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Facetiming also pollutes the environment: how to reduce the impact?

The different communication methods that became popular during the quarantines also affect the environment .

Two people holding their phones during a video call

Video conferencing could also have negative effects on the environment. / Photo: Pexels

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: Videollamadas contaminan el medioambiente: ¿cómo reducir el impacto?

A single year ago there were people who had never made a video call. They did not need it: whenever they wanted to have a meeting, both work and personal, they preferred face-to-face meetings. However, the appearance of the coronavirus and its consequent quarantines or restrictions generated that many people need remote communication .

Of course, all of this led to video calling services becoming more popular than ever. For example, Forbes reveals that Zoom surpassed 300 million users during quarantine . This use applies from personal video calls, virtual classes and even work meetings, among others, such as celebrating birthdays or "baby showers" virtually.

However, there is one aspect that we rarely think could be related to video calls: pollution. Although the planet had a brief brake from the paralysis of many activities, the truth is that videochats could also have its negative effects on the environment .

Video calling and the environment

A study published in Resources, Conservation & Recycling by scientists from Yale, Purdue and MIT Universities allowed us to understand the detrimental effects of video calls on the environment. However, some “workarounds” were also discovered to minimize them.

All of this is related to energy. The carbon footprint associated with the Internet represents 3.7% of greenhouse effect emissions . Although we believe that at the individual level we do not consume too much, the truth is that, if we take into account the millions of Internet users on the planet, the outlook is not at all encouraging.

We could say that any activity we do on the Internet has its consequence on our carbon footprint. From the spanish newspaper El País they indicated, for example, that each email that is stored in a computer represents about 10 grams of carbon dioxide per year . The same applies to Google searches, which account for about 0.2 grams of pollution, while 10 minutes of watching YouTube represents one gram .

However, video calls tend to have more damaging effects on the environment. The previous study indicated that, if we maintain the trend of Internet use during the quarantine, the water equivalent to some 300,000 swimming pools or Olympic pools could be depleted , while some 115,229 square kilometers of trees would have to be planted to balance the excess carbon dioxide emissions.

Also read: What change is coming for the environment with Joe Biden as president of the United States

Of course, no one doubts the benefits and advantages of remote communication. When the pandemic ends, it will surely remain as a complementary way to interact with others, both on a personal, professional or educational purposes. However, there are some tips to reduce the impact on Earth.

In the beginning, the ideal would be to Facetime without the camera. If a million video calls users decided to turn off their cameras, monthly carbon dioxide emissions would drop by 9,023 tons . The same happens with the duration, since the longer the use, the more emissions.

The same happens with a decrease in image quality. For example, if 70 million people go from high definition to average, the monthly reduction would be about 2.5 million tons of CO2 . In other words, the more we prioritize the quality of communications, the greater the environmental impact.

In short, it is important to bear in mind that technology has an impact on the planet itself. This does not mean putting aside these wonderful resources that improve the lives of all people, but rather taking care of them and managing them efficiently to reduce the footprint they leave on the Earth. Will we be able to do it?