That’s all, folks!

Well, the “How Green” project and the JISC Greening ICT programme have now finished and we all have to move on to other things. Even the Welsh Video Network, which managed the project has had to re-size and change with the times. So its time to write the final blog for this site.

I was asked recently to summarise the outcomes of the project in a brief and concise way and I produced this summary.

The JISC Greening ICT Programme Project ‘How Green Was My Videoconference?’ drew the following conclusions:

  • Non-users of videoconferencing are unlikely to become users without help and support
  • Videoconferencing needs to be managed, nurtured and pro-actively supported for there to be widespread take-up
  • It can save up to 25% of business travel for an educational organisation
  • It can save staff time and travel costs, leading to greater efficiency and productivity
  • It benefits individuals by giving them more time, more immediate access to people, less stress, and a better work/life balance
  • It can be an enabler for equality, giving equal access to meetings and events
  • Videoconferencing is a green technology whose use has a positive impact on carbon emissions… unless it is purchased and deployed, but never used
  • Large videoconferencing studios have a lifecycle carbon footprint of 2,682kg CO2 over five years life: cancelled out by 131 miles car travel replacement per month
  • Minimal installations have a lifecycle carbon footprint of 202kg: cancelled out by 10 miles car travel replacement per month
  • Education (and the rest of the public sector) would make more efficient use of the public purse if there were a national strategy and framework of support for videoconferencing.[1]

The premise: By replacing travel, videoconferencing is acknowledged to be a means of saving money and time. It is also seen and marketed as a ‘Green’ technology because of the Greenhouse gas emissions that are saved by not travelling. But there appeared to be little empirical and objective justification for this assumption. The production of the materials used to make the equipment; its manufacture, transportation and distribution: all have a carbon footprint. The support of the equipment and the production and distribution of the electricity used to power it also contribute to the carbon embedded in the equipment’s use.  The project sought to establish the carbon costs of travel and therefore the savings made by not travelling; and to evaluate these against the carbon costs of the equipment’s deployment and use.

What we did… the project sought information from the manufacturers regarding the carbon footprint of the manufacture and use of the equipment, but there appears to have been very little work done on this by the manufacturers. In the absence of this information, an informal carbon footprint assessment was made of a large highly specified teaching studio (based on a studio design used in Welsh schools, colleges and universities and supported by the Welsh Video Network). An assessment was also made of a ‘compact’ or minimal installation (screen, microphone. speakers, VC equipment and camera). Power consumption of a variety of equipment was measured. We also pro-actively targeted individuals and groups who could replace travel by videoconferencing and assessed their experience.

Usage is critical… The more the financial investment in videoconferencing equipment is made to sweat, then the quicker the financial return on investment. Similarly, the more the service is used to replace travel, the quicker the carbon investment embodied in the equipment is realised. So the key to greening videoconferencing is to maximise its use. This is best achieved by benchmarking the current situation and then having a strategy in place that can offer pro-active support and encouragement to potential users


[1] All figures here are approximate, based on DEFRA CO2 eq guidelines. Average petrol car. For assumptions see project report.

This is the project in a very small nutshell. For far more detail, reports, analysis, briefing papers and case studies see www.wvn.ac.uk/greenict. For videos see www.youtube.com/greenvideoconference

For tweets (not only about this, but generally related stuff): @gardeninggeoff

Thank you and goodnight!