Most of people are aware of the fact that their daily actions might impact the planet in the form of pollution. We discard plastic packaging, we burn toxic fuels when traveling—just to name a few. However, we’re regularly contributing to another type of pollution which is way less visible. This type of pollution is known as “digital pollution”.
Digital pollution naturally includes pollution generated by the manufacture of digital equipment such as smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, computers and other connected devices that we use on a daily basis. Although it's not limited by that. Digital pollution is generated every time a webpage is browsed, an email is sent/received or an application is used.
Here are 6 interesting facts about digital pollution.
1. Information Communication Technology (ICT) accounts for 14% of the world's energy consumption in 2020
That includes consumption of data centers, smart devices, e-mail traffic, video streaming etc.
2. World's data centers consumed more energy than the UK in 2015
World's data centers electricity consumption was estimated at 416,2 TWh (terawatt hours) in 2015. In comparison, the electricity consumption of UK in 2015 was 300 TWh.
3. One email emits 10 g of CO2 equivalentEvery day, around 125 billion business emails and over 117 billion consumer emails are sent and received. 60% of them go unopened which equals at a carbon footprint of 1,5 million tons of CO2.
4. Watching a 30 min video online leads to emissions of 1,6 kg of CO2 equivalentOnline video streaming produces 30 million tons of CO2 emissions per year (equivalent to CO2 emission generated by a country like Spain).
5. 80% of the energy costs of a smartphone occurs at the time of its manufacture
It is estimated that there is at least 40 metals present in a smartphone, and building a laptop requires 240 kg of fossil fuel, 22 kg of chemicals and 1,5 liters of water. Once discarded smart devices are considered as e-waste, they contain 5 of the world's 6 most dangerous pollutants listed by Green Cross International.
6. 59% of the replaced mobile phones still work
Studies show that many electronic devices are built on planned obsolescence. Overall, only 1% of the mobile phones are recycled.
A few tips to reduce your digital footprint
1. Clean up your digital space
- Unsubscribe from all those newsletters you never read
- Delete emails with attachment and empty your trash folder
- Avoid having numerous email boxes and delete them if not used
- Delete apps that you don't use
- Delete unneeded files, especially those that are stored in a cloud
2. Browse consciously
- Close all those browser windows and myriad of tabs you'll never get back to
- Use bookmarks for pages you frequently visit instead of generating a new web search
3. Watch videos smarter
- Prefer downloading videos instead of streaming. Platforms such as Netflix and YouTube offers this possibility
- Use lower resolution whenever possible
4. Think digital sobriety
- Protect your device to extend its lifespan as much as possible and prefer repairing over replacing
- Avoid buying a new device only to keep up with the latest trends
- Resell your device or give it away for recycling in case you don't use it anymore
- When buying a new device, opt for a smaller screen and prefer second hand, refurbished, and eco-friendly devices
5. Reduce energy consumption
- Turn off your smartphone or switch to the airplane mode when not in use
- Turn off your other electronic devices when you go to sleep or when you go on vacation
- Prefer cabled (Ethernet) connection over wireless (Wi-Fi) whenever possible
- Prefer Wi-Fi over 4G on your smart devices whenever possible
- Digital Pollution: Cleaning Your Digital Footprint by David Howell
- February Focus: Promoting Digital Sobriety by Tristan Lebleu
- La pollution numérique : on en parle ?
- La pollution numérique, qu’est-ce que c’est ?
- Digital pollution: What it is and how you're contributing to it by Ashley Williams
- Causes of Digital Pollution