Digital pollution currently represents almost 4% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, the equivalent of the pollution generated by air traffic. However, very simple daily gestures would make it possible to reduce these effects which are not very respectful of the environment.
Delete unnecessary emails
Storing an unread email or one that has become useless after it has been opened in your personal or professional inbox costs the planet about 4 grams of CO2 emissions per year. And when we know that each French would have between 10,000 and 50,000 emails likely to be deleted, we can imagine the ecological impact of their storage on the scale of the national population. Indeed, each email is contained in servers installed in energy-intensive data centers. In order to understand this impact, know that 65 emails stored in this way represent in CO2 emissions the equivalent of a one kilometer trip with a gasoline car.
In fact, the Ministry of Ecological Transition recommends deleting unnecessary emails, spam or unread emails that you will never read. Taking the time to regularly clean your mailbox is therefore an easy first step. Once in the virtual trash, also remember to empty it.
In addition, an email with an attachment (photo, pdf…) can consume 20 grams of CO2 per year for its storage. Prefer, when possible, to provide a download link in your email, via ephemeral data storage platforms, such as WeTransfer for example.
Our online activities create very real pollution: digital production and consumption represent 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
– Ministry of Ecology (@Ecologie_Gouv) October 8, 2020
Prefer a phone call to a videoconference
With the teleworking boom and the pandemic which has reinforced social distancing, software and applications allowing video calls and videoconferences (Teams, Zoom, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Google Meet, etc.) have seen their uses jump. And yet, all of them have a significant impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.
An hour of video conferencing with the camera on or streaming emits 150 g to 1 kilo of carbon dioxide, according to a study conducted at the end of 2020 by the universities of Purdue, Yale and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. It is therefore strongly advised to turn off the camera if possible during the conferences and to ask yourself about the need to choose to go through video, if the exchange can be done simply by telephone.
And at a time when we consume more and more streaming videos, be aware that watching a 10-minute high-definition video on a smartphone is equivalent to using a 2,000 W electric oven at full power for 5 minutes.
Clear your computer’s history and cache
Just like deleting emails stored on servers that consume resources and end up generating CO2, emptying your computer’s history, cookies and cache regularly is a gesture that can help the planet, according to Ademe (Agence de environment and energy management). A small gesture that lightens your computer or smartphone and helps it run better.
When possible, also favor the storage of your data on a local hard drive or peripheral. The Cloud, based on servers, is also very energy-intensive. So ask yourself about the usefulness of keeping your photos, videos, documents on it or not. Some may be vital or important and deserve it, others maybe less?
Choose devices that can be easily repaired
In January 2021, France required manufacturers of electronic devices to indicate a repairability index on the packaging. For now, only five product categories are concerned: mobile phones, televisions, computers, washing machines and electric lawnmowers. It is important to look at this index before your purchase, if you want to do something for the environment. Indeed, an easily repairable product can survive the years and can even be more easily reconditioned if you part with it.
Also remember that smartphones, tablets and computers alone represent “47% of greenhouse gas emissions generated by digital technology”, according to the Paris climate agency.
Finally, be aware that Europe is considering making a new sustainability index mandatory soon, this time in order to fight against planned obsolescence.
Recycle your end-of-life devices
If you are parting with your electronics, first consider whether the device is still in working order or can be repaired. Giving it a second life by reselling it second-hand (after erasing your data) or by selling it to a company specializing in reconditioning is a good practice. This extends its lifespan and sometimes allows people with less budget to access the digital world.
Finally, if the device in question is broken and cannot be repaired, recycling it is the best solution. It should be taken to a collection point for waste electrical and electronic equipment. There are more than 1,200 in France and there is bound to be one near you. Also note that some companies may collect it from their employees.