Are Conferencing Tools Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Avatar for Wouter Maatman
Are Conferencing Tools Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Since Covid-19 everyone is using video conferencing tools. But when people use online tools for learning, teaching, researching, or work, most of them think this is without an impact or cost. It caused a dramatic increase in the amount of time spent on Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, or other virtual meeting platforms. But how sustainable is this? And how does this reflect on the greenhouse gas emissions?

The global climate crisis is basically the result of billions of small, individual actions we do every day. From a science-based perspective, how does the climate impact of turning off your camera compare to other common recommended actions individuals can take to reduce their carbon footprint? A recent study suggests that due to the way that conferencing data is processed and transferred across the Internet, turning off the camera during video calls could reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of virtual conferencing by 96%.

ActionAnnual GHG reduction (kg CO2 equivalent)
One avoided international flight8,920
Replacing incandescent bulbs with a LED 4-pack127
One avoided short car trip per week126
Turning off the desktop computer when not in use110
Turning off-camera during video conferencing 15 hours/week104
Unplugging cell phone charging cube when not in use0,4

Based on this turning off the camera for 15 hours per week of video meetings does have an impact. But if this avoids a trip to the office, an online meeting is an easy way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even with a camera on.

Zoom or Teams?

If we “zoom-in” on specific platforms, we will see that it is possible to save even more greenhouse gas emissions. According to an article on Forbes, Teams uses 2-3 times more CPU time than Zoom for video calls. This translates into greenhouse gas emissions, assuming the device runs on a dirty energy supply. Probably because Zoom is a lighter-weight platform (26Mb) than Microsoft Teams (105Mb) that is not trying to do as much as Teams.

Furthermore, the number of participants in the call affects the amount of electricity used. But also having a blurry or virtual background. Even the smallest decisions reflect on the electricity that is used.

Avatar for Wouter Maatman

Digital Marketing Manager at Icecat N.V.

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