Digital Pollution: How To Reduce Your Environmental Impact Online

It goes without saying that today, the implementation of actions in favour of the environment — reducing, reusing & recycling — has become a habit for most of us. But what about our digital use? According to Greenpeace, if the internet were a country, it would be the 6th largest global energy consumer.

It is possible to limit our online carbon footprint by implementing just a few, simple steps that can make a huge difference.

C02 is being emitted for every email sent, received or stored. You can get off to a good start by spring-cleaning your inbox. Think of it as your digital home — it also needs decluttering and organising every now and again. Delete or archive old mail, classify your inbox regularly and reassess your newsletter situation: do you tend to ignore those you’re no longer interested in rather than unsubscribing? CleanFox can come in handy for that purpose: it’s a great app that enables you to delete and/or unsubscribe from polluting newsletters in a fast and easy way.

It’ll also help to limit the amount of email correspondence and recipients in your emails to the strict necessary, and to remove any image or animation from your email signature. If you need to send an attachment, think of compressing the file — or if the document is accessible on the internet directly then just share the link! And of course, don’t print your emails.

Replace email use when necessary with internal messaging tools such as Slack — a lot less gluttonous in terms of electricity.

Digital pollution begins right at the beginning of our IT equipment life cycle. The manufacturing part ranks number #1 when it comes to CO2 emissions. This is why it proves necessary to elongate their lifespan. The best way? Choose second-hand or reconditioned equipment when a new purchase is necessary. Always repair before replacing. And don’t just throw it away when it has taken its last breath. Make sure you take it to the correct place for recycling.

Remember to turn off your electronic devices when you’re not using them, and to take out all the plugs. Anytime a cord is plugged into a socket, it’s drawing energy, so even if your device isn’t charging, you’re still contributing to your carbon footprint.

If you’re the kind of person that has the tendency to open innumerable tabs whilst surfing the internet, then you’re consuming energy for nothing: each web page that remains open is continuously connected to its server. It’s worth adding The Great Suspender extension to your browser: tabs that have not been viewed after a configurable length of time will be automatically suspended in the background, freeing up the memory being consumed by that tab.

Google itself accounts for about 40% of the internet’s carbon footprint. Every single search impacts the planet. Why? Because it relies on data centres, that require a lot of energy to run. So, what can you do? You can switch to more responsible search engines. Ecosia, for example, is known to plant a single tree, for every 45 searches.

Another goal to work towards is to get straight to the point in your search. Be precise when you search, using direct keywords. If you’re looking to go to a specific page, then type its URL directly into the address bar, preventing the use of the search engine and data centres. Think of saving websites you frequently visit in your favourites, or alternatively, click in your history browser to access it directly. All these shortcuts will contribute to the reduction of your carbon footprint!

Deactivate all notifications unless you really need them. Not only is it a real game-changer for focus by not having to contend with any interference, but you’ll be saving a lot of energy too.

Today, half of the world’s population is online, and these numbers increase daily. Digital pollution hasn’t yet been put under the spotlight but it’s an important issue that we all need to get involved in, for the well-being of our planet.

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Bonny Lmr

Trilingual. Agency Owner. Content Creator. Oat-milk Latte Lover. World Traveller.