Sidney Sheldon once said ‘Try to leave earth a better place than when you arrived’. To our credit, most of us nowadays try to do our bit to help the environment. We separate our rubbish into recyclable and unrecyclable, we use unleaded petrol in our cars and we do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint. But what about work, what can we do there to help the environment?
An easy way to start is to use online video conferencing. There are many different options you can use including WhatsAp Business, Skype, Zoom and MS Teams.
Getting Started – Setting Up
If you are new to video conferencing there a few things to keep in mind.
Before you start, use your camera to check how you are going to look. The simpler the background and surroundings the better as it will be less distracting. You might need to take down any pictures or photos that are going to be in view.
Change the Web Camera Angle
Web cams are not known for being flattering but there are a few things you can do to improve how you look. Using something, such as a pile of books, to raise the height of the camera can help. Ideally you want the camera so that your eye level is two thirds of the way up the screen.
Looking at Your Audience
When you are speaking pick a spot, preferably near the camera, to look at and keep focussed on that. Some software puts your face on screen when you are talking and many find that distracting. You can put your notes or just a sheet of paper over the screen if you find that a problem as long as it doesn’t cover the camera. Just be aware that some software requires you to click on messages on the screen.
What about Lighting?
Make sure there’s plenty of light so you can be seen clearly, if possible natural light from the side tends to be more complimentary.
Do Not Forget that You Are on Camera
Remember that you are much more visible on camera than you would be in a normal meeting. Yawning, scratching your nose and checking emails or reading articles while on the video call will be very obvious to everyone else.
Familiarise Yourself with the Technology
It would be wise to take the time to familiarise yourself with the program you are using before you have to use it in a business meeting. That would include checking both how you look and how you sound.
Finally, wear appropriate clothing. Bear in mind that although generally only the top parts of your clothes are usually on view you might have to get up or the camera might fall. So wear clean, professional clothing for your video calls as you would in a face-to-face meeting.
Just How Green is Video Conferencing?
How good is video conferencing for the environment? Is it just a gimmick that companies use, to give them the appearance of being environmentally responsible but that doesn’t actually do anything that constructive?
It’s quite straightforward to assess the direct emissions generated by heavy industry and to estimate the overall emissions created from company electricity use. However it is much more difficult to measure indirect emissions from things like bought-in products and services, outsourced activities and business travel. There is no clear way to measure these, so it is difficult to say definitively if they are reduced by video conferencing.
Measuring Impacts and Reductions
There are two main areas that can be measured to see if video conferencing is actually environmentally friendly.
The first is the emissions that would have been emitted by cars and other forms of transport during journeys that videoconferences replace. You are also reducing the costs for in-person meetings, which include operating and lifecycle costs of vehicles, and the costs of participant time. However the cost of a meeting depends on many factors such as distance travelled, length of the meeting, and what kind of technology is used.
The second is the carbon costs of the power consumption of the videoconferencing equipment itself. This includes the operating costs of the network and videoconferencing equipment, lifecycle assessment of equipment costs, and the time cost of people involved in meetings.
How to Measure Your Carbon Footprint
To make a difference to the environment the first number (reductions) has to be significantly larger than the second number (impacts). Unfortunately that isn’t as simple as it sounds. Some journey planners and carbon calculators are more reliable than others. Information from manufacturers and resellers is often vague and generalised.
Unsurprisingly, data supplied by the videoconferencing industry does not provide reliable and verifiable information regarding the CO2 costs of travel. Figures from governmental and not-for-profit sectors can differ widely. There aren’t many videoconferencing travel calculators and they tend to be unreliable. Realistically, reliable data has to be found from disinterested sources.
Logically though, business travel is a large contributor to the environmental footprint of the average businessman. Video conferencing will create substantial savings both in money, carbon and human terms. So if you would like to do your bit to leave earth a better place than when you arrived while still fulfilling your business commitments, video conferencing is definitely worth trying.