Here’s How You Can Reduce Your Tech Footprint In Everyday Digital Life
5 minutes read
Has it ever occurred to you that every search, stream, or simple add-to-cart purchase online releases CO2 in the atmosphere? Yes, a digital carbon footprint does exist.
While online seems more sustainable, it still comes at a cost. Our increasing dependence on digital devices has led to a global environmental concern, and it’s becoming harder to ignore.
The height of the pandemic pushed us to migrate into a digitalised working space. It seems harmless. But a 2021 Yale-led study revealed that internet use grew by 40%, demanding a whopping 42.6 million megawatt-hours of additional electricity. This is a substantial amount of electricity, much of which is generated by fossil fuels causing global warming.
So, what’s the solution? Experts say changing our daily digital behaviour can make a difference. Beauty Daily dives into the growing digital pollution problem and lists five solutions to reduce your tech footprint in everyday digital life.
What is digital pollution?
Digital pollution is an overarching term to include all sources of environmental pollution produced by the digital sector.
Energy and materials are used to manufacture our beloved digital devices and tools. But, for example, rare metal like tungsten is often extracted in vulnerable areas of the world, polluting land and water.
Secondly, the infrastructure needed to keep the internet running, such as data centres and transmission networks, consumes energy. Every doc, presentation, spreadsheet, or email you type has to be stored somewhere. Tech companies use a server that runs and recalls all those online files via a continuous electricity supply.
While Google has already announced its proactive steps to switch to renewable energy, more is needed to offset the exponential increase of data shared across the internet.
Lastly, the disposal of all our old devices contributes to the ever-growing digital pollution crisis.
What is a digital carbon footprint?
Digital carbon footprint is the total energy used from our digital activities: sending an email, online shopping, and movie streaming to surfing the web all count.
While the energy needed for a single search or sending an email is relatively small, the problem is when over 4.66 billion active internet users, or 60% of the global population, do the same thing at the same time.
Those tiny scraps of energy account for about 3.7% of global CO2 emissions. To put that into context, that’s an equivalent of about 116 million round-the-world car journeys. Moreover, alarming statistics say it’s expected to double by 2025.
5 ways to reduce your daily tech footprint
A life without the internet is unimaginable. With its benefits, no one of us wants a life cut off the digital radar. It has helped us to connect with distant family and friends, makes communication easier, and allows us to work remotely. We can still enjoy these benefits with the tiniest environmental impact. Here we list five ways you can do to reduce your tech footprint.
1. Reduce stream time
If you want to reduce your tech footprint proactively, you can start by reducing your stream time. This goes from streaming Netflix movies to YouTube videos.
According to World Economic Forum, video streaming causes 75% of global data traffic. Three hundred million tons of CO2 are generated from watching videos every year, which accounts for about 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Instead, download videos, watch them at a lower resolution, or play songs as audio files rather than watching them. This will reduce your daily watching time and reduce carbon emissions.
It also helps your mental well-being and not to mention decreases your exposure to blue light, dubbed ‘the silent agers of our generation.’ Your skin will thank you for it.
Read next: How To Protect Your Skin Against Blue Light
2. Use devices longer
Do you need an iPhone update every time Apple launches the next big thing? If it’s still serving you well, keep it until it retires.
3. Dispose of old devices correctly
The UN reports that the world produces as much as 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) a year. If your old devices, such as laptops, desktop computers, and mobile phones, still work, several trade-in websites and shops, including CeX, can refurbish them in exchange for cash or a voucher. Or pass it to family and friends or donate to your local charity.
Take your old devices to your local dedicated e-waste recycling facility if they are beyond repair or unusable.
4. Empty your email box regularly to reduce data storage
All of us, at some point, are guilty of some 1000 unread emails. Dedicate a time in your day or week to go through them and delete them to reduce data storage.
The messages filling your inbox are unwanted newsletters or promotions. Unsubscribe from websites, job sites, or e-commerce shops when interest has waned or is no longer needed.
5. Store data on a hard drive and use the cloud as little as possible
Go through whatever cloud service you use, whether Google Drive or Dropbox, delete files you no longer need, and store them on an external hard drive.
If you find subscribing to a cloud service more convenient, make sure you take environmental impact and emissions into consideration. The World Economic Forum reports that Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have all tried to make their cloud services ‘greener’.
What makes a cloud ‘green’ is the provider’s commitment in the use of renewable energy (solar energy and wind energy).
Amongst the ‘Big Three’, Wired reports Google has arguably done the most to decarbonize its data making Google Cloud, with zero net carbon emissions. Servers are powered by 100% renewable electricity.
Microsoft’s Azure, the company’s cloud service, is reported to use on-site batteries. It has a better use of renewable energy by capturing it when it flows freely on sunny or windy days, and tapping from batteries when it’s less abundant. The company plans to boost this to 70 percent renewable energy by 2023.
Christmas is coming, and while this cause for a celebration, environmentalists call Christmas the world’s greatest annual environmental disaster. But we can all change that. Read how you can celebrate without harming the planet by Having Yourself A Very Sustainable Christmas