The ecological impact of digital technologies is caused by many factors. For many, “digital” is synonymous with dematerialization. Yet if we think about it, digital technologies are based on physical infrastructure. For example, the Internet needs a network of cables, data centres and many servers. The energy of the Internet and its carbon footprint is estimated to exceed the carbon footprint produced by travel.
One of the main forms of digital pollution is called “dormant pollution.” It is due to the archiving of emails. All the emails stored in the mailbox run many servers continuously in data centres that require a lot of power and need to be permanently cooled. The volume of stored data doubles every two years.
A 1-megabyte e-mail during its total lifecycle emits 20 g of CO2, e.g., the equivalent of a lamp turned on for 25 minutes.
Twenty emails per day per user over the course of a year create the same CO2 emissions as a car travelling 1,000 km. Over twelve billion emails are sent in one hour, representing over 4,000 tons of oil.
Every online search has a cost to the planet. In processing 3.5 billion searches per day, Google accounts for about 40 percent of the Internet’s carbon footprint.
Ten hours of high-definition movies consume more bits and bytes than all of Wikipedia’s English-language articles combined. In 2018, online video traffic was responsible for more than 300 million tons of CO2, equivalent to what a country the size of Spain releases in a year.
- Compress the size of the documents you send by e-mail to reduce the weight of the message;
- Use hyperlinks instead of attachments;
- Do not send chain mail, petitions, funny pictures, fakes…;
- Don’t forget to empty the recycle bin;
- Unsubscribe from newsletters you do not read;
- Make your regularly viewed websites favourites;
- Make regular use of your smartphone’s optimisation function that stops applications running in the background;
- Do you love music and videos? File downloading is the best option. You only use the data once and can play the song or video indefinitely!
- Avoid excessive video streaming.
- Store your files on your hard disk, be sensible with ‘Cloud’ and online storage;
- Choose a provider that uses renewable energy sources. Consider storing your data on a green cloud provider;
- Always turn off your computer and unplug the charger;
- Set your device to sleep mode after a certain number of minutes;
- Use your laptop and other digital equipment for as long as possible.
- Talk in person instead of by email ! 🙂