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What is the Digital Carbon Footprint?

A desk full of open laptops, drinks, snack, and a couple of people sitting around the desk.

When you hear the phrase ‘Carbon Footprint’ you likely think of all those activities that produce carbon – such as flying, driving, or turning on your air conditioning all day. But did you know that there’s such a thing as a digital carbon footprint?

Everything you type into Google/Ecosia, everything you store into your iCloud or other cloud storage, and every video you watch or stream online uses energy and produces carbon. Not unlike the standard carbon footprint, a digital carbon footprint considers your personal emissions and environmental impact from your digital activities. 

And while emails and search engines produce a small amount of carbon, video streaming is one of the largest online consumers of energy. Some studies estimate the emissions of technology to be around two or three percent – similar to the entire aviation industry!

Luckily, making changes to your digital carbon footprint is a little easier and less costly than some other areas of sustainability, with minimal impact on your day-to-day life.

Reduce the number of emails you send

Global email usage generates as much CO2 as having 7 million extra cars on the road. Next time you receive an email, consider whether you really need to reply to people saying ‘thank you’ or emailing your newsletter list more often than is really necessary. Could you put in your email signature that you’re trying to cut down on CO2 and so you’ll only reply when necessary?

And whether you’re someone who opens every email they receive, or you’re someone who has hundreds of email notifications, all those emails are using energy to be stored. Make a regular habit of deleting all your old emails – trust us, you’ll feel satisfied afterwards! In fact, our friends at The Ecopreneur Community host a monthly digital cleanup that focuses on deleting old emails and files.

Turn off your video

According to a study done by MIT in 2021, one hour of streaming or videoconferencing can emit between 150 and 1,000 grams of carbon dioxide, depending on the service. While we recognize the importance of having face-to-face connections, it isn’t always necessary for every meeting. Pick and choose which meetings would have the most value from having video, and have the rest of the meetings with only audio.

Make your devices last as long as possible

One of the biggest contributors of carbon in the digital space is the production and transportation of the devices we use. How many times have we been tempted to upgrade to the latest gadget without actually stopping to consider whether we need it?

If you can make your phone or laptop last longer than a couple of years, you’ll be seriously reducing your digital carbon footprint. And when the time comes for a new gadget, buying refurbished is a more affordable and more sustainable option than buying new.

Join The Green Marketing Academy to learn more about your digital carbon footprint

There are plenty more tips like these inside The Green Marketing Academy, all targeted at making your marketing more sustainable, both for you and the planet. There are whole modules dedicated to reducing your digital footprint, sustainable social media, and going green with your print campaign and marketing materials.

Click here to see which courses or training would be the best fit for your organization.