How Can Businesses Be More Digitally Sustainable?

How Can Businesses Be More Digitally Sustainable?
Ryan Irving

Naturally, we might feel that anything digital is better for the planet.

  • Sending an email is better than sending a letter on paper
  • Having a video call instead of driving to an in-person meeting
  • Sending a link to your website instead of a brochure in the post

But the environmental impact of some of these digital activities might surprise you…

Is Email Sustainable?

The average email generates around 0.3g of CO2.

Not much right?

Now try and picture how many emails you send every day, week or month. I’m willing to bet that it’s a lot more than you realise.

And what about receiving emails? Not to mention the hundreds of spam emails we receive every day!

You can start to see that all of this sending and receiving of email is generating large amounts of carbon.

How does sending an email generate carbon?

All of the steps in the process of producing, sending and reading an email require energy;

  • The device you write the email on needs power
  • The email is transferred via data centres that consume vast amounts of power
  • The device the email is read on needs power

This is not an exhaustive list either as there are many more factors and steps in the process.

As we all know, powering devices and data centres etc. produces carbon.

How to reduce the environmental impact of using email

It’s unlikely you will read this and simply decide to never use email again as that’s impractical for most businesses.

But there are steps you can take to reduce the impact of using email;

Unsubscribe from emails you don’t read

By simply unsubscribing from two weekly emails that you wouldn’t have read, you’d be saving enough carbon each year to charge a mobile phone almost 4,000 times!

Clean up your email marketing lists

As businesses, not only do we receive email marketing, many of us will be sending these types of emails too.

And if you’re sending emails to an unengaged audience of people that never open your email, you’re creating wasted carbon.

So, be sure to clean your email lists regularly.

How Sustainable is Social Media?

Scrolling through the content in your social media apps is often regarded as a productivity killer and it can also be poor for your mental health.

But what about the environmental impacts?

Let’s look at just one social media platform, Instagram, as an example…

  • Or… almost EIGHT TONNES of Co2 per year 😱

How to make your business’s social media activity more sustainable

So, from a business perspective, consider which social channels you use.

Despite what many businesses may think, you don’t have to be everywhere. Delete your brand profile from the social channels that don’t genuinely serve your purpose.

Furthermore, don’t unnecessarily contribute to the noise.

“If you don’t have anything nice useful to say, don’t say anything at all”

Ensure your posts are useful and insightful, don’t post for the sake of posting.

Are Video/Zoom Calls Bad for the Planet?

In recent times, video calls have taken over our diaries and I for one will always opt for a Zoom call over an in-person meeting to save any unnecessary travel.

But sending video content two-way over the internet requires a lot of power.

…just one hour of a video call emits up to 1kg of carbon dioxide!

So next time you schedule a video call, ask yourself, could you make an old-school phone call instead?

Or could you just turn your camera off?

Leaving your camera off during a web call can reduce these footprints by 96%.

So when you’re attending a webinar and just a guest, consider turning your camera off to save sending unnecessary video across the internet.

The Carbon Footprint of Your Website

That’s right, your website that ‘lives in the cloud’ is producing carbon.

How do websites emit Co2?

Without getting too technical, your company website is made of various files e.g. text, images, code etc. Those files have to be stored on computers (servers) where they can be accessed by the internet.

Those servers will likely live in a large facility called a ‘data centre’ and data centres require a huge amount of energy.

Recent predictions state that the energy consumption of data centres is set to account for 3.2% of the total worldwide carbon emissions.

That’s more than the aviation industry (2.5%)!

How to make your website more sustainable

We’ve previously written a more in-depth article on how to reduce the carbon footprint of your website but here’s a quick win…

Not all data centres are bad and some offer ‘green hosting’ which usually means they’re powered by renewable energy.

So make sure you find out where your website is hosted and if it’s not with a green host, get it moved.

At Riweb, we specialise in creating more sustainable websites so let us know if you’d like some help with this.

The Environmental Impact of Using Google

Every year, almost half a million tons of Co2 are caused by searching on Google.

You’d need to plant around 48 million trees just to fight this rate of pollution.

Should you just stop searching? No, that’s unrealistic.

So, how can you search the internet more sustainably?

An easy step is to switch to a more sustainable search engine… allow me to introduce you to Ecosia.

Ecosia is a search engine just like Google but instead of displaying adverts for profit, Ecosia invests that money into planting trees.

At the time of writing, Ecosia has planted almost 180 million trees!

Summary: How Your Business Can Be More Digitally Sustainable

  1. Unsubscribe from marketing emails you don’t read and clean up your own marketing lists
  2. Reduce the number of social media platforms you post to and only post when you have something useful to share
  3. Make more traditional phone calls instead of video calls and turn your camera off when attending a webinar
  4. Move your website to a green host
  5. Switch from Google to Ecosia

I’ve only scratched the surface and there are many more ways you can reduce the impact of your digital activities.

If you’d like your business to be more sustainable, be sure to connect with me on LinkedIn or subscribe to our mailing list below (we only send the odd email with useful advice).