Teaching online with a small carbon footprint

Streaming video’s electricity consumption responsible for 1% of global warming! (The Shift Project ; see other posts on this page)
Health effects of high electromagnetic frequencies (Denise Oleksiczjuk, in article by Marks, Joe Clark, Lucas Hilderbrand, Livingston, and Oleksiczjuk, forthcoming, Media+Environment)
Corporate-driven streaming dependency

General pedagogy
Help students become mindful of carbon footprint of streaming media and devise alternatives.
Teach the environmental impact of the media—production, distribution, and consumption—into our curriculum
The Shift Project ’s surprising charts (in Executive Summary)
Show Jason Livingston’s funny video (note footprint is likely 1%, not 3%). At 6 minutes he talks about Zoom
Streaming audit: Ask students to note how many hours they stream a day, week (Joe Clark)
Use a carbon footprint calculator: examples in next post

All online teaching
Keep in mind that all online teaching happens on small screens, so high resolution is never necessary

Asynchronous online teaching
Recorded lecture
audio-only sections: lecture, dialogue, interview. Students can listen away from the desk.
Consider stills rather than video
Video: Short clips. Consider resolution needs. 240 or 340 p is adequate for informational purposes.

Students watching media independently:
View in groups if possible—always better, and smaller footprint
For multiple viewings: Best to download, but copyright issues arise (requested opinion from Don Taylor in library). Suggest that if SFU Library has purchased the movie, we are within our rights to let students to download for study purposes.
Turn off HD, and use the lowest resolution necessary.

Synchronous online teaching
Short clips, resolution as necessary. Consider stills rather than video.
It’s more energy efficient to share video on video conferencing platform (e.g. Zoom) than for each student to view separately (Stefan’s tip).
Share video, audio from original source (e.g. YouTube, Criterion Collection through library).
*Make sure to click “Share computer sound” and “Optimize screenshare for audio” every time!
If possible, choose media already available online, rather than uploading—Youtube’s local data centers make this more efficient for international viewers (Simone’s tip)
Invite students to sign in with video, then switch to portrait with name.
Suggest they experiment with minimizing the frame in speaker view, gallery view

Teaching media makers
Consider making versions for different platforms: high resolution for theaters, lower for online
Teach small-file video making—Stills and sound, low frame rate, compression, animation; splurge on sound. Compressed movies look best with:
-slow or still camera movement
-shallow focus
Tips on
Small File Media Festival site.

Lucas Hilderbrand’s streaming acknowledgment (edit as you wish):
“Streaming media has a significant carbon footprint due to the high energy usage necessary for data storage on servers, for transmission, and for playback. The scale of emissions depends on both the energy sources (fossil fuels create more impact than renewable ones) and the amount of data streamed (higher definition streams use more energy than standard definition ones, and video requires more energy than audio). Although migration to renewable energy sources has improved, demand for streaming content and bandwidth has accelerated even more. You can reduce your carbon footprint by reducing how much you stream, by reducing the resolution of your playback, by dimming your device, and by lobbying your energy provider and government regulators to switch to renewable energy sources. Broadcast sources (such as using the radio), tangible media (such as vinyl records and DVDs), and collective viewing (such as in a movie theater) have a lower carbon footprint than everyone individually streaming music and audiovisual media.” (In Marks, Clark, Hilderbrand, Livingston, and Oleksiczjuk, forthcoming, Media+Environment)

Longer article: Laura U. Marks,
Let's Deal with the Carbon Footprint of Streaming Media, Afterimage, https://online.ucpress.edu/afterimage/issue/47/2