I've thought of Web conferencing platforms as productivity enhancers and replacements for long-distance travel, but until now, I've never thought of an Internet application as being environmentally friendly. Raindance Communications changed my point of view with a special promotion it ran on Earth Day last Thursday.Raindance offered 1,000 people the opportunity to use its audio, video and Web conferencing tools free for 24 hours as an alternative to hosting off-site meetings. Raindance's goal was to reduce traffic and air pollution by eliminating off-site meetings held on Earth Day that required participants to drive to."There has been lots of validation by companies that Web conferencing helps eliminate business travel," says Brian Burch, chief marketing officer at Raindance. "The software has been adopted to keep people off airplanes...But we are the first to market with something aimed at the internal and external meetings companies hold throughout the day. We're focused on the hidden commute, where people drive to another facility."Dubbed "Make the Road Less Traveled," the promotion revolved around Raindance Meeting Edition, a new version of the company's software released in March. Raindance Meeting Edition features an easier-to-use interface that takes only seconds to set up for an everyday meeting. It also boasts improved video capabilities so that anyone with a Webcam can broadcast a meeting.The Earth Day promotion is the first in a series of marketing initiatives that Raindance plans to show how environmentally friendly its products are."We're going to continue to tout the benefits of a remote meeting tool to eliminate distance travel, and that saves companies significant sums of money," Burch says. "But this is the beginning of a new message to say: Don't forget about the hidden commute. This is so relevant for many companies...and has productivity impacts during the day."Raindance recently commissioned a survey by Harris Interactive that found the average white-collar worker spent 10.9 hours per month traveling to off-site meetings that didn't involve air travel. Harris Interactive extrapolated that finding and asserted that the American workforce spends an average of 250 million hours on the road each month traveling to and from off-site meetings.Indeed, this so-called hidden commute is something the Environmental Protection Agency is interested in. The EPA has found the reason many people don't want to carpool to work or take public transportation is because they need their cars to get to and from meetings during the day."Web conferencing could have a multiplier effect because we could get cars off the road during the day and give people fewer objectives to public transportation," Burch says.