What is a Digital Carbon Footprint

Digital footprint

What is a digital carbon footprint?  

 

Online seems more sustainable – as our need to travel diminishes and hard copies become all but obsolete – it intensifies our digital carbon footprint, and carries a huge environmental cost. So, what exactly is a digital carbon footprint and what are the impacts of this? 

  • A digital carbon footprint is the CO2 emissions resulting from the production, use and data transfer of digital devices and infrastructure and the technology industry is expected to produce around 14% of global emissions by 2040. 
  • Global email usage generates as much CO2 as having 7 million extra cars on the road. 
  • We could reduce emissions by 16,433 tonnes of CO2—the equivalent of 81,152 flights from London to Madrid—if every email user in the UK sent only one fewer email per day. 
  • There is a release of greenhouse gas emissions each time we use a search engine. Data transmission via the internet can be extremely polluting, accounting for 4% of our country’s greenhouse gas emissions. This is since the process uses a huge amount of energy and necessitates the deployment of millions of physical servers in data centres all over the world. Unfortunately, a substantial portion of the energy originates from sources that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 
  • So, every time we use the internet or social media, a small amount of carbon is being emitted. While one single person’s usage only generates a small amount of carbon dioxide, the collective amount of carbon emissions of the world’s digital usage is monstrous. 
  • Watching online videos accounts for the biggest chunk of the world’s internet traffic – 60% – and generates a whopping 300m tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.  

 

What is being done to combat this? 

 

  • Microsoft has also committed to becoming carbon negative by 2030 and will have offset all carbon emissions by 2050. 
  • Google’s drive has done the most to decarbonize its data and states that they are the “largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world.”  

 

What can you do? 

  • 1 kg of CO2 is produced by video conferences every hour. Simply using audio instead of visual can cut carbon footprint by 96%.  
  • Unsubscribe from junk mail to reduce email emissions. 
  • Switch off your monitors when finished watching videos.  
  • Move data to the cloud – more efficient way to store.  
  • Dim your monitor. Dimming from 100% to 70% reduces the amount of energy used by 20%. 
  • According to research by the French think tank the Shift Project, streaming online material accounts for 58–60% of internet traffic and produces 300 million tonnes of CO2 annually, or around 1% of world emissions. To put things in perspective, one passenger’s typical emissions on a round-trip flight from Paris to New York equal one tonne of CO2. When playing movies, choose lower quality settings and disable auto-play options. 

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