One day, we’ll all be watching our digital pollution

Published on 05/11/20

It’s a growing cause for concern across the globe. Today, digital activity alone uses 4.2% of the world’s energy resources and creates 3.8% of greenhouse gases. Compared to other sectors, these figures may not seem significant, but the numbers are on the rise to the point that we now talk about ‘digital pollution’. This new indicator should drive us to examine our use of digital tools in both our professional and our private lives.

What impact does the internet have on the environment?

That’s a good question. The idea is not to condemn the internet and digital technology in general. During lockdown, digital tools, web technology and particularly videoconferencing played a vital role. They allowed us to continue working, kept us entertained and most importantly, kept us in touch. But with global web traffic increasing more than 25% in just a few months, many are considering the real impact of this digital consumption on our environment.

What is digital pollution?

Everything we do has an impact on the environment, including our online activity:

saving undeleted emails, storing useless data, checking social media too often, activating automatic video play, using a search engines instead of directly entering the website address in the navigator, using 4G rather than Wi-Fi…not to mention the exponential electricity consumption used by data centres and to produce digital devices (48 billion by 2025). It’s simple, everything counts…including streaming your favourite series! Streaming alone creates 60% of all digital pollution. A fact that has the Germans springing into action.

Is your favourite TV series polluting the environment ?

PLANTYFIX is the company whose name echoes NETFLIX, and it’s no coincidence. The German start-up offers subscribers to the world’s most popular streaming service (with 193 million subscribers) the chance to offset their carbon footprint, generated when watching their favourite programmes, by planting trees. PLANTYFIX has converted the most popular series into kilos of CO2. Did teen series STRANGER THINGS send shivers down your spine? Well, tell yourself that you generated 9kg of CO2. Did you go mad for BREAKING BAD? Well did you know that 62 episodes generated 21kg of CO2, that’s as much as a 175km car journey?

a tv remote

Can trees offset digital pollution?

PLANTFIX is certainly consistent, even copying the streaming giant’s business model. The company offers subscription packages based on viewing. The less addicted who don’t even spend an hour  a day on the platform could offset their consumption for as little as €1 per month. This amount allows 2 trees per month to be planted. For the really big consumers, the binge-watchers, who watch more than 3 hours a day, the subscription goes up to €6, which pays for 30 trees per month. While carbon offsetting causes its own debate, at least it gets people thinking about their own digital consumption. And who knows, perhaps one day it will even be the subject of its own TV series!

a woman picking up trash

5 tips for reducing your digital footprint at work

  • After an hour of inactivity, switch off your computer and printer rather than leaving it on standby

 

  • When you aren’t using them, disactivate the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS functions on your devices

 

  • When possible choose Wi-Fi over 4G

 

  • Regularly delete your spam emails

 

  • Optimise your email attachments: opt for PDFs, compress files and save images in low definition

 

The Lowdown

Our digital activities have an environmental impact. Video streaming alone accounts for over half of the planet’s digital pollution. Just like all other consumption, people will need to digitally consume responsibly.

 

Crédits photos : Plantyfix, iStock, Netflix