Five Ways You Can Reduce Your Digital Carbon Footprint

The extreme fluctuations in weather and climate patterns have become more frequent in recent times, posing a major concern for humanity today. Often these climate changes can be attributed to the amount of CO2 we collectively produce, which exceeds the amount the planet can absorb. From burning fossil fuels while driving to cranking up the furnace, we are responsible for releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  All the greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide) emitted due to our actions cumulatively form our carbon footprint. 

Many people are unaware that even our less obvious activities like using the internet add to our carbon footprint and contribute to global warming. Digital technologies contribute to almost 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and experts predict this number can double by 2025.

Although the internet’s data is highly invisible, it is processed and stored in massive data centres worldwide. These data centres are powered 24/7 and contribute extensively to carbon emissions caused by their energy consumption. These centres are always ready to send all kinds of information, including news, videos, music, memes, and messages, to our digital devices. This entire data that we’ve grown used to having at our fingertips accumulates to our digital carbon footprints. So, remember that every time you click on something, you are polluting the planet further.

We contribute to our growing ‘ digital carbon footprint even while surfing the web or sending mail using our digital gadgets. Therefore, it is time to reduce our digital carbon footprint and live more sustainably. If you intend to limit the environmental effect of your online activities, here is a list of five easy ways to cut down on your digital carbon footprint.

  • Modify your ways of using email 
  • Try to clean your crammed inbox regularly. Each email you store contributes to emitting nearly 10 grams of CO2 per year. Moreover, every mail you exchange consumes specific units of computing power & electricity. Instead of sending large attachments to many people, provide a link to a file-sharing platform and, preferably, use text format instead of HTML wherever possible.

    You can also unsubscribe to the newsletters you don’t read, thereby reducing the number of emails in your inbox. You can also report spam emails to ensure that you don’t receive them repeatedly; that way, you won’t have to delete unnecessary emails. 

  • Optimize the power settings of your electronic gadgets 
  • A small step, like decreasing the brightness of your computer monitor from 100% to 70% or below, can conserve almost 20% of the energy consumed by the monitor. By simply getting the brightness down to your optimum comfort level, you can quickly and easily bring down your carbon footprint.

    Also, instead of leaving your computer in sleep mode, it is better to turn off your computer or any electronic equipment when they are not in use. Although the energy consumed by the computer in sleep mode is minimum, the fact that it is consumed when the gadget is asleep implies that it is effectively wasted. 

  • Operate your browser diligently  
  • Although it may seem trivial, every search query you enter in a search engine and every file you upload to the cloud utilizes power. Hence, try to maintain accuracy while searching to avoid doing it multiple times. Also, try opening only the tabs you need and closing the unnecessary ones while using the search engine.

    It is a good idea to assign bookmarks to your set of commonly surfed websites rather than searching them afresh every time. Also, try using eco-friendly search engines, like Ecosia, which funds planting trees from their profit through online searches to counterpoise their environmental impact.

    Most websites you visit transmit your data to hundreds of companies. Hence, always remember to turn on strict data tracking protection on your device. 

  • Reconsider cloud storage
  • Cloud computing relies on data centres that consume a lot of power & electricity. Every file you upload onto the cloud gets saved repeatedly for security purposes. Hence, try to upload or save only the files or folders that you consider essential. For instance, when you click five identical images, do you like all of them? If not, then try to make it a habit of deleting them from the cloud at that point. Instead of saving them on the cloud, you can opt for hard drives or pen drives for saving them, which is a more environment-friendly option.

  • Always prefer to download instead of streaming videos
  • Streaming is one of the biggest enemies of the environment, as it adds to your digital carbon footprint and contributes to about 300 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year, a figure which will only continue to rise. If possible, reduce your daily watching time, and preferably download videos if you plan to rewatch them. That way, you pull the data from the server only once, unlike when you stream.

    It is important to think carefully about any video because streaming the video online will emit 8.7 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere. Additionally, you can disable autoplay videos and try to use Wi-Fi instead of 4G, as it consumes less energy.

    Furthermore, it is important to restrict the overall time you spend using the internet, especially smartphones, it will benefit not only the environment but also your mental health. 

    Some other steps towards protecting the environment

    Besides reducing your digital carbon footprint, you should try to avoid creating electronic waste by being responsible while disposing of your electronic gadgets. Be it something as tiny as a battery or something as big as your computer or a printer, try not to mix or discard them off with your regular household waste.  Several elements present in these electronic devices are potentially detrimental to the environment. Besides, we can recycle many parts of these gadgets. So, instead of throwing it away or letting it gather dust at home, try to reach out to a nearby recycling centre or hand it over to a designated pick-up service.

    In the first place, you must try to avoid changing your gadgets often, especially the best models of smartphones. One of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to buy less powerful devices that ensure lesser energy consumption.

    Implementing some simple modifications in your digital life may initially seem slightly cumbersome, but in the long term, you’ll be moving towards a more environment-friendly and healthy life.