How do virtual meetings impact the environment?

What if we told you that you could have a positive impact on the planet by moving your next meeting, conference, or town hall to an online platform?

Studies have shown that 2020’s shift to remote work brought on by the pandemic has drastically reduced carbon emissions. A clear link to this reduction is the global pause on travel. Travel restrictions quickly forced businesses worldwide to change the way they meet. But how has the global shift to virtual meetings impacted our environment? Let’s take a look…

  • An in-person conference/event that hosts 1000 participants results in 1,252,920 lbs of CO2 emissions whereas a virtual or hybrid event would result in as little as 7,699 lbs of CO2 emissions. (These numbers account for air travel, land transportation, commute, and food waste)
  • For smaller in-person events and meetings of only 50 people, there is still a total of 62,645lbs of CO2 emissions, whereas virtual and hybrid meetings bring that number down to 385 lbs of CO2 emissions.
In-person vs. hybrid and remote work

As the world reopens, it’s important to consider the benefits of in-person work vs. hybrid and remote work. Not only do you immediately and significantly lower your carbon footprint with hybrid and remote work, but it’s also less expensive, especially for larger events. Expenses like airfare, hotel, food, etc. are non-existent when it comes to working remotely.

While the shift from in-person to virtual isn’t a miracle fix, it does drastically reduce carbon emissions. However, you may be asking where the leftover carbon emissions are coming from if not from air travel, commute, etc.

The answer may surprise you.

Depending on your platform, one hour of streaming video, whether for a conference or entertainment, requires 2-12 liters of water, land area, and can emit 150 to 1,000 grams of carbon dioxide. According to a recent study, information and communications technologies could consume up to 20% of the global energy demand by 2030.

The good news is that there are small things we can do collectively to combat this. Researchers estimate that we could reduce our carbon footprint by 86% by streaming content in standard definition instead of HD when given the choice.

Studies also show that leaving your camera off during videoconferencing calls can also reduce your carbon footprint by 96%. Understandably, this may not be a viable option for all of us, as body language is essential in everyday conversation. But, in situations where your body language isn’t critical (if you aren’t an active participant or just passively watching a presentation), try switching the camera off until it’s time to actively participate. Some platforms like KUDO even give meeting holders the option to control camera accessibility. This way, cameras are only on when participants are speaking.

Are these the miracle quick fixes we’ve been searching for? No. And it goes without saying that many of us rely on video conferencing now more than ever. But small changes like watching your favorite TV show in standard definition instead of HD, or switching your camera off every once in a while – on a global scale- could be the beginning of a healthier planet.

Sources: Purdue University, Yale University, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, ScienceDaily

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