Sustainable life

How to reduce your digital carbon footprint and digital pollution

Sustainable habits have fortunately multiplied in the last decade. They range from zero-waste and slow living to green and plastic-free cosmetics and vegan recipes. But what about the internet and the digital world?

Have you ever wondered if the 50 movies you’ve been streaming over the past year have polluted the environment?

If this idea has never crossed your mind, don’t feel guilty. That’s fine, no worries. I had never wondered that myself either until I received a well-crafted email on the matter. This is one of the reasons why I’ve decided to focus on this issue: very few people I know are aware of their digital footprint.

While this is understandable, the phenomenon can’t be ignored anymore and action is highly needed. Because a harmonious, sustainable world should also include a green internet animated by sustainable habits.

I know what you may be thinking right now: Will the single actions of a user change the whole world overnight? Probably not. Yet, I personally think the joint actions of hundreds of thousands of users might well have an impact.

And in any case, it’s always important to raise awareness, isn’t it? So here’s a list of actions you can take to concretely reduce your digital carbon footprint.

  • When possible, opt for downloading instead of streaming videos. As for music, audio streaming platforms consume less than video streaming platforms. However, remember that if you appreciate some albums and you listen to them repeatedly, you could also support artists by purchasing their creations either materially or online. Personally, I regard my small catalogue of well-crafted albums as an endless, precious source of inspiration and beauty. Yep, I easily get emotional because of art. And so could you ????
  • Choose WiFi instead of 4G, as 4G produces up to 23 times more gases than WiFi.
  • Switch to low-resolution movies and videos instead of high-definition ones.
  • Disable autoplay videos on platforms such as FB or YT.
  • Turn off your modem during the night or when outside. You don’t need it if you’re away and not using it. It may even be considered as a way to cut down on electricity consumption, which means that you’ll probably pay less money on a monthly basis, you know.
  • Clean up your email box to avoid accumulating emails and increase data consumption.
  • Unsubscribe from mailing lists you no longer read. While the carbon footprint of a single email isn’t huge, the carbon footprint of tons of useless emails is. It has been estimated that the average user receives 2,850 unwanted emails every year, which are responsible for 28.5kg CO2e.
  • Avoid email attachments and use links to documents. If possible, avoid sending messages to multiple recipients. Even more interestingly, send a text message, if that’s the case! Each text generates just 0.014g of CO2e.
  • Reduce the files stored on your cloud to the minimum. More data stored on the cloud means more energy consumption for data centres. And more pollution.
  • From a more material perspective, you can choose to reduce electronic waste, repair and extend the life of your devices or buy reconditioned ones. If you already have a properly functioning one, do you really need to buy the latest smartphone and/or supersmart laptop and/or super…whatever? Answer: no. You don’t, trust me. And I’m sure you can resist the impulse. Give it a try (and if you don’t know how to do it, well, let yourself be inspired by some minimalist reflections).

Go one step further and advocate

If you want to commit even more to this mission and take further steps, you may consider the following:

  • Be aware of how web platforms power their services and activities.
  • Use platforms, search engines, databases, and networks powered by sustainable energy sources.
  • Advocate, speak up, vote and choose sensibly. In our 21st-century system, human beings are mostly regarded as consumers. Well, let’s take advantage of this status and defend our consumers’ right to a cleaner, more sustainable digital world.

And if taking action is not enough and you want to dig deeper, here’s a more detailed analysis of digital pollution to understand why and how your digital habits may pollute the environment.

I hope this article was somehow helpful. You’re not alone in the path towards self- and community improvement 🙂

Would you suggest anything else to reduce our digital carbon footprint? Let me know in the comment section!


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