You Digital Carbon Footprint and Ways to Reduce it

It’s easy to think of the internet as the environmentally friendly solution to everything, from wasteful paper handouts to unnecessary in-person meetings. But the truth isn’t quite so simple. Our devices; including our computers, phones, and WiFi boxes — require energy to keep running. Data centers and servers that support the internet and store its content have to keep running, too. A single Google search emits anywhere from 0.2 to 0.7 grams of carbon dioxide. The average email has a carbon footprint of 4 grams — one with extra-large attachments can range up to 50 grams. The information and communications sector as a whole is estimated to produce more than 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gases annually; that’s 2% of global CO2 emissions.  

The size of your carbon footprint is closely connected to how much time you spend on your devices, the equipment you use, and your use of networks, servers, and data centers. Powerful gaming computers and large screens are the greatest electricity consumers among user devices. Intending to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we create, here is a list of easy ways to reduce your digital carbon footprint.

Downloading is Better than Streaming

When watching videos or listening to music, you should know that downloading files always uses less power than streaming. As a general rule, if you are trying to save energy you should opt for locally sourced data rather than files on remote servers. By the same token, storing data in the cloud is more damaging to the environment than storing it locally. Last, but not least, it is important to ensure that autoplay for video is turned off in settings.

Manage your Emails

Applying a few simple techniques can also reduce the carbon footprint of your email correspondence. As a rule, you should limit the number of emails you send, especially mails to multiple recipients. At the same time, it is worth thinking about the size of attachments, which should be kept small and in text format. Clean out your deleted emails. When you delete an email, it might disappear from your inbox, but it’s usually left sitting in your trash folder, so empty the trash as well. If they are stored in the server, they use bandwidth and energy. Unsubscribe from unwanted emails. When you receive promotional or spam emails that you don’t want, rather than just deleting them, unsubscribe from the list altogether. This will reduce your email traffic, lower your data consumption – and make it easier to manage your inbox.

Adjust Your Computer and Monitor Settings

Reduce the brightness of your monitor. Adjust your standby and sleep settings. When you take breaks from using your computer, you should set the device to go into “sleep” mode to conserve power. Turn off devices when they’re not in use. When you’re finished using your computer, shut it down entirely and turn it off at the switch – and do the same for printers, scanners, and any other connected devices.

As a bonus tip, you can also change your smartphone to “dark” mode, which lowers the screen brightness and conserves battery life. Lower battery consumption means you won’t have to charge it as often – and you’ll save extra electricity.

While each individual email has only a tiny CO2 footprint, we’re sending and receiving more of them every day – and the trend is only expected to continue. By being smarter with how you use your inbox, you can eliminate a lot of unnecessary internet bandwidth – and lower your carbon footprint in the process.

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. 

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