What Impact Is Our Digital Lives Having On The Environment?

What Impact Is Our Digital Lives Having On The Environment

This is a subject that does not come to the mind when changing your lifestyle to an environmentally friendly one. After all when I first made changes to our family life I insisted that we went paper free for our bills and my husbands work paperwork, but in doing so this increased our use of cloud storage. Like everyone else, as a family we are creating vast amounts of data via the internet without a flick of an eye or a moment’s thought. This data includes everything from our bills, music, photos, internet shopping, emails, documents, blog and social media just to name a few.

  • Scarcely every sixty minutes the internet is jammed with our activity
  • Google receives 4 million search enquires
  • Youtube users upload 72 hours of footage
  • 204 million emails are sent
  • Facebook users share 2.6 million pieces of content
  • Twitter users tweet 277,000 tweets
  • Apple users download 48,000 apps



Infographic Created by Domo

This is a massive amount of data being created in just sixty minutes.

So although I thought we were cutting down on our carbon footprint by going paper free, I don’t think we were actually cutting it down at all. In fact I have a funny feeling that we have increased our carbon foot print by going paper free.

Whats our data carbon footprint

Its difficult to pinpoint the exact size of my familys online presence carbon footprint and after searching the internet (using more data) I could not even find a carbon footprint calculator (for internet usage) to help me work it out. So all I have to go on is in the general use of everyones online digital lives to measure how much co2 is released into the atmosphere with our reliance on data and the digital age.  But then I have found even this is difficult to do as people use different amounts of data.  So the only option left is to measure the amount of co2 released by the world data centers by the amount of electricity they use to run their servers and their aircondition systems  needed to keep the servers cool so they don’t over heat.  In 2007 Gartner reported by measuring carbon footprint this way results in the internet releasing 300m tonnes of co2 a year.  Or as the Guardian reported, this is as much as all the coal, oil and gas burned in Turkey or Poland in one year or more than half of these burned in the UK.

The internet giant Google released to the public domain there servers carbon foot print in 2009 reporting that Youtube uses 1 of CO2 for every 10 minutes of a customers viewing, over a year a typical user of Gmail Google’s servers use 1.2kg of co2 and they also claimed that over a year one person using a variety of Google’s services creates 1.46kg of co2 through Google servers.

How to make our data usage geen


  • Stop replying to all – Instead of hitting the reply all function (which sends your reply to every person in the link to the email) check weather each person in the list needs to receive your reply and only reply your email to those people who need to receive your reply. By doing this you can save your self a few grams on your email carbon footprint.
  • Unsubscribe – We all do it, subscribe to different companies email list because we are interested in being kept up to date with everything they have to say. But then after time no longer read their emails and instead just send them to the trash box. By spending a few minutes every time these emails come in and unsubscribing to them will reduce your email carbon footprint even more.

Social Media 

  • Check less often – Its so easy these days with all the social media networks having apps for our phones / tablets for us to be checking what is going on every so many minutes because we don’t want to miss out on whats going on or to update our status every hour.  By reducing this habit of  checking social media every spare minute of our time and uploading point less statuses will not only reduce our social media carbon footprint but will also give us extra time during the day to enjoy the environment around us and spend quality time with the people we are close to.
  • Delete unused accounts – For example you may have a facebook, twitter and instagram account but you only use facebook and instagram on a daily basis and visit twitter every blue moon, delete your twitter account from twitter.  By deleting your unused account not only are reducing your social carbon footprint but you are also tightening up your online privacy, reducing the risk of being hacked or having your identity stolen.

Cloud Data 

  • One is better than an hundred –  There are lots of companies that offer cloud backup data or cloud office space for you to store your documents and photos.  In reality you only need one of these cloud companies to store everything you need rather than using lots of different cloud backup companies.  For Example I use Google as my cloud server to store all our family documents (from bills to notes I make before I blog) and to back up and keep safe our family photos.  So when my new phone arrived with dropbox already installed I deleted the app and did not sign up and then when Facebook asked if I would like them to back up all my photos I take on my phone/tablet I also said no because Google already do all that for me. By cutting down to one cloud server not only are keeping all your data neat and tidy (by not duplicating your data) but you are also reducing your data carbon footprint my lots of grams due to the fact there are not lost of servers working for you all at the same time doing the same thing.

How much damage is your everyday data doing to the environment?

What other tips do you have to reduce your data carbon footprint?


One response to “What Impact Is Our Digital Lives Having On The Environment?

  1. Pingback: Goodreads #41 - Environment - darktea·

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