Digital diet

Downsize your digital footprint

Safe to say, we spend a lot of time looking at our phones and computers - both at work and at home. Many of us are aware that staring at a screen all day isn’t great for our mental or physical health - but did you know that our digital habits are also hitting the health of the planet hard?

Powering the internet and storing all our data ‘somewhere up there in the cloud’ takes energy. A lot of energy. In fact, the IT industry is one of the fastest growing sources of carbon emissions.

There are loads of easy wins when it comes to digital decluttering. Deleting things we don’t need, reducing our screen time and being more savvy with our inboxes… There are so many ways to Kondo our devices, all of which come with a range of benefits. So make the pledge today to receive more tips and advice.

Why

Here are a few reasons to take action.

Click for more info or scroll to read them all.

Climate Change

Whenever we are using a digital device, we are using energy.

From streaming films and sending emails, to downloading playlists and chatting on video calls. Everything that we do or store online is being powered through giant, energy intensive data centres which process the information. The carbon footprint of these data centres is rapidly overtaking that of the airline industry1 - despite great efforts to improve efficiency and investment in renewables by some of the big players.

When you factor in the additional energy used by our devices, the network infrastructure, and the manufacture of all these components - you can start to understand why our digital carbon footprints are a rapidly growing problem.

Downloading data through 4G is 23 times more energy intensive than using Wifi!2

3.7%

of the world’s carbon emissions come from digital technologies, and this is set to double by 2025.1

Health

We spend a lot of our time online – an average of over five and a half hours per day in the UK.3

Whilst some apps and a bit of social media has its merits, it's generally accepted that excessive use of technology has been shown to be detrimental to our mental health. Research shows that social media use is related to loneliness, lower self-esteem and increased social anxiety.4

Plus, spending less time hunched over a screen can only be good for our eyes, our backs, and our sleep. Not to mention the time it frees up for spending doing other good things - playing outdoors, hanging with friends and family, gardening, or getting creative.

Money

Using electronics more efficiently extends their lifetime. When our devices last longer, we don’t need to replace them so often. As well as using less finite resources, this also saves us money.

Plus with reduced data draining, you could even shift to cheaper tariffs and subscriptions.

It’s all too easy to spend online. With £70 billion spent on E-commerce in the UK alone last year (an increase of ~9% from the previous year)5, using our devices a bit less will probably help us tighten the purse strings too.

Water

The vast data centres which process all online activity use water to keep their systems cool. Whilst the exact quantity is a closely guarded secret, it is estimated that these cooling systems are using billions of litres per year.5

How

There are so many ways to go about digital decluttering, you don’t have to dive into doing all these at once. Here are some of our top tips from scouring the web on how to lower your digital carbon footprint, while also improving productivity and mental health:

A few general tips:

1. Use tablets or smartphones where possible instead of computers and laptops

2. Jump on the wifi: Wait for Wifi before downloading or streaming large files, doing this on 4G can more than double the resulting carbon emissions - and burns your battery faster too.

3. Plant trees while you surf: switch to an eco-friendly search engine like Ecosia. They plant trees for every search. There’s a lot of satisfaction in seeing that tree counter go up and imagining the forest growing.

Streaming videos and games:

Streaming of video content makes up the biggest chunk of our online carbon footprint, so stream wisely.

4. Commit to a download: instead of streaming every time, download the things that you listen to or watch regularly.

5. Background viewing: streaming video uses a lot more energy than audio alone, so if you want some background noise why not opt for a podcast or radio instead?

6. For Wifi only: change your phone settings to turn mobile data off for video apps such as YouTube, that way you’ll be reminded to wait for the lower energy wifi option!

Email overload:

For office workers, email and other messaging devices form a huge part of our day. Follow these simple tips to improve efficiency and reduce your digital carbon footprint:

7. Unsubscribe: most mailboxes have a function where you can ‘sweep’ your inbox of all emails from a particular sender. Find that newsletter you no longer read, unsubscribe and then sweep it clean out of your life.

8. I’ll link you: instead of sending over a monster attachment (that pretty much brings your laptop to a halt), send a link to the file instead. This way, if you make updates to the file, you don’t have to resend the file either.

9. Don’t thank me: A slightly controversial one, but considering that every email is responsible for an estimated 4g of CO2 release, you could find an alternative to short and almost-pointless ‘thank you’ emails. How about a friendly ‘thank you in advance’, or - in an office - popping over to their desk to say cheers?

10. Reply-all: we’ve all had the accidental and mighty-awkward reply-all fail. But even the seemingly harmless reply-all emails have a negative impact - blocking up inboxes and racking up carbon emissions, bit by bit. Give a second’s thought next time you hit ‘reply all’ - do they all really need to receive this?

11. Switch to a green email provider: there are a number of email services run on 100% green electricity. You could try Tutanota, Runbox or Mailbox. These providers are also more careful with your data, they won’t track you online or sell your information to third parties.

Digital declutter:

12. Don’t double up: avoid storing the same file in multiple locations. It’ll save space on your hard drive, make your machine faster and goodness know it’s a lot less confusing. There are some handy apps for clearing out your photo albums of duplicates too.

13. Bing, bing, bing: turn off app notifications and email notifications of social media updates

14. Scrap the app: on your settings you can find out which apps have been most recently used and which take up the most space. Deleting redundant apps decreases data usage, increases battery life and can even increase overall performance.

15. Go on a digital diet: And finally, take it a bit further and give yourself a night away from the screen. Many devices and apps report on screen time now; use that to set yourself some targets.

Want to dig deeper?

Here are a few bits of further reading that you may enjoy: