Online meeting platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams are taking up a lot of room in our everyday life. In the past year, the use of these platforms increased exponentially as a result of the global lockdown.
It is often thought that video conferences are more environmentally friendly than in-person meetings. However, we tend to forget that Internet consumption does produce pollution.
What impact do these platforms have on the environment?
A joint environmental study by Purdue University, Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows that one hour of online meetings can emit up to 1,000 grams of carbon dioxide.
At first glance, it might seem like a very small amount, especially if compared to one litre of gasoline emissions. However, in a global calculation of remote work with continuous online meetings, the figure is extremely relevant.
Renee Obringer, one of the researchers from Purdue University, says that she was surprised when she found out that the total Internet footprint is equivalent to the footprint of Finland and Sweden combined. The researcher states that it is however possible to limit the damages.
There are activities or choices that individuals can make in order to make these platforms greener. We discovered that turning off our videos or reducing the video quality can help decrease the footprint by 96%.
What about the future?
What we have to consider at this point is whether it is convenient to continue with video conferences in a future without the pandemic, or instead, if we should go back to the old in-person meetings. In this regard, Renee Obringer says that it would be better to continue with online work where possible.
I do think that the online work is a step in the right direction and that it is more environmentally friendly. However, we can certainly work to make it more so.