From a village growing all of its food organically to a "huge scar in the earth" coal mine - Whanganui man Tony Sundman's trip to Thailand was one of stark contrasts.

The YMCA youth work co-ordinator, based at the Grey St campus, recently attended the global organisation's Green Ambassadors' training conference in Chiang Mai.

"It was good ... over in a flash," he said of the one-week conference. "It was hot too, I think we maxed out at 37 degrees."

The conference focused on environmental sustainability and Sundman spent each day doing certain activities like visiting a wholly organic village.

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"At that village they grow their vegetables, then they take them to the market and then they sell them there.

"They school their children on site. It was a really beautiful place. They had things like water pumps that were bicycles ... so you pedal the bike and water comes up from the river.

"They looked like they were doing everything right ... they were just glowing."

The next day he and the other YMCA green ambassadors were taken to the Mae Moh coal power plant.

"It was a 1.5km open cast lignite coal mine. It was about 17km long ... a huge scar in the earth.

"The coal itself is actually the poorest burning coal for carbon emissions. Coal's bad and lignite's the worst."

Sundman spent the remaining days doing classwork focusing on little things that can be done to reduce energy use.

He said that gave him ideas of what to do at the YMCA in Whanganui.

"My first step would be to make a team ... a green team who meet up maybe once a month and discuss projects or ways to improve green initiatives within our organisation and possibly the community.

"The more people on board and passionate about it the better the results are."

Sundman also said a lot of people recycled but didn't know how to do it right nor why they were doing it in the first place.

"I need to create information boards around the recycling areas of what can be recycled, why it's important to recycle ... maybe images of animals that are affected by pollution.

"So when they go to the bin instead of just chucking in, there's something to read, something to learn."

Of the 40 to 50 green ambassadors there, Sundman was surprised he was the only one from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands at the conference.