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What does it mean ?


By recognising digital sustainability as an important step in combating climate change, and by understanding the impact of our digital footprint, we can reduce energy use and waste, build solutions that create a healthier digital environment and be kind to our planet earth.

The entire life cycle of technology plays an important role and cannot be divorced from the environmental impact it is having, from the mega data centres that are required to house the explosion of data (videos, text, images) that we all produce, to manufacturing, and so on.

Ultimately we have to put at the foundation of our organisations, their operations and strategies, clearly identifying the environmental impact of the different technologies being used and encouraging measures to reduce our digital footprint.

There is a strong tendency to reduce the online digital footprint to renewable energies used by data centres which leads the user to see the digital world as environmentally friendly by not using for example - paper - because we send emails and - travel - because we have video calls.

However all the data is hosted, processed, sent in distributed data centres and replicated all over the world, software is needed, hardware and the mantainance of this all ecossistem, that needs 24/7 energy. All this information is sent through more than 2 million cables submerged in our oceans, connecting data centres from one continent to another, which in itself has a negative impact on marine ecosystems just by being there.

While the ecological footprint of one person seems very small when visiting a website, sending an email or using social media, the sum of the ecological footprint of all users in the world is enormous and the trend is growing exponentially.
Bring this topic in the conversations in your events, talks !
Online video calls have transformed the way we interact in our personal and professional relationships. Today, and very much as a consequence of COVID-19, they have become an essential part of our digital lives. This online activity is perhaps the one that has the biggest impact on our footprint, in particular when we are multi-streaming simultaneously, when we are in a meeting with our co-workers. Imagining that we are 4 people meeting with cameras on, there are 16 streaming (4 cameras x 4 streaming) of videos that are running in simultaneous, unnecessarily we have a factor of spending 12 times more energy resources than necessary, since it is only necessary to view the speaker.
What can we do
- Choose a video conferencing provider with a commitment to use 100% renewable energy
- Use your hosted green server with open-source video conference ( jitsy )
- Switch your camera on when it truly adds value
- Use your phone for calls and avoid streaming
- Reduce the quality of the video for SD instead 4K
Possible outcomes
- Reduce the energy waste
- Enable net zero targets with community actions ( plant treee, community garden)
- Inform your peers about this idea and spread the word
Many initiatives exist across the web providing green reputation mechanisms and calculators to disseminate the impact of websites in the digital space.
According to the Http Archive, a typical page load of an average website produces approximately 3 grams of CO2, which has been tracking the size of many popular web page resources since 2011.
Sustainable web design is one of the ways you can contribute to developing websites that minimise their environmental impact.
Among many factors here are some of the main ones:

- Search Engine Optimization is a way to minimize the time it takes the user to find certain information and in that sense, we are reducing the environmental impact.
- User Experience is another fundamental pillar in the development of a good Sustainable web design, because its main objective is to reduce friction in the user jouneys, reducing the navigation time to access the information you want.
- Reducing weight and the number of images, using system fonts where possible, and limiting the use of videos, are all important factors as the more data that needs to be transferred, the more energy is used.
- If the website you are creating doesn't need regular content updates, instead of the traditional wordpress and drupal websites, opt for static, database-less sites based on html, css and js.
What can we do
- Switch to a green hosting provider
- Reduce the size of files on your website
- Reduce tracking and advertising scripts
- Ensure navigation and content discovery is intuitive
- Use bookmarks to avoid searching for articles that you wish to revisit
- Use Static websites
- Promote your website’s green credentials
Possible outcomes
- Less digital waste
- Better user experience
- Better SEO rankings
- Better site structure & search Reduce bounce pages
- Higher conversion rates for community engagenment
Not as much as in the pre-slack era.

But most communications are done by email, we have the habit of receiving and sending the signatures of our emails with logos and images advertising events, products or our company or project, which means that in a conversation by email with 10 responses, we are replicating that same information unnecessarily, creating only digital rubbish.

Other times we receive emails, where the body of the message is smaller than the signature.

And when we send and receive newsletters we are flooded with images, which are repeated by millions of email boxes, and are usually the same as the ones in the body of the news we read when we click on the respective links, becoming even redundant.

