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The environmental impact of digital consumption

With more demand for online communication and the masses working from home, what effect does this have on energy usage and the environment.
Jessica Richards

It comes as no surprise that during COVID and lockdown, we’re all indulging in more digital time than we normally would. Not being able to socialise with our friends and families like we used to, has had all of us turn to the internet as a way to connect.

Seven in ten people made at least one video call a day during lockdown, many using the video conferencing application Zoom causing its users to go up from 659 thousand in January to 13 million in April!

With large portions of the population turning to the internet, broadband traffic has risen massively. The broadband provider Virgin Media reported web content received by their devices went up by 90%, in the first week of official school closures and online classes in the UK. 

But did you know that our digital consumption is having a lot of negative impacts on the environment? 

More than half the world’s population is now online, according to Statista over four billion people are active on the internet as of April 2020. And although we physically can’t see the data that we use, it produces a large amount of energy consumption, and at the end of a device’s short life, it leaves behind a lot of toxic electronic waste. 

Every search, email, video or song streamed, adds to the ever-growing amount of Co2 emissions

So how can the internet be more sustainable? 

Efficiency

The biggest changes can be made through online applications and websites themselves. By keeping files and pages smaller and helping minimise the amount of time spent processing pages and downloading files. 

Green hosting suppliers can be used for websites delivery, providing renewable energy based services to make sure all processing power isn’t adding to the environmental impact.

A different approach to development

One way to build more sustainably focused websites and platforms is to look at progressive web technologies. Generally, development time will be reduced, minimising overheads and actually launching quicker, which in turn helps to generate a return and allows quicker re-investment.

Progressive Web Apps’s are quicker to launch from your device and also take up less storage, when used by a large audience this can start to add up to quiet the energy saving.

Offline capabilities mean that even though the application is web based, it doesn’t need to communicate with servers on a continuous basis, but when it does it will be minimal and super quick.

Time spent developing digital solutions, whether its websites or applications, for desktop, tablet or mobile is really important to consider. Just as much as the usage of the platform on a daily basis.

Working with people to make a positive impact

It’s hard to live fully on renewable energy at the moment, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t try to offset the energy you do use, by putting it back into the environment.

Companies like Offset Earth make it super easy to get involved and be part of the solution to move towards a more sustainable future. 

They help you offset your carbon footprint, planting trees and funding climate projects on a monthly basis, such as delivering clean drinking water to Haiti and restoring wildfire affected in new south wales in Australia.

Long Live King has been working with Offset Earth for the past six months planting over 340 trees and removing over 20 Tonnes of Co2. Equating to:

  • 400,000 Google searches
  • 63m2 sea ice saved
  • 52,076 miles driven in a car!

The world needs digital companies, manufacturers, and us as consumers to make smarter and more environmentally friendly decisions. Through the way that we use the internet, run our businesses and even live our everyday lives. 

Small changes can make a huge difference in the long run.