Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation
Justice, Peace, Integrity<br /> of Creation

Reducing the digital footprint on the environment. What to do?

14.01.2022 Ruben Razzante Translated by: Jpic-jp.org

The keywords of the NRRP (National Recovery and Resilience Plan) are digital and green. The digitization of economies and the advancement of technologies to support environmental protection are two unavoidable frontiers of the new post-Covid Europe. What can we do to reduce our digital footprint on the environment? Proposals from Italy.

Italy, with its countless projects in the pipeline, counts on cultivating these two strands - digital and green - with conviction, in order to promote growth and innovation. But there is also a flip side to the coin, which should not be underestimated and which concerns the environmental costs of the digital transition, namely the pollution rate that massive digitization of activities and functions can produce. The societies of the future must be based on sustainable development models, capable of ensuring innovation but also environmental protection and appreciable levels of social welfare.

The environmental costs of technological transition

In recent days, addressing some 17,000 middle school and high school students, the Minister for Ecological Transition, Roberto Cingolani, spoke on the environmental costs of the digital transition and urged young people to send fewer useless photos and emails, highlighting how the Internet is also polluting. To give a dimension to the phenomenon, the information technology (IT) sector generates 4 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions and about half comes from the use of social networks.

According to a recent report by Capgemini, CO2 emissions from IT are set to increase threefold by 2025 compared to 2010 levels. According to the International Energy Agency, data centers - where we store all the data and process of our phones and our digital archives - consume around 1% of the world's energy demand, requiring 10 to 50 times more energy per square meter than a traditional office. And we must not forget the energy required for the cooling systems of these huge systems.

The node of devices to be disposed of

Another point concerns the production and disposal of electronic devices. The latest Ericsson Mobility Report states that there are 7.9 billion SIMs in the world, more than the world's population. Smartphones, which make up about 70 per cent of all phones, are produced from copper, iron, silver, gold, palladium and plastic, as well as titanium, lithium, cobalt and so-called 'rare earths', which are difficult to extract and indispensable for many technological products. Metal mining is often linked to labor exploitation and environmental destruction.

What can we do?

What can we do to try to reduce our footprint on the environment? First of all, measure our real needs and extend the lifespan of the devices we use. Online, we can do our part by adopting a few virtuous behaviors such as updating our mailing lists and sending few attachments; optimizing the size of the files we send, compressing them or using low-resolution images; using temporary storage sites and avoiding sending heavy attachments, especially when we send them to several recipients; and archiving and using as much data locally as possible and saving in the cloud only what is really necessary.

See, Quanto inquina internet e come ridurre l'impronta digitale and also Our Digital Carbon Footprint: What’s the Environmental Impact of the Online World?

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