Training and travel during a climate crisis and a pandemic

Last updated on September 20th, 2023 at 10:19 am

An illustration of a line of passengers with suitcases, wearing masks.

It sounds like the opening chapter of a dystopian novel; the world is being affected by a climate crisis that makes it difficult or impossible for people to live outside, and a concurrent pandemic is making it dangerous to stay indoors with other people.

This world exists today, and it’s not some dark vision about how things might be if we don’t mend our ways. Add to that the new existential threat that AI might bring, and it’s amazing to think that we’ve done this to ourselves (more on AI and machinery safety in another post!)

All of these things have me thinking about how my company, Compliance inSight Consulting (CIC), does business.


The world faces a climate crisis and a pandemic, creating a dystopian reality. Air travel contributes to the climate crisis through CO2 emissions, and COVID-19 has highlighted the need for better ventilation in public spaces. Compliance inSight Consulting (CIC) acknowledges the importance of sustainability in business activities, including reducing travel as much as practicable. While face-to-face meetings have benefits, CIC will encourage virtual collaboration whenever possible to reduce their carbon footprint. The pandemic has taught us the importance of masking, vaccinations, and ventilation. CIC personnel carry a CO2 meter to allow them to help ensure safe indoor air quality during meetings. Travel restrictions and political factors also impact business travel. Face-to-face training has limitations and risks, especially during the pandemic. CIC will carefully evaluate the need for in-person events, considering remote alternatives when possible.

Since I started my career in 1985, travel has been a part of my work life. My first business trip was a two-month stay in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988. After that, travel became more frequent, and I’ve now visited more than 100 cities and towns worldwide.

Things have changed. The climate crisis is real, with daily evidence in the form of floods and mudslides, heat waves, wildfires, extreme storms, cold weather events like the recent snows in Los Angeles, and the devastating wildfires in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Québec.

And then there is the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. 2022 saw the highest number of deaths since the pandemic began in February 2020, and virtually every jurisdiction has chosen to relax public health measures despite evidence that masking, ventilation and vaccination reduce the risk to everyone.

So, with all that in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot about travel and face-to-face meetings, including training.

Climate crisis

Much has been written about the climate crisis, and since I’m neither an expert nor a climate activist, I’ll leave the deep analysis to others. Air travel involves a large carbon footprint, and travel-related carbon-transfer credits are mostly a scam. Sustainability in everything we do is increasingly important, even in very small businesses like CIC. In light of the climate crisis, responsible business practices must include reducing travel as much as practicable as one method to attack the large carbon footprint that travel creates. This is as we wait for the aviation industry to transition to cleaner power sources and for the fossil fuel industry to contract to a sustainable size.

There are times when face-to-face meetings, including training events, are the most effective way to transfer information or collaborate on a project. However, one “gift” the SARS‑2 pandemic gave us is more and better online collaboration tools. While online collaboration is never as good as face-to-face, much can be done to develop plans and ideas using these tools.

From now on, CIC will still participate in face-to-face meetings only where this makes sense, and we will also encourage our clients to work with us virtually as much as possible as we try to reduce our impact on the climate as much as possible.


I was in Thailand at the start of the SARS-2 pandemic in 2020. At that time, no one knew how bad the pandemic would become or the toll it would take on human lives. I got home just as the world was closing down air travel, and I had the privilege to continue my work from my home office as the pandemic grew. Now, masking, vaccinations and improvements to indoor air quality have given us the tools to reduce the impact of COVID-19 and all respiratory diseases, including colds, influenza, RSV, and many others. I haven’t had so much as a cold since 2020, the first time ever in my life I’ve gone that long without at least some minor respiratory illness.

