A framework to estimate emissions from virtual conferences

image

How do you measure energy usage from a virtual conference?

Faber’s system for gauging the energy usage from a virtual conference looks at: Lifecycle emissions: The raw materials and resources needed to build and distribute the computers used, as well the electricity needed to run them Network data transfer: Energy used for uploading and downloading data by computers

Are virtual meetings and conferences bad for the environment?

“While virtual meetings and conferences are generally far superior to physical gatherings in terms of emissions, there is still a considerable amount of emissions that can be attributed to virtual activities,” he says. “We can calculate these emissions, and individuals, companies, and governments can take action to reduce them.”

How are computer and monitor emissions calculated?

Computer and monitor emissions are estimated by tallying total life cycle emissions based on the number of hours they were used for the conference. Emissions from network data transfer and server use were calculated using their respective energy consumption during the conference.

How can we reduce virtual activity’s environmental impact?

Platforms such as Zoom may be able to decrease data rates while preserving quality simply by updating their software and servers. And powering computers, network infrastructure, and data centers with renewable energy can reduce emissions of virtual activities in a substantial way.

image


How are computer and monitor emissions calculated?

Computer and monitor emissions are estimated by tallying total life cycle emissions based on the number of hours they were used for the conference. Emissions from network data transfer and server use were calculated using their respective energy consumption during the conference.


What journal is Grant Faber’s study published in?

The research is published in the International Journal of Environmental Studies and is supported by the U-M’s Global CO2 Initiative. Study: A framework to estimate emissions from virtual conferences. Grant Faber.


How can zoom reduce data rates?

Platforms such as Zoom may be able to decrease data rates while preserving quality simply by updating their software and servers. And powering computers, network infrastructure and data centers with renewable energy can reduce emissions of virtual activities in a substantial way.


Does virtual conferencing have an impact on the environment?

Grant Faber, a research assistant with the Global CO2 Initiative at the U-M College of Engineering, said the method he developed shows that virtual conferencing’s environmental impacts remain significant, particularly in light of increasing internet connectivity and use of video conferencing.


How much carbon does a virtual conference emit?

Putting on a one-day virtual conference with about 200 participants resulted in carbon emissions roughly equivalent to that of driving almost 3,300 miles or burning nearly 1,500 pounds of coal, according to a new study.


How can we reduce virtual conference emissions?

Perhaps the most powerful strategy for reducing virtual conference emissions would be to decarbonize the electrical grid. If solar electricity were used for conference-associated activities where possible the overall emissions generated by the conference would fall by three-quarters to just 344 kg of carbon dioxide, Faber calculated.


What did Faber do for the conference?

Faber came up with an approach that could also be used for other conferences, lectures, tours, and other virtual events in the future. He gathered information on emissions associated with the computers, monitors, and desk lights used by conference attendees; video streaming during the conference and search engine queries and website visits made as a result of the conference; and pre-conference planning meetings, which were also conducted over Zoom.


How long was the Zoom conference?

Faber analyzed the climate impact of a virtual conference—6 hours of large Zoom meetings—that brought together researchers interested in carbon removal and sequestration in May 2020.


How can tech companies improve the environment?

Meanwhile, tech companies can develop more durable, repairable computers; use less emissions-intense energy and materials; and build more energy efficient Internet infrastructure. And governments can design policies to promote such actions.


Is decarbonization happening overnight?

But this level of decarbonization won’t happen overnight, nor can it be accomplished by individuals, so thinking about the climate impact of our Internet activities is still important, Faber says. “While virtual meetings and conferences are generally far superior to physical gatherings in terms of emissions, there is still a considerable amount of emissions that can be attributed to virtual activities,” he says. “We can calculate these emissions, and individuals, companies, and governments can take action to reduce them.”


How are computer and monitor emissions estimated?

Computer and monitor emissions are estimated by tallying total life cycle emissions based on the number of hours they were used for the conference. Emissions from network data transfer and server use were calculated using their respective energy consumption during the conference. Conference-related website visits and search engine queries also generated emissions that were uncovered using existing estimates per visit and per search.


What is lifecycle emissions?

Lifecycle emissions: The raw materials and resources needed to build and distribute the computers used, as well the electricity needed to run them. Network data transfer: Energy used for uploading and downloading data by computers. Additional online meetings necessary for conference planning.


Does virtual conferencing have an impact on the environment?

Grant Faber, a research assistant with the Global CO2 Initiative at the College of Engineering, said the method he developed shows that virtual conferencing’s environmental impacts remain significant, particularly in light of increasing connectedness to the internet and use of video conferencing software.


Digital carbon footprint and virtual events

As we discussed in one of our previous blogs, ‘ Which areas contribute the most to an event’s footprint? ’, the main areas that contribute to an in-person event’s footprint are travel, food, materials and waste. This was estimated to be over 170 kilograms of CO2 emissions per day for an average conference attendee.


Subscribe to receive emails

Keep up to date with the latest news from our Sustainable Conferencing Initiative.


We want to hear from you

As we begin this project, we want to gather brief case studies from conference organisers, speakers and delegates about interesting conference models and intriguing new technologies.

image

Leave a Comment