3 ways that digital sustainability has already improved our planet

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3 ways that digital sustainability has already improved our planet

Coldplay sang it best - we live in a beautiful world, (yeah we do, yeah we do). So, we need to do all we can to preserve and protect this stunning planet that we call home.

We already know that we have less than 10 years left to take action that will prevent irreversible damage to the planet from climate change. That’s not a long time to spread the word and modify our actions to become more carbon conscious.

Digital advancements are having a positive impact on the planet by making us more efficient and creating less physical waste - this is great news! There is another side to this coin though that we must take into account - the carbon that’s created by our online actions.

As industries far and wide continue through this rapid phase of digital transformation, personally and professionally, we need to factor in sustainability at every step. From the way we power devices and store information, design and develop digital services, to our everyday actions like buying food and driving our cars, we can cut down on carbon.

Certain aspects of our everyday life are leading the charge in the field of digital sustainability, where technological advancements have already improved our planet. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at some examples, and celebrate their efforts thus far.

1. ‘The Cloud’

Bit of a sensitive subject given the weather we’ve had in the UK lately! Luckily, the digital Cloud is far less volatile than its meteorological counterpart.

The Cloud is an online repository for data that can be used by millions of users at the same time. For example, when you save a document to Google Drive, you’re saving it in the Cloud. When websites are hosted by Amazon Web Services, that’s in the Cloud too.

Many businesses believe that if they digitise their services and move their physical data to the Cloud, they’ll automatically receive a big gold star for saving the planet. The truth is that we need to incorporate digital sustainability into every stage of our Cloud-based journeys.

For example:

  • Storing information in the most efficient way, so it can be retrieved in the quickest time.
  • Selecting certain Cloud providers who use renewable energy sources and offer efficient hosting options.
  • Designing and developing digital experiences, websites and apps in a way that helps end users find what they need, as quickly as possible.

Many of our clients have approached us to help them build digital experiences that are sustainable and efficient. From startups to large enterprise brands like Vodafone, we’re helping organisations make sure they’re sustainable in their actions. This is positive and shows an appetite for positive change in the corporate world.

2. Mobile

Over the last five years we have seen big strides forward in the mobile industry’s attitude to sustainability. In 2019, for instance, it was reported in Apple’s annual sustainability report that the company had reduced their carbon footprint by 35%. Other positive industry trends during this time include a fall in physical mobile phone industry sales, with recycled phones and SIM-only deals only growing in popularity.

Last year, we were proud to create The Green Report - a large piece of work that was commissioned by Vodafone and dedicated to ascertaining the company’s carbon footprint whilst identifying the best way for them to stay innovative in an agile way. This global communications giant is making visible progress in ensuring that their internal and external products, and services don’t harm the planet.

Mobile phones have done wonders for digital transformation, but connectivity comes at a price. Every phone call, Whatsapp message, video stream, Insta scroll and photo filter creates carbon.

So, it’s fantastic to see mobile leaders taking action to minimise their impact on the planet.

The main areas of focus in The Green Report include:

  • Culture - More visibility of policies around climate change and an update of design standards
  • Cloud - Automation, optimisation and sustainable practices are key to Cloud based success
  • Code - Best practice and a more sustainable approach to requirements gathering to reduce the digital footprint of Vodafone’s code
  • Customer - More customers should be encouraged to go online and when they do, Vodafone needs to ensure its technology is sustainable

3. Electric cars

Electric vehicles (EVs) emit almost three times less CO2 than equivalent petrol or diesel cars. As more people switch to EVs and hybrids, we’ll soon enjoy cleaner air, less noise pollution and fewer emissions in the atmosphere.

Having said that, it’s vital that EV manufacturers optimise their methods to be as sustainable as possible. Some studies have found that manufacturing electric vehicles generates more emissions than building a traditional car…this needs to be addressed.

Another area that needs focus is around how electric vehicle batteries are recycled after use. The good news is that most EV batteries last between 10 and 20 years, so they need not be replaced often, but countries like New Zealand are already investing in battery management programmes to reduce waste.

It’s important to make sure that any potentially negative by-products of technology can be counterbalanced by proactive actions. As with other advancements in technology, if we factor sustainability into the end-to-end process (rather than simply adding it on at the end) we’ll see a greater impact overall.

Small changes, big impact

At Digital Detox, we believe that if everyone makes some small changes, we’ll see a big collective impact. Simple changes to the way we source, consume, use, recycle and speak about products and services can make a difference.

We’re helping organisations become more sustainable in their digital actions, whether at a micro level on existing projects, or for entire digital transformations. Get in touch today to find out how we can help you use technology to benefit people and the planet.

You can also see more of our work in our Case Studies section on our website.