Have you ever thought that every action we perform digitally has an environmental impact? It is also known as a digital carbon footprint. Approximately 4.1 billion people in the world or 53.6% of the global population now use the internet. The digital carbon footprint of the internet is about 3.7% of the global emission. A study has estimated that this number will double by 2025 because of the widespread use of the internet. The digital carbon footprint of the internet comes from the manufacturing, shipping, and energy use of devices which mostly comes from fossil fuel energy. As internet users, we have to be more conscious of our digital carbon footprint to reduce our environmental impact. Decluttering our digital life or digital decluttering can be a good way to reduce our digital carbon footprint.
Digital decluttering is the process of sorting and cleaning up data on our gadgets. This data consists of unnecessary documents, files, blurred pictures, browser history, cookies, cache, spam email, etc. Digital decluttering helps us to be more organized, thus increasing our productivity. So, what can we do to reduce our digital carbon footprint?
1. Clean Up Your Email
A regular email produces approximately 4 g CO2e, and an email with an attachment produces 50 g CO2e. Cleaning up your email by deleting your inbox, deleting spam email, and unsubscribing unnecessary email newsletters can be the first step to lowering your digital carbon footprint.
2. Declutter Your Data Storage
Digital technology allows us to save a lot of data and documents easily. However, too much data and documents are not only bad for our gadget performance, but it is also bad for the environment. Data that we store in a computer needs electricity to operate. Furthermore, data that we save in cloud storage also requires bigger energy.
Data that we save in cloud storage is stored in a data center. It is a place to house computer systems for processing, distribution, and data storage. To prevent the data center from overheating, it needs a cooling system which requires energy to work. The digital carbon footprint of the data center is equivalent to 2% of global emissions. It is expected to increase by 3.2% in 2025 and 14% in 2040. To prevent the environmental impact of our data storage, try to declutter our data storage. Clean up unnecessary files, documents, browser history, cookies, cache, etc.
3. Limit Your Screen Time
Limiting your screen time can significantly reduce your digital carbon footprint. A French Think Tank, The Shift Project, estimates that watching online video produces 1% of the global emission. Furthermore, video games have an environmental impact. A study found that US gamers produce 24 megatonnes of carbon dioxide a year. It shows that our screen time also causes a digital carbon footprint.
So, how to beat boredom amid the pandemic without digital technology? To limit our screen time, we can start doing other activities, such as gardening, trying a recycling project, cooking, etc.
Implementing Sustainable Consumption and Production in the Digital Sector
The three steps to reduce our digital carbon footprint mentioned above also support the implementation of sustainable consumption and production in the digital sector. However, in a particular situation, digital technology can be more eco-friendly compared to conventional technology. For instance, video conferencing is more sustainable compared to an in-person meeting. Video conferencing only produces 7% of the emission of in-person meetings. Although it has smaller impact, we still have to be aware that every action that we do on our gadgets may affect the environment; thus, we need to be more conscious of our digital carbon footprint.