Earth Day April 22. 2021, How to become a more environmentally responsible digital citizen?

On this day, April 22nd, and like every year, we celebrate Earth Day. An important date all over the world that reminds us how important it is to protect the environment. Altogether, young and old, think about the consequences of technology on their daily lives. How do our activities and behavior impact the environment? Technology has long been seen as a tool for dematerialization, i.e. an ideal way to reduce paper consumption and avoid deforestation, but also to limit the use of paper ink. It also fosters a reduction in the sending of documents by mail post and allows remote consultation of documents. Quarantine has only confirmed all of the aforementioned arguments. It has also limited travel, and thus pollution.

We can see that technology has brought many improvements and allowed a significant reduction of CO2 emissions. However, we should not forget the main drawback: there are still 2 to 3% of global CO2 emissions. Other studies, such as Ericsson’s recent one, though less alarming, show that the global CO2 emissions are around 1.4%. If the IT industry can help reduce its carbon footprint, the positive effects will be evident and effective and will help protect our planet even more.

We may not realize that the production, use, and transfer of data actively contributes to the earth’s CO2 emissions. According to a 2019 estimate, more than 4 billion people worldwide have access to the Internet. This means that every person can exchange emails, watch videos, use a search engine, or store documents on the cloud, thus multiplying the need for electricity and increasing CO2 emissions. Big Tech Companies – led by GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft) – have started to work on this, as they are highly criticized for their energy-intensive activity. That’s why several projects have emerged, as well as promises to use green energy before 2030.

The importance of digital is growing day by day, that’s a fact. That is why it is important to raise awareness about the use of technology and take stock of its energy consumption on this Earth Day. Here are some simple ways and behaviors to adopt to reduce CO2 emissions daily.

These changes would not alter in any way, our digital communication. Rather, they would enable you and your children to become environmentally responsible digital citizens.

1. The manufacturing of smartphones and computers.

Their manufacturing requires considerable resources. At the end of their life, smartphones and other computers belong to the group called “Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment” (WEEE) and can therefore be dangerous because they are made of toxic substances. Hence the importance of extending their lifespan of these electronic objects as much as possible, by repairing them or recycling them. In Switzerland, the lifespan of a smartphone is two years and 5 years for a computer.

2. Datacenters.

Data centers are these gigantic warehouses located worldwide, where astronomical amounts of information are hosted, and which transit all data. This requires the use of electricity at all times, and with the exponential growth of data, even more energy. These facilities, therefore, consume a lot of electricity to operate and they also need to be cooled to avoid overheating. Storing our information on our computer or an external hard drive, avoiding the cloud as much as possible, would reduce our digital footprint. Another possible tip, you can limit energy consumption by directly inserting the address, instead of going through a search engine. We recommend that you directly enter the address into the search engine. Subsequently, you can add it to your favorites. Also, make sure that you empty your browser’s cache, to delete the excess data.

3. YouTube video streaming, Tik Tok, Netflix…

Streaming is believed to be the source of 60% of global data traffic. Therefore, it is better to download music than to stream it. It is better to play songs as audio files rather than using YouTube or others. Another tip is to disable automatic video playback on social networks such as Facebook, to reduce data transmission.

4. Video conference, Teams, Zoom, & co.

According to a Purdue University study, turning off the camera during video conferences could help reduce a person’s carbon footprint by 96%. If several people are available, and you don’t necessarily need to intervene, you or your children will have a better excuse vis-à-vis your colleagues or teachers than remaining in your pajamas to avoid turning on the camera.

5. Emails.

Probably less polluting than the previous methods, it is always interesting to know some tips to limit digital pollution. We recommend you empty your mailbox very often, to reduce data storage. You can also use email cleaners, such as Cleanfox. This tool scans your mailbox and sorts out your different messages. Subsequently, you decide whether you want to delete the selected messages, unsubscribe or limit the number of email recipients. When sending emails, try as much as possible to compress files and reduce the number of recipients. Finally, sometimes a phone call is more effective than an endless exchange of emails.

6. Energy saving.

Put your smartphone in power-saving mode when you are not using it, whether at school or the office.

Some applications allow you to measure your carbon footprint and thus contribute, to becoming a responsible digital citizen.

ECOSIA, is an Eco-Friendly Search Engine. ECOSIA  is a search engine that plants a tree for every search.


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