" A study commissioned by energy company OVO reckons Brits send more than 64 million unnecessary emails every day, and that if every adult in the UK sent one fewer “thank you” email a day, we would save more than 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year – equivalent to 81,152 flights to Madrid or taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road. " (1)

What can we do
- Only include your email signature in new emails, not in replies
- Link to files that you already have stored in the cloud
- Delete what is not relevant
- Switch off email notifications in apps
- Proofread your emails to reduce the need for sending more emails with corrections and missing info
- Promote your website’s green credentials
Possible outcomes
- More efficient and clear communicaton
- Reduced email traffic
- Less distraction from incoming mail
We tend to think of the online world as "invisible" and green by default.
It is true that having a shared online space has many advantages. However, by itself it is not the solution, even if hosted on servers that use renewable energy, because many still use fossil energy.
We get used to the miracles of the Cloud, and store everything there, however, for that function to be environmentally sustainable, a Document Management System is needed, so that the documentation is not replicated, so that everyone knows how to navigate and where to put the documentation, and what documentation still needs to be accessible online or can be archived offline.
All these small steps, though seemingly insignificant, will reduce the amount of time required to perform a particular task and therefore reduce the amount of time this online resource is used and less energy is consumed in its use.
Studies say that a disk in a server consumes as much energy as having 15 tea kettles boiling continuously for a day, others that storing a terabyte of data in a cloud storage emits approximately 2.7 kg of CO2e per year.
What can we do
- Clean out unused files from cloud storage drives and websites
- Avoid storing the same files in multiple places
- Select a cloud storage provider with a commitment to use 100% renewable energy
Possible outcomes
- Reduced cloud storage costs
- Reduced clutter creates more efficient teams
- Reduced security risks from old files
All applications are software that is communicating between the smartphone and a server, instantly there are an endless number of connections that are established when accessing an application online.
Unlike the software developed before, its installation was local and only needed an occasional update for various purposes.
Today everything has changed, apps and software exist on servers that are in constant activity and the flow of information is huge with billions of users simultaneously, and this represents a constant energy consumption to run and maintain the software on which the application is based.
A sustainable application takes responsibility for electricity it consumes and is architected to consume as little as possible.
What can we do
- Choose software and app that understand the carbon efficiency
- Use open-source software in your green hosting server
- Select a app provider with a commitment to use 100% renewable energy
Possible outcomes
- Sustainable application are almost always cheaper, faster, and resilient
- They show your profound commitment in being a responsible adn ethical
Adopt the circular economy principles and ensure that we are reducing the carbon footprint of the physical computing hardware we procure.
The device you are reading this on released some carbon in its creation. Once it reaches the end of life, disposing of it may release more.
The amount of carbon pollution emitted during the manufacturing process and disposal of a device is referred to as “Embodied Carbon”. We must consider the original manufacturing, packaging, shipping, electricity consumption in-use and the end of life disposal (e-waste).
Adopting a life cycle management process, whereby business ensures it only procures when necessary and passes older assets to new customers through refurbishment or recycling scheme has been found to reduce CO2e by 36%. Plus is an economic model that ensures the consumer extracts maximum value from its assets, through additional resale margin of replaced assets.
What can we do
- Adopt a Lifecycle Management Process Procure only when necessary
- Adopt a circular consumption model - design out waste
- Adopt ‘device as a service’ (DaaS) procurement model to optimise IT assets & resources
- Buy refurbished equipment
Possible outcomes
- Increased resale margin of older assets to secondary marketplace
- Reduced cost of hardware procurement
- New innovative financial support for DaaS procurement models
- Eliminates the difficulty of e-waste disposal
Unplug yourself & read a book !

- Switch to a green energy provider for your home electricity
- Search for open-source solution when looking for new software and apps
- Use WiFi / switch off mobile data streaming (cellular networks use more energy than WiFi because they need to travel much further, which requires more energy. So download your favourite albums, podcasts or episodes before you leave the house)
- If you’re streaming music, turn off any accompanying video if you’re just listening, not watching
- Clean your inbox & unsubscribe from newsletters you never read
- Use Ecosia to plant trees while searching the internet
- Switch to dark mode on your devices Lower your monitor brightness Challenge yourself with a Digital Diet
- Clean storage space on your mobile phone
- Switch off and unplug your devices Use an Ad Blocker in your web browser
- Bring this topic in conversations with your kids, family, friends and work
- Re-adapt your personal digital life as much as possible