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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Are meetings in Second Life carbon free?

10:16:00 AM Posted by Oscar Berg , 1 comment

An article in Environmentalt Leader refers to a study saing that office culture is hindering remote working and green practices:

"UK employees name office culture as the main culprit for the slow adoption of remote working and green practices, research from Interwise, a company that sells remote working tools, finds."

"'Companies which do not embrace remote working will find it difficult to recruit and retain staff,' Gartner vice-president and fellow Diane Morello said. 'Corporates should respond to user pressure for presence-aware applications, social networking tools and wikis to support flexible working. IT organizations that attempt to shut down those tools for security and policy reasons alone will do so at the expense of their relevance and value.'"

Mindy S. Lubber, president of Ceres WorldChanging, writes about the need to "Fly Less, Videoconference More" WorldChanging, using her own traveling as an example of (to me) meaningless travel:

"Just this week, three of us flew back and forth to New York for a 90 minute meeting with a company and a key investor. The meeting was important, but it also ate up 20 hours of precious staff time. The flights themselves accounted for 238 pounds of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere."

"We could buy carbon credits, of course, but why not cut to the chase and replace unnecessary flying with conference calls or, better yet, videoconferences -- which would allow us to meet face to face without being fact to face?"

Another article at Environmental Leader asks if companies can cut emissions with virtual job fairs in Second Life:

"It’s cheaper than holding an actual job fair, where companies have to pay travel costs for recruiters. Hewlett-Packard, for example, says the cost of participating in the job fair - which includes buying “land” in Second Life - was less than the price of paying a third-party recruiter to hire one experienced candidate."

"It also seems that interviewing in Second Life could reduce emissions, using the same arguments video conferencing companies have started using to tout their greenness".

OneClimate Island in Second Life is promoted as a virtual meeting place that "you can travel to carbon free to meet other people working on solutions to climate change."

But there is another side to the story as well, which makes it clear that a meeting in Second Life life is not carbon free. Nick Carr has calculated that a second life avatar consume as much electricity as the average brazilian during a year. In a comment to the post, Seth Finkelstein's continues the calculation:

"looking at CO2 production, 1,752 kWH/year per avatar is about 1.17 tons of CO2. That's the equivalent of driving an SUV around 2,300 miles (or a Prius around 4,000)."

Still, let's not forget that meeting in Second Life would be much better than taking the plane to a meeting. A few flights will produce more CO2 than the average Brazilian produces in a year. We must try to put things in the proper perspective. In a way, it is about choosing the least bad alternative among the bad ones. There is no such thing as a carbon free lunch.


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