Exact figures and estimates as to the carbon impact of digital communication are hard to measure and continually changing as technology evolves and new research sheds further light.
As an industry, cumulative efforts will have a major impact and we should do what we can. Many changes made will have a positive impact on our business in other ways.
Digital exhibitions and Online Viewing Rooms have the potential to provide a lower carbon alternative to real-world exhibitions where long-distance travel is involved.
While certainly not without an environmental consequence, exact figures are hard to quantify, and the impact of digital technologies are likely less significant than alternative such as flying. That being said, the GCC will be continually researching and updating its advice on this area over the coming years.
Simple daily routines such as shutting down computers and unused devices, turning off or unplugging electronics at the wall, turning off the air conditioning, etc., are likely to have a far greater positive impact on our carbon footprint than any single organisational level decision--as well as saving significant energy costs.
The most impactful change you or your organisation can make, if you have not already done so, is to switch email and business applications to Cloud Computing services.
Google claims to run their data centres on 100% renewable energy, however they don’t claim to run all their data centres on 100% renewable energy all the time, so care must be taken when choosing the best service.
Video meetings consume a vastly disproportionate amount of energy compared to other forms of communication such as audio phone calls. However, if face-to-face is required then a video meeting does have a much lower environmental impact than in-person meetings when you take into account travel and other factors
Email, especially with large attachments, uses substantially more energy than messaging services. Messaging services such as Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, Signal have a comparatively negligible environmental impact and are a preferable alternative where possible.
- Get work and personal email under control and avoid including long email threads in reply emails.
- Use alternative messaging services other than email, where possible.
- Unsubscribe from unnecessary email lists.
- Delete attachments which are saved elsewhere.
- Delete emails which are longer needed. Tempting as it is never to delete anything these days, deleting out-of-date newsletters and announcements will save space, time, money and planetary resources.
- Optimise your email marketing lists.