Are you thinking about your digital carbon footprint?

In a world that is increasingly digital and constantly connected, is anyone thinking about the digital carbon footprint?
13 September 2018

Do executives really need more than one monitor at a time? Source: Shutterstock

Today’s modern enterprises run on technology. From servers to desktops to printers, everything is almost always switched on and consuming power.

All of these devices connect to the internet, enabling businesses to send and receive hundreds of thousands of emails, run dozens of social media campaigns, and engage with millions of customers and end-users on various platforms — on a daily basis.

However, all this digital engagement has a negative impact on the environment. It leaves a massive carbon footprint, damaging the Earth’s ecosystem for decades to come.

According to the Guardian, a typical year of incoming mail for a business user – including sending, filtering and reading – creates a carbon footprint of around 135 kilograms (approx 300 lbs). That’s over 1 percent of a relatively green 10-tonne lifestyle and equivalent to driving 200 miles in an average car.

But it’s not just email, sending a tweet, streaming music and videos, and sending text messages creates a digital carbon footprint. It’s every digital interaction that we have.

Now, imagine living in a connected world. Every device around you is generating and transmitting data, all the time.  Gartner believes there will be 20 billion connected devices by 2020. Imagine the digital carbon footprint that will generate.

The data is being generated is also being stored in servers and digital repositories around the world. Different organizations access that data, in real-time and from archives, to generate insights, ideas, and reports.

The fact is, organizations need to get conscious of their impact on the environment — now.

The Duke Green Classroom at the Duke University has a few recommendations for organizations and looking to reduce their digital carbon footprint:

# 1 | Buy conscientiously and consume selectively

Organizations often make digital purchases with the future in mind, investing in several computing components at once. However, streamlining purchases to what’s necessary is good for the environment.

With more and more enterprises adopting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, thinking about the digital carbon footprint and investing appropriately is important.

# 2 | Optimize charging cycles and device life

When you maximize the life of your hardware and optimize its power consumption, you make a conscious effort to reduce your digital carbon footprint.

That effort not only helps reduce the energy needs of your devices and your digital actions but also ensures you stay conscious about the environmental impact of your activities in the digital world.

# 3 | Reduce streaming content

As marketers focus their efforts on creating engaging content, users tend to stream quite a lot of content from various sources.

Despite its apparent returns in terms of sales, campaigns that require audiences to stream content have quite an adverse impact on the planet.

The Green Prophet says 1gram of carbon-dioxide is emitted for every 10 minutes of YouTube videos streamed. Multiplied by the billions of views the platform generates every month, the impact could be catastrophic in the long run.

# 4 | Design low-carbon websites

Low carbon websites are sites designed to consume less energy and create less environmental waste. They’re resource light experiences, ideally running on servers fuelled by renewable energy.

Not all organizations need to conduct business online, however, they still need a web presence if they want to survive in the digital age. Such companies should consider designing and running a low-carbon website.

# 5 | Use green web hosts and data centers

Green web hosts and green data centers are digital infrastructures that run on sustainable energy sources such as solar power and tidal energy, and are supported by socially responsible, carbon-neutral facilities.

The fact that these digital infrastructure companies are conscious about their impact on the environment itself goes a long way toward saving the planet. Companies should encourage their IT teams to evaluate the feasibility of running a part of their operations at such facilities.