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what is a digital carbon footprint

A note on digital carbon footprints

In Climate, Moments, Quick Read by Scott

Related to UN SDG:
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Digital Carbon Footprints

Since the publication of Exploring Digital Carbon Footprints with JISC, I've created quite a following on the topic of digital carbon footprints. This is the first in a series of short articles that answers individual questions on this topic.
Just a moment

What is a Digital Carbon Footprint?

A digital carbon footprint represents the total amount of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) attributable to the lifetime manufacture, use and end-of-life of the digital products and services we use.

This includes the products we buy, such as laptops and mobile phones, and also the services we consume, including streaming video services and online shopping.

Our digital carbon footprints extend across internet connected devices, but also to other devices and services that enable our digital lifestyles, e.g. TVs, computer monitors, asset tracking tags and peripheral USB cables.

The lifetime CO2e of a product or service is typically split into two high-level categories; embodied emissions and operational emissions.

  • Embodied emissions are those that are generated in the manufacture, storage and shipping of the items.
  • Operational emissions are those generated in the lifetime use of the product or service.

The split between the two is typically 80% embodied, 20% operational as highlighted in a couple of quote in the slide below.

What about end of life emissions?

Digital products and services have a significant environmental impact beyond their end of life. This is a growing area of concern known as eWaste.

At the time of writing, it is unclear how manufacturers allocate their end-of-life emissions to the embodied or operational categories.

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Scott is an Independent Technology Analyst, Content Writer and Connector of interesting people. Scott is a technologist at heart, with a history of technology innovation and marketing leadership roles. As the founder of this website and several other businesses, he is passionate about helping technology companies communicate their relevance and awesomeness in a way that engages and excites everybody. Get in touch with Scott here or connect with him on LinkedIn. Learn Scott's tips for content marketing, download his free template here..