The Only Excuse You Need to Keep Your Webcam off Forever: Climate Change

Bosses generally demand they can see our faces during two-hour-long meetings. What if there was another way?
Hannah Smothers
Brooklyn, US
March 26, 2021, 4:53pm
Businesswoman meets with colleagues during virtual staff meeting - stock photo
SDI Productions via Getty

Despite there being a handful of reasons to turn off your Zoom camera in meetings, our bosses have generally demanded that we keep cameras on so they can verify that when we say we are “working from home,” we really are “working from home.”  It can feel like an invasion of privacy to demand our face and upper torso be in sight, but to resist can feel like we’re trying to get away with something.


But what if it didn’t have to be this way? What if there were some unimpeachable excuse, some appeal to the greater good, that allowed the camera to be off from this point onward? Science may have delivered: According to a study published in January by researchers at Purdue, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, leaving the camera on in video meetings is a contributor to carbon dioxide emissions. 

“Just one hour of videoconferencing or streaming, for example, emits 150-1,000 grams of carbon dioxide (a gallon of gasoline burned from a car emits about 8,887 grams), requires 2-12 liters of water and demands a land area adding up to about the size of an iPad Mini,” researchers wrote in a news brief. “But leaving your camera off during a web call can reduce these footprints by 96 percent.” 

The study explains that this all happens because of the way data is stored and transferred by the internet, et cetera, et cetera. What’s notable is that a requirement to leave the camera on in two-hour-long company-wide meetings is equivalent to your boss telling you to leave your car running for several hours (sort of). 

So rather than saying the camera feels intrusive, or that you look disheveled today, or using the college-student hack of a looping video that makes it look like you’re paying attention in meetings, you can now say that you’re environmentally conscious and would prefer to leave your camera off in order to preserve the amount of time we have left on this beautiful planet. What you do with the camera off, saving the Earth, is your business.

Follow Hannah Smothers on Twitter.