The Effect of Virtual Meetings on the Environment

Due to the worldwide lockdowns in 2020, Internet traffic jumped about 20%. That creates issues for sustainability and the environment:

Turn off that camera during virtual meetings, environmental study says: Simple tips to go green with your internet use during a pandemic — ScienceDaily

The most interesting result is that streaming video (e.g. Zoom conferences) cause most of the increased use of Internet resources. To quote:

“Just one hour of videoconferencing or streaming, for example, emits 150-1,000 grams of carbon dioxide (a gallon of gasoline burned from a car emits about 8,887 grams), requires 2-12 liters of water and demands a land area adding up to about the size of an iPad Mini…”

“…But leaving your camera off during a web call can reduce these footprints by 96%. Streaming content in standard definition rather than in high definition while using apps such as Netflix or Hulu also could bring an 86% reduction, the researchers estimated.”

So, on one hand, going virtual can have benefits. However, our push to treat the Internet as an alternate reality – which must be populated with realistic, high-def video and 3D virtual worlds, could easily reverse any beneficial effects of going virtual.

However, using the Internet more in 2020 may be driving increased interest in the carbon footprint of virtual services. Recently, the Sustainable Web Manifesto made Forbes in this article:

The title itself is a step up – ‘paper free isn’t enough!’ Some progress.

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