How “Le Monde” tracks and reduces the carbon footprint of its videos

DIn the early stages of designing Plan B, our weekly environmental series, a question emerged within the video team of World : how to approach, film and explain the major environmental issues, without bearing an eco-responsible requirement ourselves? How credible would we be to talk about the climate crisis by flying once a week to do so? In short, how can we claim to engage with our readers in a quality, and trustworthy, discussion on the climate without showing ourselves up to our own responsibility?

This question has turned into a challenge. She led the video team of the World to modify certain working methods, such as limiting travel by plane, and to design a solution for monitoring one’s carbon footprint.

A first tool, simple, rudimentary, quickly taken in hand by the fifteen journalists of the team. A tool that needs to be supplemented, criticized and enriched by the experience of colleagues and readers who will use it. A new initiative in France, and which does not seem to have an equivalent abroad.

A tool to assess our carbon footprint

This document which, it should be stressed, is perfectible, brings together in one place all the carbon emissions (in carbon equivalent) of our business trips. From a Paris-Cayenne return trip to the journeys of a few metro stations: all the means of transport used by our video journalists for reporting are here.

The document as a whole.
Close-up on the first lines of the document.
Close-up on the first lines of the document.

Plane, TER, taxi … each means of transport is indicated in a specific column, as well as the carbon footprint of each kilometer traveled with it. Figures obtained from the Environment and Energy Management Agency (Ademe), on the official websites of carriers (in the event of a trip on a German section of the Thalys, for example) or on specialized sites , in the case of an NGO boat.

We refined this assessment by adding to it the carbon footprint generated during filming, in the field, and during the editing of videos, in our editorial office in Paris. For filming, in addition to transport therefore, we calculated the power consumption of a Sony A7 III camera, the most demanding camera in our fleet (16.4 Wh), in eight-hour working hours. On the assembly side, we have listed the consumption of a 2019 27-inch iMac Retina, at full power (262 Wh), also in eight-hour working hours.

The lines on the emissions related to shooting and video editing.
The lines on the emissions related to shooting and video editing.

This tool deserves to be enriched. By adding the power consumption of multiple less greedy devices: wireless mouse, smartphone, external hard drive, etc. We could also specify the consumption linked to the use of computer servers, by the journalist, but especially by the thousands (millions) of Internet users who watch our videos. A carbon footprint still difficult to assess, as it depends on the network, the device used and the viewing location.

It is now enough for our journalists back from the field to record in the document the distances they have covered, the type of transport used and the number of days of filming and editing they have carried out. The document then automatically calculates the carbon footprint of the report, in kilograms of carbon equivalent.

What result? First, a confirmation: the slightest theft definitely undermines any effort made elsewhere. The two air journeys made for reporting in Guyana and Madagascar alone constitute 95.4% of the total carbon footprint of the Plan B series, while they represent only 19% of the videos produced.

The car also increases the balance sheet: 60 km by car between Morlaix and Brest proved to be six times more carbon emitter than the Paris-Morlaix return journey of 1,000 km by TGV.

Thus, the twenty-five video reports produced between the beginning of September 2019 and February 2020 emitted approximately 16.6 tonnes of carbon equivalent. For comparison, a Frenchman emits, on average, 9 tonnes of CO2 per year, four times more than recommended by Ademe.

New rules for environmental sobriety

By accompanying an awareness of our carbon footprint, this calculator above all invited us to set several rules of sobriety:

  • we never take the plane for reports in mainland France, or in border countries (Monaco, southern Germany, Toulouse region, etc.);
  • we systematically prefer hotel nights on site to a round trip during the day which would require flying;
  • in Ile-de-France, we only travel by public transport;
  • when a report requires taking a plane, we extend the number of days there to carry out at least two reports (three subjects made in Guyana, two in Madagascar).

Finally, to be transparent and encourage discussion with our readers, the carbon footprint of each report is now indicated in the credits at the end of our videos (see below at 6.34 am)…

And discussed in some comments under the videos:

This calculator is a first step. Don’t hesitate to suggest improvements, we will read your comments and suggestions with interest. Above all, take it in your own hands, try it. Here is a freely reusable version.

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