Roughly 2.5 billion people around the globe use the internet. Experts predict the energy used to power the internet — as well as the number of greenhouse gases produced — will soon exceed air travel. Your digital carbon footprint is comprised of a number of activities, not just checking email.
Digital activities that have an impact on the environment include:
- Streaming music
- Watching Netflix
- Posting on Twitter
- Buying an e-book
- Reading online news
1. Reach Out to Tech Companies
Tech companies like YouTube can reduce their digital carbon footprint by changing how their design. In 2016, people streamed about 1 billion hours of YouTube videos each day, producing 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) — the same as the City of Glasgow.
For users who only listen to YouTube for the audio, the option to turn off the video could save 100 to 500 Kilotons of CO2e each year — comparable to the carbon footprint of 30,000 homes in the U.K. For consumers, it’s imperative to reach out to your favorite brands and request eco-conscious features.
2. Unsubscribe from Unwanted Emails
In 2018, more than 281 billion emails were sent and received each day, a number that’s expected to grow to more than 347 billion by 2022. Like anyone else, you probably have multiple brands who send you unwanted emails. To reduce your carbon footprint, make use of the unsubscribe button.
Look through your inbox for any unwanted emails you’ve yet to delete. You should also go through your promotions and spam folder. The unsubscribe button is typically at the very bottom of the email. Some brands attempt to hide it by making the text a similar color as the background.
3. Optimize Your Charging Routine
How many digital devices do you charge? There’s the laptop, cellphone, tablet and smartwatch. To reduce your carbon footprint, optimize your charging routine. Once a device is fully charged, unplug the power supply. Not only can you reduce your energy consumption, but you’ll also improve the lifetime of your battery.
Reduce your reliance on fossil fuels by investing in a solar charger. There are many solar charging stations available that range in capability and price. You can find a quality set-up under $50 for a smartphone, tablet and watch. If you want to power heavy-duty devices like laptops and film equipment, you’ll want to research options $75 and above.
4. Hang Onto Your Old Device
In the U.S., 44% of smartphone users said they replace or upgrade their phone as often as their provider allows, typically every two years. Many of these working devices end up cluttering landfills, while others are broken down into usable materials. Consumers and businesses alike can reduce their digital footprint by holding onto devices longer.
If you have a cracked screen, look into DIY tools online, or visit a local shop. The cost is remarkably affordable compared to the latest phone model. If your device is running slow, delete unused or unwanted apps, photos, videos, files and more. Most smartphones have a built-in storage cleaner that can free up space.
5. Download Instead of Stream
Video streaming makes up a large chunk of internet traffic. Data centers that host streaming sites like Netflix, YouTube and Facebook consume around 1% of the world’s electricity each year, a number that’s expected to grow. More demand for this type of technology means more consumed energy.
To minimize carbon output, data centers need to be fed by renewable energy sources, such as solar, hydroelectric or nuclear power. As a consumer, you can reduce the amount of time you spend streaming videos and music each day. Try to download content ahead of time, which puts less strain on networks. If you do stream video, connect to Wi-Fi instead of 4G to consume less energy.
Most of the resources we rely on are finite. It’s crucial to make sustainable choices and reduce your carbon footprint. Reach out to your favorite tech companies and request eco-friendly alternatives. Pare down your inbox and delete any offers for a phone upgrade. You can also invest in a solar charger and reduce your streaming time.
For most of us, it’s impossible to cut out internet use entirely. However, it’s still possible to make eco-friendly decisions.