For as long as a lot of us can remember, we’ve been placing an emphasis on “saving paper to help the environment.” This practice extended to businesses as one by one they went paperless and instead focused on moving their enterprises to digital platforms. Theoretically, digital is better for the environment. By shifting businesses online, paper waste is reduced and emissions from traveling for meetings are cut back. However, in practice, the shift towards digital is actually making a big impact on the world’s carbon emissions. Digital strategy reports that “digital technologies account for between 8-10% of our energy consumption, and 2-4% of our greenhouse gas emissions”
While conference calls reduce flight emissions and electronic contracts eliminate the need for paper waste, there is still a carbon footprint from conducting digital business. All of that digital information needs to be stored somewhere, and data centers are huge contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. We’ve put together a list of ways to optimize both your personal life and your business’s data to help keep digital as environmentally friendly as possible.
Ways to keep digital on the environmentally friendly path
Use design elements that take up less storage
Big, flashy, elaborate design elements take up lots of storage on your website (and therefore in data centers). Large images and graphics take up a whole lot of space as well. By simplifying your color scheme, design elements, graphics, and motion on your website, you are able to save on a lot of storage space. Don’t lose focus on ensuring your website is eye appealing, but be aware of what kind of storage each of your design elements requires.
Optimize your website and personal data storage
Reducing the amount of unnecessary files you store on your website can have a huge impact. For example, if you’re keeping images of past employees stored in the media of your website, removing them will reduce the amount of unnecessary data your website stores.
In your personal life, reducing your unnecessary data storage can be done in a couple of ways. First, limit the number of files you store in the cloud space. All of these cloud files are stored in data centers, so having lots of unnecessary files saved really builds up. You can also monitor the number of emails you save. Many people are guilty of keeping old, unneeded emails for years and years- and all of those emails take up space in data centers. Keep the important ones you need, and delete the rest.
Utilize green-friendly efforts of other digital businesses
Many businesses are beginning to recognize the impact digital is having on the environment, as well as greenhouse gas emissions in general. They are working on efforts to combat that impact in a variety of ways. For example, Google Flights now shows people purchasing flights information on how much fuel each route requires. They also suggest eco-friendly driving routes for Google Maps users.
Apple Maps is also making strides towards being more eco-friendly. Gizmodo reports that Apple Maps is 5x more data-efficient than Google Maps. This is because of their use of vector graphics that automatically resize as you zoom in and out/move along the map, which reduces the need to download and redownload images from the server.
Adopt a mobile-first mentality in your designs
Data shows that internet users prefer to use the internet on their mobile devices. Almost 69% of internet traffic came from mobile in 2020. By adopting a mobile-first mentality for your website design, you’re not only meeting users where they are but also encouraging green energy usage. Powering mobile devices takes less energy than powering desktop devices, so when it’s more convenient for users to use mobile, they’re more inclined to do so and save energy.
Saving the planet requires a group effort across all platforms. It’s no longer as simple as using less paper or recycling. Across all industries, steps must be taken to move towards a greener, more environmentally friendly life.