Five ways to help reduce your digital carbon footprint
Today marks the end of COP26, a United Nations summit taking place in Glasgow that has brought together more than 120 world leaders to look at what can be done to tackle climate change.
Much of the talk around the event has focused on large-scale measures and pledges that could be put in place by countries and major industries to reduce carbon emissions. But there’s also lots we can do as individuals that will help to bring about a positive change for the environment.
You might not think it, but our collective consumption of data has an impact on our carbon footprint. And much of this data consumption stems from how we use the devices that we rely on every day.
For example, there’s the small amounts of electricity needed to charge and use your devices, which all add up. And at the larger end of the scale what about the data centres needed to process the data that includes yours?
Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to reduce the impact that your tech use might be having on the environment.
We’ve set out a few of these here – can you think of any more?
Recycle – or repair – your devices
Whether it’s a mobile phone, tablet, computer or games console, it’s often not long before the latest model gets overtaken by something newer, shinier and faster. It’s exciting – and easy - to upgrade to new tech, and we don’t always think about what’s going to happen to our old device. Think about whether it could be handed on to somebody you know, or if a charity will take it. It’s far better than simply sending it to landfill. At the same time, if your device isn’t working correctly, get an expert opinion on whether it could be repaired to help you get a bit more life out of it. Mobile phones and tablets that aren’t in good enough condition to be passed on for reuse or repair can be described as waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). Check out your local services for WEEE recycling.
Unplug it if you’re not using it
A plugged-in device will still use electricity even while on standby. If you’re not using it, unplug it. And when charging devices, keep an eye on them so you can unplug them when they’re fully charged. According to the Energy Saving Trust, you can save around £35 a year just by remembering to turn your appliances off standby mode. Almost all electrical and electronic appliances can be turned off at the plug without upsetting their programming. You may want to think about getting a standby saver which allows you to turn all your appliances off standby in one go.
Think about your emails
As with most computer-based activities, emails rely on electricity and data – whether it’s sending, receiving or storing them. So, before you type out an email, think about whether you really need to. That’s especially the case if the person you’re emailing is sat in the same office as you! And think about those mailing lists and newsletter subscriptions – how many are you still interested in? By having an audit and unsubscribing from those that you don’t want to receive any more, not only will you be using less energy and data, you’ll also get a bit of your time back.
Stream as a team
A study by the University of Glasgow found that streaming and downloading music has greatly increased greenhouse gas emissions. To reduce your impact, try to watch things with others, whether it’s your family, friends or housemates. This is much better than you all watching the same thing separately at different times in different rooms.
Play your games and apps offline
Similar to streaming your music, streaming or playing video games online uses more energy than playing them offline. If you’re happy to spend some of your gaming time solo, play offline on your console or tablet. It’s still fun, and you can catch up with your teammates next time you’re all online together.