As a business with an e-shop and that works with the help of the internet towards achieving a world that is more respectful of our planet, there is a topic that has been on our minds for some time now: our digital carbon or environmental footprint.

Although the internet has of course had a positive impact when it comes to free and available access to information and finding alternatives to traditional shopping options, its use also has an effect on the environment around us.
Hence, over the last few months we have been researching about the footprint left on the planet by our online habits and we think it is important to share with you what we have discovered.

For 2 reasons:

  1. So that you are aware that this problem exists and is real.
  2. So that you have the tools required to address the problem, especially at this point in time when many of us are working remotely online.

So, we decided to ask Marion, cofounder of Sinplástico and author of the book “Famlias sin plástico” (Plastic-free families in English), to tell us everything she has found out and put into practice in her daily life to reduce her digital carbon footprint.

…and from her experience this post was born.

We do hope you like it.

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What is a digital carbon footprint?

The concept of a “digital carbon footprint” refers to all the greenhouse gases released due to someone’s internet use (sending emails, using servers to save files or online searching) and it is expressed in grams, kilograms or tonnes of CO2.
Not everyone has a digital carbon footprint. Someone who never uses the internet would for example have a digital carbon footprint of 0kg of CO2, but someone who uses the internet for work could have a daily digital carbon footprint of 1.6kg of CO2 just from sending and receiving emails.

Why is it important to reduce your digital carbon footprint?

It is estimated that the amount of emissions produced from internet use at a global level exceed all the emissions produced from air travel.

To give you an idea:

  • One single email has a carbon footprint of 4g of CO2. However, if you attach a document to the email it could emit up to 50g.
  • A Google search emits 2-7g of CO2. 7g is the equivalent of that generated when making a hot cup of tea.

But your digital carbon footprint doesn’t just come from sending emails and searching the internet.

The streaming platforms have a big part to play in this and are responsible for the explosive growth in emissions of CO2. Let’s check out an example, just Netflix and Youtube combined represent more than 50% of the internet traffic in the USA during times of highest use.

In fact, in 2019 Netflix published a report to say its global energy consumption had reached 451,000 megawatts per hour per year, the equivalent of the energy required to supply 37,000 homes.

 

Marion’s tricks and tips for reducing your digital carbon footprint

 

1. Limit the number of emails you send:

At Sinplástico we have been avoiding sending unnecessary emails for some time now. E.g. we limit internal emails, we try to reduce the number of recipients and we have eliminated thank you emails between co-workers.
No, it’s not that we are rude and impolite 🙂 But rather, as this article by the BBC points out, if every adult in the UK stopped sending emails saying thanks, we could avoid 16,433 tonnes of CO2 being released into the atmosphere every year, the equivalent of 3,334 diesel cars on the road.
In addition, we never send more than one newsletter per week and we have written a short guide to help our team of employees and contractors limit their emails also.

2. Reduce the size of the files you attach (especially images and videos):

Attached files of images and videos considerably increase CO2 emissions. So, before sending them, reduce their size or use a platform that allows you to share files using a link, such as Wetransfer or Google Drive.

3. Work on shared documents:

Instead of sending emails every time that you make a small change with someone on your team, leave your comments on a shared document in the cloud. This way, you can save sending dozens of emails.

 

4. Delete the emails that are no longer needed:

Have you received an email with a message that you do not need to save… Well then its time to delete it. The same can be said of emails with questions from your co-workers that you have already answered, advertising emails and even work documents that are no longer useful or current… This takes us on to the next point we want to make…

5. Cancel any email subscriptions to newsletters you no longer read:

Si hace meses te suscribiste a una newsletter que ya no te interesa y llevas meses sin leer, date de baja. Será mejor para el planeta porque ahorras CO2, mejor para ti porque limpiarás tu bandeja de entrada y mejor para las personas o marcas que te envían su newsletter, ya que solo quieren tener a personas interesadas en lo que hacen en sus bases de datos.

6. Research sustainable internet suppliers:

At Sinplástico we are still working on this one, however we think it is important to look into the options and to take the plunge and move over to sustainable web hosting web providers and IT tools. E.g. Greengeeks is a web hosting platform that generates 3 times as much clean energy as they use.

7. Turn off your computer:

A very basic step that is still relevant today. When you finish working or when you take a break and you think that you will get back to it later on, close down all your programs and navigation tabs and shut down your computer to save energy.

 

8. Raise awareness:

Talk about this less well-known topic with others around you and with your team-mates. You can even do what we do here at Sinplástico: include a few words on your email signature with some tips on how to reduce your digital carbon footprint.

 

9. Reduce your use of social media:

As you know, if you have seen the documentary “The Social Dilemma” that was so popular a few weeks ago (ironically on Netflix), social media is designed to be addictive and to make sure you don’t take your eye off the screen.
This is harmful for your mental health but also for the environment. This addiction to social media can be translated into kilos of CO2 per day that could be totally avoided.

10. Look for ways to enjoy your down time that do not involve being connected:

We all have to work and most of us use the internet in order to do so. However no one is obligated to spend their free time online.

So, try to disconnect every now and then. Instead of getting home and sitting down to watch the last episode of the latest Netflix TV series, take an evening walk, read a few pages of your book, have a conversation with your partner, a family member or even with your flatmates or neighbours, play with your pets or take care of your plants… All these are activities that are free from CO2 emissions and that, will probably make you a happier person.

We hope that this article is useful in helping you reduce your digital carbon footprint during times when working from home.

 

Did you already know what a digital carbon footprint was? Do you have any other tricks for decreasing CO2 emissions that we have not discussed?

We would love to hear from you in the comments below.