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Sustainable facilitation

One of the feedback comments on a recent workshop was: “So much waste. Is there a more environmentally friendly way than post-its?”, which is a very good point; after I typed up all the notes I recycled A LOT of post-its, so I have been thinking about what a more sustainable option would be.

Photo of a whiteboard wall covered in post-it notes of various sizes and colours (photo by Hugo Rocha on

Photo by Hugo Rocha on Unsplash

I know about the “green post-its” which are produced using recycled paper (and cost more than normal ones!) which I am switching to even though it smacks of greenwashing. But I’m hoping there are better options out there. I went down the rabbit hole researching this and so far I’m a bit unsatisfied with the options.

Someone I spoke to about this said they work in a university and the rooms have big interactive whiteboard screens that people can put virtual sticky notes on via their laptops, and those can be moved around by hand on the screen! The dream! If you’re somewhere that has invested in that level of infrastructure, that’s brilliant. For a freelance facilitator who has a limited amount of control over the venue I end up working in, I can only look on with envy!

In this recent session (where the feedback came from) we were in a great space actually, and we did have use of a big whiteboard on the wall and two flipchart-stands-also-whiteboards on wheels – all very handy and saved on big sheets of paper. For individual thinking though and collecting ideas into one place, it’s useful to have the function post-its offer: small annotated items you can bring together, order, move around, remove, reorder, etc.

I could use small cards or chopped up paper, with blutac to stick them in place. A colleague does this to reuse the blank side of once-printed paper, in the office. Actually, looking up at the various notes around and above my desk, I do too! I couldn’t reuse scrap paper in a client workshop though, I would have to vet carefully what I’m reusing so I’m not accidentally sharing other project information, and it feels too scrappy and unprofessional to me.

Post-it notes are recyclable including the glue, so using scrap paper and blutac doesn’t offer a substantial advantage, and creates more fiddly process removing and saving all the blutac. It does offer the option to use both sides of the card or paper before recycling though. Post-its are also coloured and even with the basic yellow ones, they stand out better on a whiteboard or white wall or paper background than white paper or card. I suppose the alternative would be to use coloured paper or card, but that’s not reusing scrap paper then.

I reminded myself (while sorting out the facilitation stores!) that I recently acquired a “sticky wall” second hand, which is a large sheet of lightweight nylon fabric, lightly adhesive, which enables you to stick paper on it directly (instead of post-its that carry their own glue). However the fabric needs to be cleaned and re-treated with repositionable spray mount (in between each use) in order to have the right amount of stickiness to be usable, and that comes in an aerosol can. It doesn’t feel quite right still.

I’m also a big fan of the “magic whiteboard” which is super handy when you’ve got to treat the walls with care and not leave greasy blutac stains. (It’s a flipchart-sized sheet of light white plastic that sticks to the wall by static cling: no adhesive, no marks, no damage!) It’s reusable a few times if you’re careful with it and wrap it back onto the roll at the end. If you use it like a whiteboard though, it’s pretty much single use as the ink interacts with the sheet and imprints shapes into it. It feels icky throwing plastic away and although I put it in with the “soft plastics” I’m not sure how recyclable it is in reality.

For now I’ve got my “green post-its” (the recycled ones not the colour) and I’ll keep my eyes peeled for other more sustainable options.