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Exploring Digital Carbon Footprints

In Digital Technologies, Climate, Sustainability by Scott

Related to UN SDG:
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New report released today.
Exploring our Digital Carbon Footprints

It's been said many times, by many people - we live in extraordinary times.

Our lives change before our eyes on a daily basis - just yesterday the EU announced a ban on combustion engine cars from 2035, this week alone there were two cancer treatment breakthroughs announced and yesterday the Internet grew by 500,000 new users (ish).

Our digital capabilities, of which the Internet is part, are growing at an exponential rate and we have long since stepped into the unfathomable exponential world of the "2nd half of the chessboard" where our digital capabilities grow faster than we can comprehend.

Connecting all our digital bits and pieces together, the Internet is a mammoth energy consumer. Exactly how mammoth is surrounded in quite a bit of uncertainty, but whether its at the lower end of 3% of global energy, or the higher end of 20%, the fact remains it is second only to China and perhaps the USA.

digital carbon footprints internet energy consumption

Slide taken from my presentation at Jisc's Networkshop_50

There's also a considerable amount of uncertainty about how quickly and effectively the Internet enablers and Cloud providers are moving to renewable energy. Indeed, despite the green promises from nearly all of them the IPCC is still not confident that the speed of "greening" the Internet will keep up with our accelerating digital needs.

Today, The Verge reported on how one of the fundamental mechanisms, Renewable Energy Certificates (REC), used to help companies like Microsoft achieve their net-zero and net-negative ambitions might actually be dangerously flawed.

Developing Better Understanding of our Digital Carbon Footprint

It is therefore critical that we all make an effort to better understand our digital carbon footprints.

Against this backdrop I am excited to announce the publication of a report I have been working on for the UK's Jisc that attempts to do just that.

The report, titled "Exploring digital carbon footprints" sets out to uncover some of the hidden areas we might find contributors to our digital carbon footprints. I look at some of the big areas, such as eWaste, circular IT and data centres, as well as some of the smaller, daily changes we can all make to make small incremental, yet collectively huge reductions to our carbon emissions.

The report is designed to be both a starting point for discussion and raised awareness as well as to provide practical tips and advice on how to understand and mitigate our digital carbon emissions.

This report is very timely, informative, and pulls no punches. It is the best and most up-to-date report on this critical topic, and it will, and must, become essential reading for Chairs, Principals, IT and Sustainability leads. It is also wonderfully accessible to carbon literate students and staff. We have all needed such a go-to report, now Scott and Jisc have delivered a very well written, organised, coherent and very practical guide on this complex area of our work.
Steve Frampton MBE, FE/HE Climate Commissioner
exploring digital carbon footprints - jisc report

Download the full report for free from the Jisc's website here

Exploring digital carbon footprints

The report is now live and can be accessed via this link.

While the report is primarily aimed at the UK's education sector, the contents will be of much broader use, applicable to businesses, leaders, and consumers, too.

In addition to narrative around the topic it contains practical tips designed to help IT leaders and organisations as well as individuals at home.

Following this work I also launched a free Social Media Carbon Footprint calculator which is designed to help raise awareness around the carbon impact of our Digital social activities as well as giv you hints, tips and a tech-based solution to address you own social emissions. You can find the tool here.

About the Author


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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..