Virtual meetings are now an indispensable companion—they have helped and are continuing to help many navigate through life in a pandemic. In March alone last year, there were more than 200 million daily meeting participants on Zoom, both free and paid. In this era of advanced technology, coupled with the onslaught of Covid-19, the thought of living without virtual meetings is hardly conceivable.
But the prevalent use of video conferencing applications has an alarming impact on the environment. For one, the webcams turned on during virtual meetings produce a massive amount of carbon dioxide.
Research found that a one-hour video conference call generates 157.3g of carbon dioxide, far more than the estimated 6.2g generated from a call without an activated video camera. If remote working continues until the end of the year, the global carbon footprint from video calls could soar by 34.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. With this increase, sequestering all the emitted carbon dioxide would require a forest twice the size of Portugal.
These are trade-offs that should have been anticipated from the moment we embarked on a journey of rapid technological innovation. With digital advancements only set to grow and flourish exponentially, action needs to be taken to alleviate the environmental repercussions.
Greening Activities on the Internet: Websites
The intangible part of the Internet—such as the demand for Internet traffic, data and digital services—is often overlooked despite its carbon footprints. A study by researchers from Yale, Purdue University and MIT found that the energy consumption of internet data centres is significant but yet unacknowledged. As a result, there needs to be a greater focus on greening activities on the Internet, especially from the start of the digital chain.
In the PR business, websites are one of the most indispensable tools. They are fundamental in building a brand’s image, being one of the first few points of contact that potential consumers have with an organisation. With an average website producing 1.76g of carbon dioxide per page view, there are fundamental steps that PR practitioners can take to lower this number.
1. Audit content and review content strategy
Auditing your website content—analysing the state of your content and assessing its effectiveness—gleans an understanding of whether your content is delivering expected results. If a page no longer serves a purpose, is out of date or ineffective, you can then decide to improve, consolidate it with another page or delete it. Reducing the number of pages to navigate through will reduce carbon footprint. In addition, also consider if the images on your pages are necessary.
Another thing to evaluate is content strategy, which usually determines how your content is planned, created and maintained throughout your organisation. This content is then presented on various platforms including your website, ultimately influencing carbon footprint. In reviewing your content strategy, the key questions to ask are: Does the content contribute to achieving your organisation’s mission? Is content delivered in the way that your audiences want to consume it?
Website content must serve a purpose; otherwise, it will not only add unnecessary carbon footprint but also frustrate users. A deliberate and coherent content strategy ensures that content on your site is current, meets audiences’ needs and is energy-efficient.
2. Search Engine Optimisation
Typically, people who visit or use your website have a goal in mind or a task they are looking to complete, indicating that they were likely to have passed through search engines prior. A study found that paid and organic search is responsible for 68% of all trackable website traffic. Therefore, by leveraging search engine optimisation, you can enable your website users to find the specific pages they are looking for without having to navigate through multiple pages unnecessarily—thus emitting less carbon.
3. Choose fonts carefully
While web fonts can enhance the visual appeal of websites, they can also unfortunately add significant file weight to websites, contributing to carbon footprint. A single font file could be 250KB big, while bolding adds another 250KB. To reduce carbon emissions, you can:
- Use system fonts where possible. While they may not be as visually aesthetic, these fonts are already present on a user’s device and can be used without loading any font files.
- Use fewer font variations. Be frugal in the number of typefaces used and in the different weights (thickness) that you use for each typeface.
Carbon emissions will only continue to climb with burgeoning Internet use exacerbated by virtual meetings. While it is impossible to reverse this trend, PR practitioners could aid in curtailing its acceleration from the beginning of the digital chain by making some modifications to their websites. That will be a critical step to further greening efforts. Nonetheless, significant strides in environmental sustainability will demand a concerted effort by organisations as a whole.