Earlier this week as part of recording a podcast with Kind Community we had a chat about the digital space and whether I thought my industry was talking about the problem of our digital impact on the environment.

And you know what… we’re NOT!

So it set me off on a rant.

The reality is that EVERYTHING you do online adds to your digital carbon footprint.

When we spend our day scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, chatting on Clubhouse, and then our evenings watching Netflix, Prime and Sky, this all adds up to a huge impact.

Add to this the energy required to send all those emails, power all your devices and to send all that junk mail that’s sitting in your inbox, and we can see an impact that can and SHOULD be reduced.

Take a look at these figures…

Internet use accounts for 3.7% of global emissions, the equivalent of all air traffic in the world2

…and this is expected to double by 2025.

In just a minute, 150,000,000 emails are being sent, releasing a staggering 600,000 kg of carbon dioxide.

Even before the Covid-19 epidemic, the electricity consumption of the internet represented as much as that of Great Britain!2

 

1https://www.viessmann.co.uk/company/blog/the-worlds-digital-carbon-footprint

2 https://www.energuide.be/en/questions-answers/do-i-emit-co2-when-i-surf-the-internet/69/

 

So what can we do about it?

Here are 10 tips for reducing your digital carbon footprint and leaving only genius dust in your wake.

Declutter your cloud drives – delete any unwanted or redundant files. Every file you add to the cloud needs powering. We think of it as this invisible ‘thing’ but it isn’t. It is very real in the shape of huge servers powering the cloud and our online activity. One way of doing this is to…

Delete your version control files – we love a bit of version control, especially us designers. It can save so many problems with corrupt files, the client changing their mind and wanting to go back to your first idea and many other pains. But once the project is done, get rid of any previous versions you no longer need and just keep the final files.

Clear out your photos – do you really need to keep a picture of that amazing salad you ate in Greece in 2011? Or that cold beer you drank on Friday in some unexpected sunshine? If you have shared it to your Instagram (or other poison of choice) then delete it. You’ll not be needing those photos again. (The real question is more likely – did you need it in the first place?)

Close browsers you are not using – get yourself a good bookmarking tool or ‘to read’ list going and close down those browsers that have been sat there unused for more than 48 hours. If it’s been sat there for weeks and you haven’t read it, chances are you don’t even need it. And yes, I’m guilty as charged <shuts down 14 windows>.

Close software you are not using – some software are incredibly labour intensive on your machine and use an enormous amount of energy to run (looking at you Photoshop). So shut them down whilst you are not using them. It may just speed your machine up too. Bonus!

Delete redundant social media profiles and websites – do you still have unused profiles lingering around – that myspace account from 1996, a Friends Reunited profile (remember that?), or a website from a business you no longer run? Maybe it’s a hotmail address you haven’t logged into for 5 years but is still there collecting junk mail? Get rid of them all.

Have a regular inbox clear out – I am not one of you crazies that can have an inbox with 10k unread messages loitering, I’d break out in a sweat just looking at it, but were all guilty of leaving emails in the inbox way past their use. Switch your view to display emails from oldest to new and start working your way up deleting anything you don’t absolutely need.

It’s also quite therapeutic to do, like a good spring clean. Or is that just me?

Speaking of your inbox – unsubscribe from any newsletters you do not genuinely read or look at (even if that is mine). If you are not reading them, they are essentially junk mail. Plus, it’s one less thing to deal with every day. I have found my inbox a lot less overwhelming since I unsubscribed from about 50+ lists I ended up on. Damn these people that make you sign up to buy/do anything.

Reduce the quantity of emails you send – yes, you, the one flooding my inbox daily with your marketing spiel and scarcity tactics. Aside from the fact that it is just starting to look desperate it is NOT NEEDED. It was pissing me off before I even considered the impact on the planet.

As for email trails – do you need to copy in ALL those people in every email? They’re not gonna read it and you’ll have to phone them anyway.

Finally – switch off your devices – yes, it is a pain in the a**e, but at the end of the day it is just laziness. And I say this as a guilty party here too. It can add as much as 3% to your bill. With most families having multiple chargers and devices scattered around the house, it can add up – moneywise and environmentally. So get ‘em unplugged.

 

Any switched-on charger that is plugged in will still use electricity, regardless of whether the device is attached or not

Energy Saving Trust

If I have unsubscribed from your newsletter, apologies, but it is for the environment (and my current state of overwhelm).

It’s not you, it’s me… the planet.

I would hope if I get your newsletter that we already have some connection built up elsewhere and that I will still be seeing your content anyhoo. If not, I know where to find you. Mwah-ha-ha