It’s time for the digital age to dial down the CO2 production. Here’s how you can do your part and engage in more sustainable behaviours
How much time do you spend using tech each day? Whether it’s working from a screen or calling a client, checking in with a friend on Whatsapp, tracking your walk on a wearable device, playing music via Alexa, chilling out with some TV, or feeling safe with home security, it’s pretty much impossible to imagine a day without utilising the array of modern technology in our lives. But, how is this affecting our planet?
The environmental impact is the true cost of convenience that many of us overlook in our day-to-day lives. Every email sent, appliance charged, and image loaded contributes to carbon emissions. So how can we be more mindful about our tech habits? Here are nine simple, but effective, changes that you can incorporate into your digital day:
Save power simply by adjusting the automatic settings on your screens – whether it’s your phone, laptop, TV, or tablet. By reducing the brightness of your screen and the volume down to 70%, Harvard University reports that you could save 20% of your energy consumption – costing you less, and meaning your battery should last longer too.
Did you know estimates suggest that every email produces between 0.03 and 26g of carbon – the longer messages, with more images or attachments, and recipients copied in, all adding to the total. It’s something we can easily overlook, but with overflowing inbox and spam folders, and 306 billion emails sent in 2021 alone (according to Statista), it can quickly add up. Rectify the situation by having a clear-out; unsubscribe from the sales emails, historic newsletters, or random junk you’ve accumulated over the years that you never open, and reserve space only for messages that actually have value to you.
Carrying on the email thread, a place where over-sending is rife is at work, where we automatically ‘reply all’ or send that quick ‘OK thanks’ in a message of its own. But how necessary is that? Choosing to limit how many emails you actually send to only those that are absolutely essential, collating all info into one message, and reducing the thank you pleasantries (perhaps by saying ‘Thank you in advance’), will drastically cut back on waste – and probably save you a lot of time, on top of that.
Unplug those sockets
Our need to always be available means we’re almost conditioned to constantly have things ‘on charge’ – and our power sockets are working overtime, even when the devices aren’t attached. Save electricity, and probably a few pennies on those bills, by switching off sockets instead of leaving appliances on standby, and only charging devices when they need it.
Axe the autoplay
When you open a browser or start watching something on YouTube, you might find videos are playing straight away without the need for you to click on them, and this can be problematic (and annoying) for a few reasons. Not only is autoplay bad for accessibility, but loading videos produces more CO2, so particularly if pages are autoplaying videos you’re not interested in, it’s a huge waste. You should be able to do this in most browsers by going to settings, then security and privacy, and an option there along the lines of media/videos in order to select autoplay off – but not it’s not currently possible for Chrome users.
Bookmark the basics
Every time you Google search, you’re loading thousands of results and producing additional CO2, when a simple solution to cut down on the carbon would be to save your favourite sites as bookmarks, so you can jump straight to them with minimal loading in between.
Switching to a more environmentally-friendly browser to do good while doing your day-to-day online surfing couldn’t be easier. Sites like Ecosia have a free extension you can add to Chrome, which enables it to plant trees from the profits of your searches – with 164 million planted so far (and counting).
Download your faves
Streaming might be the norm, and has helped to reduce plastic waste from CDs, but it produces far more CO2 to play the same album over and over again than simply downloading it to your device. It might be that you can’t download everything because of storage limitations, but your top playlists, or go-to road trip albums, could be worth saving.
Cut down on your digital consumption
The simplest way to reduce your digital carbon footprint is by spending less time online. You might want to set limits on certain apps to stop you from mindless scrolling, or devote one evening or day a week to some screen-free serenity. It could be moving away from multitasking, and not having the telly on in the background while you’re on a tablet? However you approach things, more awareness of your digital footprint can help your to take steps in a more eco-friendly direction.