Student’s Corner

Environmental Impacts of Video Calls

Do you prefer having your camera on or off during a Zoom meeting? A new study from Purdue University suggests that leaving the camera off during a video call could cut your environmental impact by up to 96%. Researchers found that leaving your camera off doesn’t only mean you can hide your messy room – it could also help to cut your carbon, land, and water footprints. 

Zoom and other video conference services have been the new norm throughout the pandemic, but they may not be as much of an environmentally-friendly alternative to in-person meetings as many assumed. The study estimates that an hour of video conferencing or streaming emits between 150 and 1000 grams of carbon dioxide. For comparison, 1 gallon of gasoline burned from a car emits about 8,887 grams of carbon dioxide. Video conferencing also utilizes 2-12 liters of water and an area of land around the size of an iPad mini. 

This is not to say we should never turn on our cameras. Having face-to-face conversations, even if it’s through a screen, can be beneficial. For example, many professors prefer students to keep their cameras throughout the class so that the course seems more personal and interactive. It may also help students focus and reduce the fear of participating in class discussions. 

However, there are a few ways to reduce our environmental impact. For starters, turn off screens when you are not using them. If you are listening to music or a podcast, there is less of a need to keep a monitor running. If you plan on talking with some friends but will not be using your camera or the share screen function, consider a traditional phone call instead. Stream videos in standard definition rather than high definition. Doing so may reduce carbon, land, and water footprints by 86%. The conclusion is the more video involved, the higher the footprint.

Written by Emily Su, Class of 2022

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