In an era marked by digital transformation, virtual events stand as a testament to global connectivity. However, there’s a seldom-discussed narrative: the environmental impact of virtual events.
Dive into this comprehensive exploration of the issue and discover ways we can steer towards a more sustainable future.
1. Unraveling the Hidden Environmental Cost
Though convenient, virtual events bear significant environmental footprints that often remain unseen.
Let’s delve deep into the layers of digital conveniences and you’ll uncover a maze of infrastructures, electronic devices, and the collective energy they consume. Before we look into solutions, it’s paramount to lay out the landscape of this digital environmental maze:
- Electricity & The Vast Web
The infrastructure powering the internet requires substantial energy. From data centres to the end-user devices, the ripple effect on the environment is undeniable.
- The Might of Cloud Server Farms
Cloud servers, the giants of the digital realm, have a voracious energy appetite, significantly impacting our carbon footprint.
- The Lifecycle of Our Devices
From manufacturing to disposal, our electronic devices have environmental stories worth understanding and addressing.
- Virtual vs. Physical: The Silver Lining
On the bright side, by eliminating the need for travel and physical infrastructure, virtual events significantly reduce carbon emissions.
According to a study conducted by 6Connex in collaboration with WSP, virtual events have the potential to produce 40 times fewer emissions compared to their in-person counterparts. This study involved transforming a two-day, in-person event attended by over 2,000 people into a virtual gathering, resulting in a staggering 48 times reduction in emissions.
2. Pioneering Sustainable Practices in Digital Events
Efficiency in Technology: Rethinking Hardware
To reduce the environmental impact of digital events, it is important to rethink hardware and adopt sustainable practices. This can involve:
- Using carbon-free energy: Use renewable energy sources to power the event, such as solar or wind power.
- Using energy-efficient hardware.
Studies by 451 Research have shown that AWS’ infrastructure is 3.6 times more energy efficient than the median of US enterprise data centres surveyed and up to five times more energy efficient than the average in Europe. 451 Research also found that AWS can lower customers’ workload carbon footprints by nearly 80 % compared to surveyed enterprise data centres, and up to 96 % once AWS is powered with 100 % renewable energy – a target we’re on path to meet by 2025.
- Adopting data analytical tools, which can be used to monitor and optimise energy consumption, waste management, and other sustainability metrics. This would help identify areas where improvements can be made and track progress over time.
Carbon Neutrality & Tree-Planting Initiatives:
Consider investing in renewable projects or carbon credits to offset event emissions.
Partner with vendors who have sustainable practices in place and use eco-friendly products; for instance, coupling your event with tree-planting initiatives offers a hands-on approach to making a positive environmental impact.
Events you can feel good about. Since 2020, we have been planting trees on our clients’ behalf to make all their events carbon negative. It’s a simple idea with a big impact: You Host, We Plant. Learn more.
Promoting Sustainable Behaviour:
As an event organiser, you have the opportunity to influence attendee behaviour.
You can raise awareness and educate attendees about the importance of virtual sustainable practices through various means, such as social media platforms, email campaigns and event websites.
The Power of Sustainable Browsing:
Navigating the vast digital realm through browsers has become second nature to us. Yet, the significance of our choice in browsers often eludes our attention.
Platforms like Ecosia transform everyday tasks like browsing into eco-conscious actions with impactful planetary benefits. It offers a unique blend of efficiency and environmental responsibility. Every search contributes to the planting of trees, making it more than just a browser—it’s a green pledge.
Imagine an era where every digital event attendee uses such sustainable browsers. The compound effect on our planet’s wellbeing could be immense.
Harnessing Data Compression:
By reducing data sizes, we cut down energy consumption and provide smoother event experiences. Taking care of two things in one go.
Mindful Camera Usage:
The consistent use of webcams during virtual events can be an unexpected contributor to energy consumption, but mindful camera usage can significantly offset this.
In today’s digitally-driven world, turning on our webcams has become second nature, especially during virtual events. But how often do we stop to think about the energy implications of this habit? Beyond just your device’s battery drainage, there’s an entire infrastructure—comprising data centres and transmission systems—supporting this video-heavy behaviour.
An often-overlooked aspect of webcam usage is its environmental impact.
A compelling study by Purdue University in 2020 unearthed that merely turning off the camera during a 30-minute call can curtail carbon dioxide emissions by an astounding 90%.
Think about it: such a simple act can lead to a drastic reduction in energy consumption and our collective carbon footprint, amplifying the already recognised environmental benefits of virtual over physical events.
So, where does this leave us? It’s all about conscious choice. While it’s crucial to be visually present in certain discussions or presentations, there are moments when going camera-off is entirely appropriate. By mindfully choosing when to display video, we can achieve a balance: staying connected, engaging, and yet environmentally prudent.
Reimagining Digital Communication:
Streamlining pre-event communications holds the key to minimising digital footprints without compromising on the quality of interactions.
The digital age has revolutionised the way we communicate, especially in the context of pre-event engagements. But with every email sent, video call made, or document shared, there’s an associated energy consumption. How can we strike a balance? By embracing consolidation.
Merging agendas, utilising asynchronous communication tools, and adopting efficient planning strategies can drastically reduce screen time and energy use. Instead of multiple preliminary meetings, perhaps a singular, well-structured session could suffice. The goal is clear: maximise efficiency, minimise environmental impact. By reengineering our approach to digital communication, we not only enhance our productivity but also move closer to a greener digital landscape. A win-win
3. The Horizon Ahead: Crafting the Future of Digital Events
As we advance, our responsibility to shape sustainable digital events grows, presenting challenges and unmatched opportunities.
Incorporating solid research, harnessing innovative solutions and projecting a visionary approach, we can construct a greener era of virtual events.
This is more than an environmental mandate; it’s a reflection of human adaptability and innovation.
And as we navigate this new phase of the digital era in events, we ought to ask: are we ready to champion sustainable digital experiences?