What is your digital carbon footprint?

The issue of the environment is of growing concern and governments are making it an important issue. Consider the abolition of plastic water bottles or the carbon tax. Our use of digital technologies often goes under the radar, but unthinking use can have impacts that are surprising to the least on the environment. In this post, we will try to identify environmental impacts, we will offer tools to measure your carbon footprint and we will give you some simple solutions to encourage the use of digital technologies in a responsible way.

screen and picture of trees

Photo of Dzenina Lukac derived from Pexels

Did you know that the use of digital technologies is responsible for 4% of CO2 emissions worldwide? This is the observation made by The Shift Project in July 2019 in his report titled The unsustainable use of online video. This data corresponds to the quantity of CO2 produced by some countries. This is how the carbon footprint is determined. The overall power consumption required for the use of your digital device, the cloud data centers that host the information, and the network infrastructure for your Internet surfing are calculated. Energy consumption is converted to CO2, as the majority of global power plants operate on fossil fuels. We can add to the calculation, manufacture and transport of digital devices that are mainly produced in Asian countries.

As for the manufacture of digital devices, impacts are also measured in terms of resource depletion. "The more we miniaturize and complexify the components, the more they increase their impact on the environment, these complex components requiring a lot of energy, chemical treatments and rare metals", mentions theADEME in its practical guide The hidden face of the digital published in November 2018. It takes up to 350 times their weight to produce electrical appliances with a strong electronic component. At this rate, a shortage of certain resources such as copper, nickel and cobalt is expected in the near future.

By becoming aware of these facts, how can we measure our digital carbon footprint? We offer two tools to help you.

Carbonalyser is a browser extension for Firefox developed by The Shift Project that allows you to view the power consumption and GHG emissions associated with your Internet browsing. Calculation results and data accounting are cleared and reset when all browser windows are closed. Here is a preview of the graph generated by Carbonalyser:

Another tool, EcoIndex developed by Green IT, measures the environmental impact of the sites you visit and proposes solutions to reduce this impact. The URLs are classified by a rating from A to G according to European standards. This ranking is based on the sample of sites analyzed by the tool according to the complexity of the page, the bandwidth and the server load. Out of curiosity, we did the analysis of the Classo site with EcoIndex.


Now, as a responsible digital citizen, we can do little things. In a blog post published in September 2019, Mozilla suggests 8 ways to reduce its digital carbon footprint. Here are a few :

Adjust your power settings
Does your computer need to be on when you are paused? Remember to turn off your digital devices at the end of the day.

Lower the brightness of your screen
Decreasing 100% 70% the brightness of your screen saves 20% of your energy consumption and reduce eye strain.

Prefer streaming download
In this way, the data will only be transmitted once by the server.

Block automatic playback of videos
In the settings of your browser, you can block by default the automatic reading which consumes a lot of energy.

Annoy you!
Get off the Internet and watch the time go by. Organize "digital detox" days.

At Classo, we believe that responsible digital use contributes to the ethical training of citizens. The environmental concern pushes us to review our consumption in all these spheres. As a teacher, perhaps you could discuss this with your students? And at the level of your school or school board? Should you think about ways to reduce your digital carbon footprint?

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