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Camera Offset Project: We’re Not Hiding, We’re Making a Difference

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McKinney social strategist Maggie Boulton on how turning your camera off on video calls can help save the planet

Camera Offset Project: We’re Not Hiding, We’re Making a Difference

In the first two months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the web and video conferencing market increased by 500%. From connecting with loved ones to ordering groceries, our digital dependence amplified as we used screens to accomplish virtually everything. In those early days of uncertainty, our bedrooms doubled as offices, slippers replaced stilettos, and the mute button became our mortal enemy.

While the initial shock of those ✨unprecedented times✨ has now passed, the reliance on the world wide web is here to stay. Nearly 40% of Americans were forced to work from home during 2020, and the dependence on internet connectivity remains vital for remote work today. Although the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is a bit brighter now than it was before, returning to the pre-pandemic in-person work structure doesn’t seem to be close.

via Rawpixel

Why? Video conferencing has permanently altered the nature of work. The ability to connect face-to-face virtually has allowed companies to keep the remote boat afloat. Not only have we proven to work productively from home, but 90% of North American businesses anticipate an increase in spending on video conferencing in 2022.

This continual access to wifi and 5G doesn’t come without a cost, and like most things humans overuse, digital consumption has environmental impacts. The internet relies on data centers that use anywhere from 2% to 5% of the world’s electricity, and these centers produce as much carbon dioxide as the aviation industry. Digital technologies make up 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, a figure expected to double by 2025. Ultimately, humans have a digital carbon footprint that’s only getting larger.

You mean we were stuck inside for a year and our carbon footprint still suffered? Great, we’re doomed.

Well, maybe… but luckily my teammates are a rad group of smart ass people. There are more eloquent ways to describe McKinney’s Brand Experience team, but this definition suits the squad. We’re a crew of strategists, creatives, and technologists focused on helping brands find innovative ways to prove their purpose. In other words, we identify problems of all magnitudes and persistently pursue creative solutions for them.

The challenge we faced was finding a way to reduce the environmental impact of data emissions in a world where internet usage and video calls are constantly increasing. If working from home would be sustained, how could we make it more sustainable? We got to digging.

In our search for a solution, we came across a study conducted this past March from teams at MIT, Purdue University and Yale University. Scientists proved that turning your camera off during a videoconference can reduce your environmental footprint in that meeting by 96%. Additionally, they examined the carbon impact of numerous internet apps like TikTok, YouTube and Netflix and found the more video used in an application, the larger the footprints.

via Mollie Sivaram — Unsplash

Learning that video streaming and consumption has a big impact on the carbon footprint helped us narrow our focus for improvements. We knew there was a way we could decrease video use, but how?

Encourage people to stop joy-scrolling TikTok? No way. Watch Netflix in standard rather than high-definition? A pixelated Bridgerton simply wouldn’t be the same. Tell people to turn their cameras off on video calls? Bingo.

Think about it, you don’t hear people bitching and moaning about how their Instagram Explore page really wiped ’em out or how we’re burnt out from all that ruckus on YouTube. The video that’s got us tired at the end of the day is the one we have to be on.

Oh no, not another blog about Z**m F*tigue — a phrase so overused at this point I can’t even spell it out. Whether you’re tired of Zooming or tired of talking about Zooming, most can agree that these daily screen talks are truly draining. We’re all looking for a reason to turn those cameras off, and Camera Offset Project has done just that.

By creating a website and graphics with pro-planet messaging for people to use as Zoom backgrounds, the Brand Experience team has provided the opportunity to turn cameras off for a cause. Although we originally brainstormed Zoom plug-ins and complex apps that tracked camera use, in the end, the best solution was a simple, lo-fi one: give people graphics to replace the standard profile picture that shows up when the camera is off.

Launched in late August, the idea was immediately embraced by many of our teammates here at McKinney. Our meetings made up a faceless grid of quick hitting one-liners in support of reducing carbon emissions. Advocacy grew as the graphics sparked intrigue on external calls with clients and colleagues. Simple messaging paired with the painless action to change a photo made for easy buy-in.

Do we think the Camera Offset Project will save the world? Not quite, but it could be a tiny win in the right direction. Not to mention, hiding our faces in favor of the footprint is a much better excuse than fatigue. With the Camera Offset Project, helping the environment comes with sweatpants, a ball cap and a side of Cheetos. Paper straws, take notes.

While certain meetings of higher magnitude may still need that face-to-face professionalism, we hope there’s room for Camera Offset Project in whatever your day demands. Want to get your company on the Camera Offset bandwagon? We’ve already got the email to your boss squared away.

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McKinney, Mon, 27 Sep 2021 14:49:00 GMT