For a less polluting digital life

Including the production and use phases of all electronic technologies and devices, the global digital carbon footprint was estimated in 2021 at 1.84 gigatonnes of CO equivalent.2which is approximately 3.5% of global greenhouse gases (GHG), according to Les Shifters Montréal, a group dedicated to raising public awareness of the challenges of the energy transition. A figure that would be comparable, if not higher, to the carbon footprint of the aviation industry. And this is only the beginning, since the study of The Shift Project predicts that digital-related GHG emissions could increase by 6% per year over the next five years.

The production of computers, cell phones and energy-intensive servers around the world also uses valuable and rapidly depleting resources, such as gold, indium and rare earths. The disposal of all this equipment is also a significant source of pollution since in 2019, barely 17% of 53.6 million tons of global e-waste was recycled, report says The Global E-waste Monitor 2020published by the United Nations University and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

If the problem seems enormous, concrete solutions nevertheless exist to combat it. Among these, digital sobriety, a concept that encompasses “all the thoughts, practices and reflections that help us develop healthy, ethical and ecological relationships with the digital”, as defined by Daria Marchenko, founder of ‘Ecoist Club. His project aims to make users aware of the challenges of digital ecology, in particular through a smartphone application that is full of information on the right to disconnect or on the consequences of digital technology on human health and the planet. .

First step: limit the effects of device production

So how do you get sober? First and foremost by extending the life of electronic devices as much as possible. According to the 2020 report of the Shifters Montreal, approximately 80% of the total carbon footprint of the most popular smartphones in Quebec — such as those of the Apple, Google or Samsung brands — is due to their production and the extraction of materials. essential raw materials to manufacture them.

The use of these devices thus represents only 20% of the total footprint. By keeping your digital equipment as long as possible, you act where it counts first.

You can also resist the temptation to buy new by focusing on resale savings and refurbished devices, such as cell phones. Recycell and of Oops.caor the computers ofInsertech.

You could also try to repair your equipment (thanks to the Facebook group Touski repairs himselfin particular) or donate them to non-profit social integration organizations (Computers for schools in Quebec Where Insertech) who will restore them to give them a second or even a third life. All these solutions with a reduced carbon footprint are part of the effervescent current of the circular economy.

However, finding the parts needed to repair electronic equipment is not an easy task. To help consumers solve this puzzle, France introduced in 2021 a repairability index. For five categories of products, including three electronic devices, the index in question indicates in particular the ease of obtaining spare parts and of making replacements.

In Quebec, a bill aimed at combating planned obsolescence had the same ambition as the French regulations. Tabled in 2019 in the National Assembly, it has, three years later, still not advanced. Meanwhile, a petition signed to date by nearly 11,000 people was launched by Équiterre to demand greater repairability and durability of objects in Quebec.

Second step: review Internet consumption

The use of the Internet generates GHG emissions, in particular because it takes a lot of energy to operate multiple devices. The data centers, servers and infrastructure that transport your data around the world use, in some cases, energy from polluting sources, such as coal. In addition, these facilities always need more electronic equipment, the manufacture of which requires raw materials, and they produce waste.

The downside of Quebecers’ online consumption is streaming video (streaming). In 2020, according to Les Shifters Montréal, the viewing of series, films and documentaries on platforms such as Netflix, Tout.tv or Crave represented 27% of Internet traffic in Québec, far ahead of social networks (18%) or online searches. line (18%). Email exchange only generated 2% of overall traffic.

That was before the COVID-19 pandemic, the generalization of telework and the considerable increase in virtual meetings. While the effects on GHG emissions of these sharply increasing practices are not yet known across the province, this trend could change the overall picture in the years to come. Just like the proliferation of connected objects, 5G, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence or even the craze for the metaverse, this virtual universe in which the high-tech giants in the United States want to plunge the world and which will require increased Internet consumption as well as ever more energy-intensive technological equipment.

One thing is certain, it is above all by reducing your consumption of continuous video that you will tend most quickly towards digital sobriety. How to achieve it? By limiting your subscriptions to streaming platforms, which promote voracious viewing of content, but also by taking simple steps such as choosing a resolution adapted to your screen. As high definition (HD) is particularly energy-intensive, the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) recommends, for example, a resolution of 360p to 720p for a 13 inch screen (a standard laptop). You can also disable the “autoplay” mode of videos in the settings of your applications. Finally, when you are in teleworking mode, turn off your camera, when you can, during virtual meetings: you will significantly reduce your GHG emissions, according to one study carried out by researchers from Purdue University, MIT and Yale, USA, in 2021. After the introductions and introductory chatter, of course, we are human after all!

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For a less polluting digital life


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