Why a section on the internet? Going online may seem harmless or even positive in terms of waste. It helps avoid printing books, pictures, buying DVDs and CDs, or travelling for a meeting. More globally, digital technology might help reduce global emissions as they provide AI and communication solutions in energy, manufacturing, agriculture and land use, buildings, services, transportation and traffic management.
But our online habits actually have a surprising impact on the environment, and not at all all positive - and worsening incredibly fast. Digitalisation in its current form is energy-hungry and resource-intensive.
Digital habits produce lots of real waste. The production and discarding of digital devices are source of waste, pollution and energy use. Their usage produce an increasing quantity of greenhouse gas: streaming videos, videocalling colleagues and family, storing emails, pictures and documents online, sending emails –these daily habits use considerable amounts of energy, to store and transfer data. The carbon footprint depends heavily on how the electricity is generated. Although data centres say they are working on improving their energy efficiency, in many parts of the world they are still largely powered from the burning of fossil fuels.
All in all, the carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet and the systems supporting them account for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions (more than the aviation industry). And these emissions are predicted to double by 2025.
So will digitalisation help us to a greener and fairer world, or will it ultimately prove to be an accelerator for climate change and the destruction of the planet? The jury is still out.
But we can help it go in the right direction, by improving the way we use our gadgets:
reduce the volume of data flowing through data centers and mobile networks,
lengthen the lives of our devices.
It is not about stopping to use the internet or digital devices, but about being aware of their impact, reducing our usage when we can, and improving the way we use them when we do need to use them.
Improve the way how you use digital devices to generate less waste and reduce your energy consumption.
Click here for tips to extend the lives of your devices. This is the most important thing you can do to reduce your impact linked to your digital life: using a computer for 4 years instead of 2 improves your environmental footprint by 50%.
An easy fix is to reduce the energy used to run your devices: turn them off, avoid charging at night, and other helpful tips here.
One of the biggest causes of the internet's power consumption is music and video streaming. YouTube, Netflix, Amazon videos, but also Facebook, and video calls and music streaming. Click here for tips to watch the same things, but using less energy.
The Cloud might not be visible but it is a big energy consumer. Keeping and transferring the data that your photos, documents, emails generate requires huge data warehouse and networks. So only use the Cloud when you need it. Click here.