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Digital Spring Cleaning: Minimizing Your Personal Carbon Footprint

April 4, 2023

Sustainability has become a hot topic in the advertising and marketing industries — however, while companies look to improve their carbon footprint on a large scale, determining individual action to impact one’s carbon footprint can be a more difficult task. Particularly as the focus on remote work grows, it is vital to consider how our actions impact the world around us. 

Of course, we all know to turn off lights when we aren’t in a room, or to be conscious of water usage in the shower, but what about Internet usage? Even the smallest elements of our work day, such as a cluttered inbox, can bog down our carbon footprint. So, ahead of Earth Day, to be conscious of our environmental impact, here are a few tips to stay green (even while working from home). 

Mind Your Devices 

One of the largest (and most overlooked) energy consumers in your day-to-day life may actually be your phone. Your digital browsing cache is designed to make it easier to reach the content you want, faster, but this solution can easily get cluttered— regardless of whether you prefer Chrome, Safari or another browser. Clearing this cache regularly, and maintaining your phone storage can help you to keep your phone at its most energy-efficient. Furthermore, make sure to unplug items that draw power when not in use— specific culprits include laptop and phone chargers. If you are not using your laptop for longer than two hours, consider powering it down— particularly overnight. 

The Cloud, while convenient, is also a major energy-drainer. It is estimated that one-hundred zettabytes of data – which is equal to a trillion gigabytes, will be in use by 2025. Consider going through your storage system, whether it be Google Drive, Dropbox, or something else, and clear away files that you no longer need. 

Smartphone users should also resist the urge to upgrade. Ironic, given that many can’t turn around without seeing an ad for the latest iPhone, Galaxy or Pixel. However, manufacturing these devices contributes to global pollution. This can be difficult due to the fact that many of these products are designed to degrade over time— a phenomenon known as planned obsolescence. While this can be an inconvenience, you should aim to use your phone for as long as you can before splurging on an upgrade. Some companies provide free manuals to assist with simple fixes, and Apple has recently announced a new project known as Apple Self-Service Repair where tools and parts will be provided to customers in need of a fix for their devices. Once your device truly has outlasted your needs, instead of trashing it, consider selling or donating it after a hard reset. 

Clear Out the Clutter 

Many digital environmental concerns simply involve being a bit more conscientious of your everyday activities. 

For example, as well as being annoying, a cluttered inbox uses energy—  in looking to reduce your personal carbon footprint, cleaning up your inbox can be a valuable first step. Unsubscribe from newsletters you aren’t interested in. The average email uses approximately 4 grams of CO2 and those with more attachments can use up to 50 grams. Decluttering your inbox (and other folders) will also save you time, and perhaps a bit of patience, rather than swiping through endless emails in the morning. Furthermore— don’t use the ever-irksome ‘Reply All’ unless it really is necessary. 

Another common culprit for digital pollution comes from streaming. Netflix and YouTube combined can account for 50% of all Internet traffic at peak times in North America. Autoplay can be a particular culprit here, as it continues to utilize energy even if you’re distracted with something else. Another factor is the way that you’re streaming. Streaming through a gaming console such as a PlayStation or XBox can actually use up to 10 times more energy than streaming through your TV, directly. This contributes to an estimated 300 million tons of carbon dioxide created by streaming every year. You should also try to close any tabs that may play video advertisements without your knowledge. 

With a bit of proper maintenance and consideration, you can turn your spring cleaning efforts into something energy-saving— ultimately improving your devices’ efficiency and reducing your carbon footprint.