Lights, no camera, action: Study recommends energy saving during virtual meetings

It’s no secret that the pandemic prompted a surge in video chat use even though the technology has existed for years. If you suffer from “Zoom fatigue” like I do, you’ll probably appreciate the main recommendation from an environmental study from Purdue UniversityYale University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: Turn off your video camera during virtual meetings to reduce your carbon footprint.

Because of how internet data is transferred and stored, more video use equals a larger carbon footprint. Data processing uses a lot of electricity, and electricity production has carbon, water, and land use impacts.

  • The researchers estimate that one hour of videoconferencing or streaming video produces 150 to 1,000 grams of carbon dioxide, consumes 2 to 12 liters of water, and requires land area about the size of an iPad Mini.
  • Turning off the camera during a virtual call can reduce the impacts by 96%, researchers estimate. While using video streaming apps like Netflix or Hulu, an 86% impact reduction can be achieved by streaming in standard definition instead of high definition.
  • Numerous countries have reported at least a 20% increase in internet traffic since last March. If that level of internet use sustains through this year, a forest of about 71,600 square miles (double the size of Indiana) would be needed to sequester the carbon emissions, and the water needed would fill more than 300,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • The internet’s carbon footprint already was increasing prior to the pandemic, accounting for about 3.7% of greenhouse gas emissions. Internet data processing and transfer in the U.S. is about 9% higher than the world median, but a 45% lower water footprint and 58% lower land footprint. “If you just focus on one type of footprint, you miss out on others that can provide a more holistic look at environmental impact,” said Roshanak “Roshi” Nateghi, an industrial engineering professor at Purdue.

Today’s headlines:

🚀 SPACE: Purdue also is among the places where research is occurring into new green hybrid energy solutions for rockets and spacecraft, reports Tech Digest. Graphene — a strong, single-layer, 2D material that conducts electricity and heat — is showing promise for numerous space applications.

🔬 RESEARCH: In other graphene news, scientists at Washington University in St. Louis discovered how to add electrical charge to a thin graphene device by layering flakes of another thin material, ruthenium chloride (RuCl3), on top of it. They found that only a single layer of RuCl3 is necessary for transferring charge, and the process works with several other materials besides graphene.

🌞 RENEWABLES: Black & VeatchBurns & McDonnellSavion, and MRIGlobal are among the Kansas City-area companies at the forefront of the surge in solar and wind technologies, reports the Kansas City Business Journal. The tech and energy revolution is being driven by a number of factors, including municipal and corporate sustainability pledges.

🚘 TRANSPORTATION: Colorado regulators approved Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy’s $110 million transportation electrification plan, reports Utility Dive. The plan includes installing up to 20,000 electric vehicle charging stations and implementing programs to help manage the new charging load.


  • Also in Colorado, ProStar Holdings announced that the state’s Department of Transportation is requiring that utilities and utility installation stakeholders use the company’s software platform to collect and record the precise locations of underground utilities. The goal is to improve existing utility record accuracy and prevent underground utility damage caused by inaccurate location data.
  • Agtech company Terra Verra launched in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with patented technology to promote cleaner, pesticide-free crops. The technology reportedly eliminates pathogens and other crop contaminants safely, compared to competitors’ solutions that are toxic and risk damaging soil, water, plants, and animals.


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