What is digital sustainability and why is it important?

There’s no doubt that the world is in a climate crisis, but thankfully people are starting to realise and take some action.

I have been on a personal journey to reduce my carbon footprint over the last few years, and along the way, I discovered just how much of an impact my digital activities are having on the world.

In this article, I explain my findings and why I’ve decided to consciously help people reduce their digital carbon footprint.

Isn’t a digital carbon footprint really tiny?

When I tell people that my agency designs and builds low-carbon websites, they look at me really funny. First of all, they have no idea what that means, and then they don’t really understand it.

They usually say: “OK, but what’s the big deal? It’s not like it’s the same as driving a car hundreds of miles!”

Well… let’s look at the numbers.

The average webpage emits 0.5g of carbon per page view.

Even a small website will get about 3 pages viewed and about 5000 visitors per month.

That’s 15,000 page views x 0.5g = 7.5kg of carbon per month.

That’s 90kg of carbon per year that your small website is emitting.

There are over 1 billion websites and many of those will get a lot more than 3 page views and 5000 visitors per month.

And that’s just your website.

Now, we all send tons of emails.

If every adult in the UK sent one less “thank you” email, it could save 16,433 tonnes of carbon per year. This is the equivalent to taking 3334 diesel cars off the road.

So, no… digital carbon is not tiny and insignificant. You could actually emitting more carbon with your online activity than cars driving up and down the country.

How do we reduce our digital carbon footprint?

I hope these numbers have made you panic a little, because they certainly did with me.

I do all these “innocent” things on a daily basis that are causing so much harm to the environment.

So, what can I do to improve?

First of all, reading this article is already helping. Educating yourself on what impacts digital sustainability is important.

However, here are some simple things that you can do to help reduce your digital carbon footprint immediately:

–       Declutter your files: removing docs you no longer need will reduce storage and energy consumption. 

–       Unsubscribe from newsletters: I used to get hundreds (really!) a week. Now, I’ve unsubscribed and will access info when I need it. 

–       Use Ecosia instead of Google: Ecosia‘s servers use renewable energy and they plant trees as people surf the net. 

–       Links over attachments: attachments could emit more than 10x the amount of carbon, so link to content instead of attaching. 

–       Change computer settings: turn down the brightness of your computer screen, reduce energy output and shut it down after use. 

–       Reducde social media use: did you know that TikTok uses 2.63g of CO2 use per minute?! Did you really need to see that ridiculous dance?!

–       Optimize your website: speak to a professional developer or agency who understands low-carbon websites as there will be some fixes that they can do immediately.