Green Conference: Reducing Carbon Emissions with a Virtual Conference

A virtual conference is a green decision. Instead of traveling, staying in hotels, and using a convention center, Educators in VR prevented more than 7.5 million kg of carbon dioxide from being emitted into the atmosphere.

Article and analysis by Don Balanzat

Educators in VR International Summit logo.Educators in VR made history a couple of weeks ago by holding the largest immersive virtual conference, the 2020 Educators in VR International Summit. It featured 170 speakers in over 150 events on 5 different virtual platforms over 6 days, and an estimated 6,000 people attended. A volunteer team of 75 people made this possible, as explained in a recent Behind the Scenes of the International Summit workshop.

In addition to being the first time a VR virtual conference of this size ever took place, the conference’s impact on anthropogenic climate change was exciting. With the rising concern over the amount of academic and professional travel that takes place to produce such conferences, mixed with the unfortunate timing of the COVID-19/coronavirus outbreak, the team asked me to explore the environmental impact of the conference. Travel and energy utilities are generally the highest percentages of any given individual’s carbon footprint.

Virtual conferences can be an incredibly impactful way in which we can individually and societally reduce our carbon output, and slow the human impact on the climate change process.

Considerations and Calculations

Discussing this with the Educators in VR team, we had to consider the comparison of the virtual conference with a real world conference, and make some considerations and assumptions for our calculations. To ensure we are all on the same page, let me explain.

ASVR - Stargate Command with Relle and Mark

Until transportation improves, travel through Stargate Command is limited to virtual reality.

Because of the international nature of attendees in Educators in VR, we had to consider a broad range of travel options – cars, rail, planes – and different distances. Virtually, people stayed wherever they were, attending from homes, offices, schools, even parks, rarely traveling out of reach of a stable WIFI connection. If this was a real-world conference, travel would be the largest impact on the environment. Continue reading