When we think of how technology is causing environmental damages, we often focus on physical things like using a computer or making a call, instead of its rather ‘invisible’ counterpart - the internet. 

Are you aware that you are indirectly responsible for damaging the environment each time you send an email, each time you post a tweet, or each time you decide to watch an episode on Netflix? 

What is a digital carbon footprint?

The transmission of data via the internet can be very polluting, contributing to 4% of our greenhouse gas emissions. This is because it is a process that requires millions of physical servers in data centres around the world, all taking a lot of energy to run. Unfortunately, much of that energy comes from power sources that emit carbon dioxide into the air.

So every time we use the internet or social media, a small amount of carbon is being emitted. While one single person’s usage only generates a small amount of carbon dioxide, the collective amount of carbon emissions of the world’s digital usage is monstrous - and worrying. 

Why is it a problem?

Companies have coined terms like ‘the cloud’ to make everyday technology seem like it is simply a weightless formation storing our data. This allows us to easily ignore the material consequences and be guilt free when using the internet.

With technology becoming more and more intertwined with our daily lives, we wanted to generate awareness on how our digital lives can affect the planet.

Although terms like ‘carbon footprint’ and ‘carbon emissions’ are frequently being used, there is a lack of understanding as to what these numbers actually mean. We’ve created an animation that compares the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to something we all know is really bad - burning coal. In just a minute, 150,000,000 emails are being sent, releasing a staggering 600,000 kg of carbon dioxide. That is almost as if we are burning 232,258 kg every 60 seconds.

Shocked? Find out how other parts of the internet compare below:

How to reduce your digital carbon footprint?

The integration of technology into our daily lives is and will be inevitable. The best way forward is to be aware of your digital carbon footprint and find ways to minimise and reduce your contribution to carbon emissions.

1. Renewable Energy Source

There are plenty of low-carbon energy sources that are available for you to install in your own homes. This means the electricity and heat you are using is collated and generated by natural resources like sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat. At Viessmann, we offer heat pumps, Photovoltaic (PV) and Solar Panels to help effective and reliable heat and power generation. 

2. Smart App Controls

There are many apps available on the market that can be integrated with the devices in your home in order to monitor and maintain energy usage, like our ViCare App. In the long run, this will also help reduce electricity bills.

3. Using technology in moderation

Finally, we can rely on ourselves to be more aware that technology isn’t absolutely necessary in our daily routine. They can be used in moderation according to our needs. However, when it isn’t needed, it may be more effective to switch off the device to prevent any loss of energy.

What do you think about our digital carbon footprint? And what would you suggest to reduce our digital usage? Join the conversation by using #TheCoalTruth on Twitter (@ViessmannUK) or Facebook (@ViessmannUK). 

By finishing this article, you will have contributed to generating approximately 8g of carbon dioxide.

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