how much are you paying per hour for CME—$100 per hour? Let’s assume $100 per hour for 16 hours. Of course, not all presentations are good, so some of the time is wasted. 

  14. finding/using taxi/shuttle/rental to airport (.5-1)

  15. Return flight and security....

  16. to airport parking (.5-1),

  17. check-in and waiting (.5-1), security (.5-1),

  18. flight, (2-4 hours),

  19. UNpacking clothes/computer/toiletries (.5-1)

Conferences are good for meeting people, if that is the goal. If the goal is learning and mastering material, then books and especially video-supported books such as Inflammation Mastery or the two-volume version as Textbook of Clinical Nutrition and Functional Medicine are clearly the better use of time, energy and funds for learning.


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