How to clean up your digital footprint

Our obligation to address climate change is not political, but directly related to our lives, and we all share responsibility.

Consumption is driven by technology in the digital age. As a result of lockdown, we spent a great deal of time online, working, entertaining our children, watching movies, and shopping. In our house, we binge-watched nature and environmental documentaries on WaterBear 

Digital consumption feels invisible, but it has a real impact. Data centres store emails and websites. Most of these data centres don’t run on renewable energy.

Although each individual’s digital carbon footprint may appear small, the combined amount of digital usage around the world accounts for approximately 3% of greenhouse gas emissions. More than the entire aviation industry! 

We need to consume less digitally and physically, buy locally online, and be mindful of what, how, and when we spend our money, yet society does not facilitate these aspects, and lockdown has not helped.

Tips to reduce your carbon footprint online

My family and I have been working hard to minimize our digital footprints. Following these suggestions will help you reduce yours. 

Delete emails and unsubscribe from newsletters that you do not wish to receive 

Why?

All these emails need to be stored. The data centres currently consume 1% of global electricity demand, amounting to more than some countries’ consumption! By 2030, electricity demand by data centres will probably exceed 20% of global demand. 

Stats show even if we do not open it, any email we receive releases an estimated 0.3 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Carefully choose what you post on social media

At Buttercup, we are focusing more on real connections and conversations than likes. Is it possible to convey your story/family experience in one picture instead of three? 

Offset by planting trees

Several software companies are linked to Refoorest, an organization that plants trees when you use their online software. Check if your software provider is a partner. Then add the Refoorest chrome extension for free. Through the extension, we are able to make a real impact without changing our browsing habits. At Buttercup, we have already ‘planted’ 180 trees through our use of Canva and Xero.

Run your internet searches on Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees. 

With your ad revenue, Ecosia plants trees in areas where they are most needed. Searching with Ecosia not only helps reforest the planet but also empowers communities nearby to build better futures for themselves.

Digital Clean up

Reduce the number of browser tabs you have open on your computer. You could batch your work so you get it done faster and reduce the amount of energy you use.

Consider how you store your family’s digital photos. Regularly clean up your digital files. Removing any duplicates is a good idea. 

Why?

“Over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every single day, and it’s only going to grow from there. By 2020, it’s estimated that 1.7MB of data will be created every second for every person on earth.” 

You can easily reduce the size of videos to share with friends and family by using Handbrake. Handbrake is a free small, easy-to-use desktop tool with amazing results.

Reduce data usage and power consumption

Did you know Twitter allows you to reduce your data usage? We use the Data Saver feature to reduce our data usage by up to 70%. When you enable this feature, images will load in lower quality, and videos won’t autoplay. Look for it in settings & privacy > general >data usage 

We are turning off our router at night. 

Why?

An average router consumes 6 watts per hour. A router can generate 24 kilograms of carbon dioxide every year. If you switch your router off for an average of 8 hours a day, that’s one tree planted.

Renewables made up only 26.2% of global electricity generation in 2018. Explore renewable energy options and as a minimum sign up for a green energy tariff. 

Carbon Calculators

Sign up to the Giki app so you and your family can calculate and take positive actions to reduce your carbon footprint. Their science-based carbon calculator has over 130 steps to help you cut carbon.

If you have a business website, you could reduce its impact. Earlier this year, we redesigned our Buttercup Learning site. Originally, its digital carbon footprint was 65% worse than the average website, now it is 70% better. There are some great resources available online for businesses. You can check your website or the sites you use regularly as a family for their impact with this website carbon calculator.

Give them a try, and let us know how you get on. What’s the most impactful change you have made?

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