From intoxication to digital sobriety – How to simply take action


During 2019, according to some industrialists and analysts, more information has been produced and has circulated on the networks than in the last 20 years, i.e. since the development of the mainstream Internet. Last December, we discussed the real impact of the digital sector and we reminded that digital sobriety comes through uses. Nevertheless, use remains intrinsically linked to the acquisition of digital tools.


Terminals (smartphones, tablets, computers, etc.), network infrastructures (terrestrial and marine cables, optical fibre, antennas, satellites, etc.) and data centers form the backbone of the digital world. The distribution of the sector’s energy consumption is 47% due to production of the digital ecosystem (with an upward trend) and 53% due to its use.


Today, dematerialization paradoxically increases our impact on the environment. As we mentionned in the previous article, digital technology leads to higher emissions than civil aviation, and they could more than double by 2025:

2013-2025 Evolution of the digital share of global GHG emissions
[Source: The Shift Project, 2018]

While the sector consumes nearly 10% of the world’s electricity consumption, the Global Carbon Project reminds us in its latest report of September 2019, that wolrd’s growing demand for energy is outpacing decarbonisation (RE, energy efficiency, smart infrastructures). As the decoupling between material growth and CO2 emissions is not yet proven and since we are not about to prove it, we need to rethink our uses and the impact of the things we buy and use. The urgent need to stay below 2°C forces us to reduce emissions by 5% per year now, or 10% from 2025 onwards. Consequently, the prospects for digital development make its current momentum unsustainable.


While waiting for a public debate on these issues, let’s look at the levers of action at hand (literally) to reduce our digital footprint and rethink our uses.
Let’s start by buying fewer connected tools and replacing them only if they no longer work, while putting old ones (54 to 113 million smartphones sleep in closets in France) in collection bins and giving preference to buying reconditioned tools. As we mentioned in the previous article, in 2019 there were 34 billion digital devices in the world, or in other words 8 devices per person.


Those numbers lead us to the question: What can we easily do?


  1. First of all, delete from the cloud filesthat are no longer used or store them on a physical material (hard disk or key).


  1. When exchanging by e-mail, it is preferable to reduce the sending of attachments as much as possible by compressing the files or by copying the contents into the body of the e-mail. It is also important to clean his mailbox every day. Knowing that a single email stored for 1 year emits 10g of CO2, the accumulation of these emissions contributes to increasing its carbon footprint. The Cleanfoxapplication is very useful to remove unwanted emails and unnecessary newsletters.


  1. Regarding viewing, preferring (legal) downloading to streaming enables to reduce our emissions. It is also possible to reduce the quality of videos up to 144 pixels, for those that do not require viewing, and to take advantage of this to reduce the brightness of the screen.3#. Podcasting with the Podcast & Radio Addict application allows for resting our eyes and thinking about finally reading the books we’ve been stacking on our shelves for too long.


  1. Install a less energy-consuming browser, like the least energy-consuming of them all: Mozilla Firefox. Evaluating our energy consumption and continuing on the road toward sobriety is possible with the Carbonalyser Add-on Module developed by the Shift Project.


  1. Lithium batteries wear out faster if they are discharged to the maximum, so it is wise to never go below 20% of the battery to preserve its longevity.


  1. Finally, remember to unplug your internet box when you go away to study/work/run errands, etc, or when you are away from home for a longer time period. The total consumption of an internet box per year is estimated at between 150 and 300 kWh, which is the same as the consumption of a large refrigerator. Saving energy also means saving money!


Bonus: Take a greater interest in the consequences of digital technology on health by reading the report “Deploying digital sobriety” or take a little more interest in taking action by reading the article “Will the brain destroy our planet?”.


With all the cards now in our hands, let’s not forget that “changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below”. Now it’s up to us!


Sources :

A propos de Albéric BARRET

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