Unfortunately, many workplaces and public meeting rooms in hotels and conference centres are not equipped with ventilation systems that deliver a high enough clean-air delivery rate (CADR) to reduce the risk of airborne transmission of airborne viruses. In colder climates, building engineers have been working on energy efficiency as a primary goal since the 1960s. That meant reducing building air leakage, sealing windows, and reducing heat loss through fresh air exchange. Homes and buildings are now so airtight that other problems have developed, like poor indoor air quality. Before the pandemic began, building codes in North America recommended that heating, ventilating and cooling (HVAC) systems provide about 5-6 air changes per hour (ACH). In the USA, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) published a new public building HVAC code [1] that requires a higher clean air delivery rate (CADR) than pre-pandemic, increasing the ACH rate to 12 changes per hour. This is great for new construction, renovations and retrofits, but that still leaves a great many buildings with inadequate ventilation. To make matters worse, these same buildings often have windows that can’t be opened, so even that simple measure is out of reach.

I now carry a CO2 meter with me. We purchased an ARANET4 meter at Canadian Tire. There are many other CO2 meters on the market besides the ARANET4. I only mention this as it happens to be the one we chose. I don’t have any commercial relationship with either ARANET or Canadian Tire.

I use the CO2 meter to monitor the indoor air quality (IAQ) when I’m in meetings with people. CO2 works as a proxy for other air characteristics. If the CO2 levels creep up, you know the room is not getting enough fresh air, and you can decide to take other actions like leaving the room, opening doors, or switching the ventilation system fan to continuous mode to try to reduce the CO2 level. The ACGIH gives limits for occupational CO2 exposure [2]:

Carbon dioxide (CAS 124-38-9)5000 ppm30 000 ppmAsphyxiation

In the table above, The Time-Weighted Average (TWA) is the exposure level over an 8-hour day and 40-hour week that most workers can tolerate. The Short-term Exposure Limit (STEL) is the 15-minute exposure that should not be exceeded during a work day, even if the 8-hour TWA has not been exceeded.

Quoting from the “Introduction to the chemical substances”:

“TLVs® will not adequately protect all workers. Some individuals may experience discomfprt or even more serious adverse health effects when exposed to a chemical substance at the TLV® or even at concentrations below the TLV®.”


Other sources [3] suggest that the CO2 level in a well-ventilated space will be less than 1 000 ppm and that most public spaces should have CO2 levels below 1 300 ppm. Many people will start to feel symptoms of poor air quality at levels exceeding 1 000 ppm, including cognitive effects, drowsiness, headache, and nausea. If the levels exceed 2 000 ppm, the space should be evacuated until the air quality can be improved. So, even if these recommended values are not exceeded, some people will still experience exposure-related symptoms.

Levels of 5 000 ppm or above can be life-threatening. OSH regulations require the evacuation of workers unless they are wearing a full facepiece respirator with breathing air support. Since the ARANET4 can only measure up to 5 000 ppm, it’s safe to say that I would be long gone by the time the levels got that high.

So, there are tools that can be used to help make sure that face-to-face meetings are held safely. My toolkit includes: maintaining my current vaccination booster status, N95 respirator masks, and CO2 monitoring.

Travel restrictions

Canadian passport

Travelling to other countries to provide training is often difficult due to requirements for visas or other temporary work permits. Every country has the right to control access by non-citizens. Unless you travel on vacation, every country has a range of visas or statuses that can be granted depending on what you want to do in the country. Even vacation travel access usually has the restriction that you are not permitted to work while you are in the country, and the length of your stay is limited. Some countries, like the US and Canada, have temporary business statuses intended to allow a person entry to conduct limited business activities, like attending meetings. You are not allowed to work, meaning you cannot provide services or goods to your customers while visiting, but you can have meetings to discuss business matters. Usually, this does not require any pre-arrangement, although you must carry substantiating documents explaining what you will be doing in the country.

A male customs officer examines a female traveller's documents at a port of entry.

The border and customs officers have the right to detain and question you and to search your belongings. They can also arrest you if you violate the laws of the country you are trying to enter.

These travel restrictions mean that additional planning and costs accompany travel into another country to offer services like consulting or training. The person doing the work may need to obtain a visa or status through a consulate so that they are not prevented from entering the country when they get to the port of entry.

Politics can also affect how tightly controlled entry into a country becomes. With all the many current political concerns in the world, entering even friendly countries may likely be more difficult today than ever.


People in a training class, listening to an instructor

Face-to-face training offers advantages and disadvantages. The risk of acquiring COVID-19 while visiting a client’s facility to train their staff can be significant due to indoor air quality concerns. As long as the pandemic continues, this risk is real and must be considered.

Travel to the meeting place requires high-risk behaviours, including:

  • crowded and poorly ventilated airports and train stations,
  • time spent in enclosed aircraft/trains/buses/taxis with others of uncertain health status,
  • eating indoors in restaurants, and in bars with groups of people, and
  • working and sleeping in poorly ventilated hotels.

Once you get to the training facility, face-to-face training requires additional high-risk behaviours, including:

  • small poorly ventilated rooms,
  • large groups of people,
  • loud speaking,
  • close contact with students and venue staff, and
  • eating and drinking in groups.

Finally, face-to-face training often suffers from additional challenges related to the way this kind of training is usually done:

  • On-site training is often ineffective because students lack enough time to integrate the materials. This results in poor retention of the material.
  • Limited training time means only a superficial topic treatment can be given.
  • Market jurisdictions mean training must be focused on specific regional/national requirements.
  • Workers are taken offline from their normal responsibilities for a prolonged period during the training period.

The problems with quickly delivering a large amount of new information to people in a short time have been studied for many years. Short training periods mean that the learners do not have enough time to integrate the information. The integration process happens as your mind links to things you know well, synthesizing your understanding in ways rooted in your existing knowledge. Dumping a ton of new information into a person’s mind overloads the mind’s ability to integrate the new information into knowledge effectively. The more complex or unfamiliar the training material, the longer the integration process can take. Repeated exposure to the new material also helps. However, if only a few hours or a couple of days are allowed for the training process, there is rarely enough time to repeat challenging concepts or for the learner to integrate the concepts fully. The information that exceeds the mind’s capability is lost. This results in a loss of value to the person and the organization since the goal is to transfer all the information to the learner.

Does this mean that I am against face-to-face training? Not at all. It means that the limitations of this training method need to be considered as part of developing the program. There are many benefits to the approach as well. Many students learn better in live classes than they can in typical online training environments. This is at least in part due to the challenges that individual instructors face in producing teaching materials that are interesting and engaging. Whether it’s videos, exercises, or other techniques, developing engaging training, particularly for highly technical topics, is difficult. The presence of the instructor can offset these challenges in live classes.

What now?

The questions that need to be asked before travel for meetings or training is undertaken are:

  • Can this work be done effectively using remote techniques?
  • Is the work highly collaborative?
  • Is the topic of a sensitive or confidential nature that requires a controlled meeting location for security reasons?
  • Are the time zones between the provider and the client close enough to accommodate reasonable starting and ending times?
  • Is the risk of illness or other consequences acceptable to the person doing the travelling?
  • Is the cost of travel reasonable in light of the benefits to the client?
  • Is getting a visa or status in a reasonable amount of time and cost possible?

If you can answer YES to these questions, then face-to-face engagement is likely the best way forward. CIC will consider all these points before taking on future in-person events. We believe that our customers will understand this approach and that we are contributing to a better future for everyone by following this process.


[1] “The Standards for Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality,” Standards 62.1 & 62.2, (accessed Jun. 18, 2023).

[2] “Threshold Limit Values and Baseline Exposure Indices (TLVs and BEIs)”. American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). Cincinnati. 2023.

[3] “Core Recommendations for Safety Indoor Air.” Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, Dec. 2022. Accessed: Feb. 16, 2023. [Online]. Available:

© 2023, Compliance inSight Consulting Inc. Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.