Modern technology connects businesses to the internet, giving them the ability to send and receive as many as possible emails, run social media campaigns, engage with globally widespread customers on various platforms. As more aspects of life become dependent on modern technology, the impact on the planet is undermined. But what happens when these activities reach their end? What happens to the data accumulated over the many years? The answer is Digital Waste.
What Is Digital Waste?
Digital waste is the digital footprint contribution to carbon emissions around the world. Digital waste comes from raw, processed, idle or in use data. As new technologies emerge new solutions emerge to store data, poor management of this data can lead to environmental consequences.
The leading data-driven infrastructures such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon that provide cloud-based services are the driving force of carbon emissions and energy consumption.
“We create an astonishing 50 million tons of it a year, and without urgent action this could more than double by 2050”.Mike Huges, Forbes
There is a carbon cost to data storage as certain uses of information are more energy intensive than others.
Every digital engagement from sending emails to streaming videos creates waste. The energy required for just one internet search results in the emissions of 0.2 grams of carbon. It might not sound much, however, when 100 people in an office search 50 terms a day it will result in 250kg of carbon generated a year. Similarly, training a single AI algorithm requires carbon dioxide as much as five cars will produce over their lifetimes.
Global CO2 produced from online activities:
📩306 billion emails sent or received daily produce 1.2 trillion grams of CO2 daily
- 🖥 1 billion hours watched on YouTube daily produce 6 million grams of CO2 daily
- 💬 18.7 billion text messages daily produce 261.8 million grams of CO2 daily
The growing amount of data collected by businesses also requires more and more storage space. Meaning storing large amounts of data needs large amounts of physical storage hardware. Maintaining this hardware storage is energy and space intensive and all these processes produce carbon emissions.
How Can Your Company Minimise Digital Waste?
The world is becoming more and more data driven, and businesses success relies on acquiring data. In order to provide better solutions, products and services to satisfy their consumer base and gain competitive advantages. This has led to businesses creating more and more data as it is valuable and provides them with useful insights. Digital waste is a huge growing concern amongst experts and therefore it’s time to take action now!
Here are 5 ways a company can approach digital waste reduction:
- ☁️ Cloud Storage: Companies can reduce their CO2 emissions by switching to cloud-based. Cloud data storage can reduce 50% of CO2 emissions.
- 🔌 Unplug devices: All devices should be unplugged when the power is off to stop energy waste. Computers continue to pull 0.5-2 watts of energy when plugged in.
- 📽 Reduce streaming content: Streaming content can create a huge impact, choosing to download means the data is only pulled once from the server.
- 🍃 Low carbon websites: Creating and designing low carbon websites means less energy consumption and less environmental waste.
- 🔋 Power settings: Putting computers or laptops on sleep or hibernate mode and turning off monitors and printers, will stop energy waste. Laptops burn 15-60 watts of energy while in use and 2-5 watts of energy in sleep mode.
How to start your digital waste free life?
Employees making changes at workplaces isn’t enough to minimise digital waste. It is up to individuals to incorporate these habits into daily life to make a real impact. Encouraging good practices into everyday life will change mindsets for the future. Can you take the challenge of becoming digital waste free?
Here are examples to kick off your journey:
- 📱Mobile Phone – delete old content and apps that are not used and avoid downloading intensive apps such as Facebook and Google Maps.
- 💻 Laptop – buy designs which last and are repairable, alongside avoid having screensavers instead choose sleep mode after 10 minutes.
- 📨 Inbox – clean out your inbox regularly by deleting unwanted emails and unsubscribing to newsletters, it’s estimated around 10 grams of CO2 is generated from one newsletter.
- 📸 Video – taking part in online meetings with the camera on can create 9.4kg CO2 a month, turning off the video would save the same amount of emissions created from a smartphone charging each night for 3 years.
- 📡 Internet – limit the time you spend on the internet for activities such as social media and gaming to reduce your CO2 footprint.
Want to learn more?
2030 Builders specialise in creating solutions based on sustainability and global phenomena. Their sustainability engagement platform provides modules based on customer needs and company goals. Try the digital waste module and encourage good habits in your company today by booking a demo!
Make sure to check out the webinar 👇 on Digital Waste by 2030 Builders CEO Gabriela Negru and Gerry McGovern, an expert and author of World-Wide Waste. The webinar gives insights on digital waste history, impact and how individuals as well as companies can take part in reducing their digital carbon footprint.
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