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6 Eco-Friendly Daily Habits To Curb Digital Pollution

When researching how to have a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle, a lot of tips will surround physical and tangible things, like single-use plastics, recycling or use of water. But nowadays, a big part of our lives is lived online, and dematerialized. 

I first heard about digital pollution while mindlessly scrolling on my phone. I came across a couple of infographics about the environmental impact of data centers and smartphone use. They explained that a simple click on a website had a significant energy cost or that electronic waste (comprising cell phones, computers, tablets…) was growing at a fast pace.

Digital pollution encompasses the waste due to the production of electronic devices, the pollution stemming from our Internet usage and digital habits and the environmental cost of the end-of-live and recycling of the used devices.

Consequently, a lot of questions came to my mind about the impact of the digitization of our lives. After some research, I could gather a few things we can do to have a more eco-friendly digital life:

1. Monitor your inbox

Sending and storage of emails consume an enormous amount of energy, given the number of messages that are sent and stored every day.

You could make a habit of regularly classifying your inbox, to help you delete all of the emails you won’t read again and forgot about.

To avoid receiving unnecessary emails in the first place, think about unsubscribing from newsletters and advertising emails you’re no longer interested in.

Don’t forget to empty your recycle bin!

2. Weigh up the pros and cons before sending an email

Sending less emails and lighter messages is the goal here. The bigger the email, the more it pollutes.

Grouped emails tend to get longer and longer as the various recipients respond. If possible, avoid transferring one’s answer to the whole group, or prefer other ways to get the information to multiple people, like using a group chat.

Moreover, images, gifs, videos and all attachments weigh down an email. 

If you have one, you could remove any image or animation from your email signature. Regarding attachments, if the document you are sending is accessible on the web, maybe share the link instead of sending a copy. If not, consider compressing the file before sending the email.

3. Mind your streaming

Videos online, whether that be a music video, porn or your favorite streaming service, represent important traffic. Like any other accessible data, they need to be stored and sent to you via different pieces of equipment. What’s more, the higher the resolution, the more data has to be sent and the more energy is required. 

What you could do is watch videos in lower resolution. I am guilty of selecting a higher resolution when watching videos on my smartphone, where the screen is not that big.

Keep this information in mind when listening to music too. If you listen to the same songs over and over, downloading and having a physical copy (on a CD or a hard drive) could be a good way to avoid streaming.

4. Make your browsing more efficient

When using a search engine, your requests go back and forth between you and various data centers a few times before you reach the information or website you were looking for.

The idea is to limit the use of a search engine or access the piece of information you are looking for quicker. Instead of typing the name of a website in your search engine, you can directly type its URL in your browser. If it’s a website you regularly use, do not hesitate to add it to your favorites.

When looking for information, try and make requests as precise as possible to increase your chances of finding what you want on your first try.

There are a few eco-friendly search engines available for use. One of them may suit your needs.

And do not forget to close the tabs you no longer need!

5. Think about how you store your data

Keeping files in a cloud also raises the issue of energy-consuming data centers that need constant cooling down. 

In my case, I only keep documents that I would need on the go, like articles I am working on or shared spreadsheets with my boyfriend.

In all other cases, I keep a copy of important files on an external hard drive, or on a memory stick. I also try and carry a USB drive with me when I’m out. 

In conclusion, prefer having physical copies (even multiple ones for really important files) when you can, instead of having all of your holiday pictures on the cloud for example.

6. Use and choose your devices carefully

Let’s start with choosing a new device. When buying a new phone or laptop, try and compare the performance and specifications of the models you are interested in, so that you get eco-friendlier devices.

Later, take care of your devices and try and repair them when you can, instead of buying new ones. You can also purchase second-hand.

In your day to day life, power off or unplug what you are not using (you will also save money on your electricity bill that way) and look for economy parameters like screen brightness or standby modes, that could help you consume less energy.

Finally, if your smartphone reaches its end-of-life, recycle or dispose of it in a conscious way.

Don’t forget to question yourself about your daily habits and their impact and consequences. Challenging and reassessing our usual way of living is one of the first steps to improve and get closer to a more sustainable lifestyle.

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