The surprising reason you should turn your camera off during Zoom calls

To all of you who have been keeping their cameras off during Zoom calls, well done. You may have simply been trying to hide your face, but what you might not have realized is that you were drastically cutting your carbon footprint.

In a new study, researchers analyzed the environmental effect that came with a pandemic-drive shift to remote and more at-home entertainment. Of all the interesting findings from the study, one eye-catching finding was that just one hour of videoconferencing or streaming emits between 150 and 1,000 grams of carbon dioxide.

For comparison, a gallon of gasoline burned from a car emits about 8,887 grams. On top of that, an hour of videoconferencing also requires 2 to 12 liters of water and demands a land area adding up to about the size of an iPad Mini.

The study, which was published in the journal Resources, Conservation & Recycling, suggests that leaving your camera off during a video call can actually reduce the carbon footprint of that call by 96 percent. Similarly, choosing for standard definition rather than high definition when you’re streaming content from apps such as Netflix can also bring an 86 percent reduction.

The reason these services can be so detrimental to the environment is that the data process uses a lot of electricity. Producing any amount of electricity comes with carbon, water, and land footprint, so reducing the amount of data you download can reduce environmental damage.

“Banking systems tell you the positive environmental impact of going paperless, but no one tells you the benefit of turning off your camera or reducing your streaming quality,” said Kaveh Madani, a researcher who led the study as a visiting fellow at Yale University MacMillan Center.

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