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3 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Digital Carbon Footprint

Unlike our physical carbon footprint, which is visible and tangible, our digital carbon footprint isn't something we can see or touch. Here are some simple ways to reduce it.

Written by
Riley Baker
You're probably well aware of your
carbon footprint
and the impact it has on the environment. It's why we make such conscious efforts to reduce things like our energy consumption,
water usage
, and waste on a daily basis. However, what we often overlook is our digital carbon footprint.
Unlike our physical carbon footprint, which is visible and tangible, our digital carbon footprint isn't something we can see or touch. It refers to the greenhouse gas emissions produced by our digital activities. This includes everything from
scrolling on social media
streaming our favorite shows
sending countless emails
and even storing data in the cloud.
Every digital action we undertake contributes to our growing digital carbon footprint. Yet, the question remains—how can we minimize it? In a recent episode of
Good Together
, Brightly's founder Laura Wittig shared a few good places to start.

3 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Digital Carbon Footprint

1. Prioritize One Device at a Time

The problem: Did you know
85% of U.S. households
are subscribed to at least one streaming platform? Because streaming requires a massive infrastructure of data centers, networks, and devices, it has a hefty carbon footprint. In fact,
it's estimated
to "comprise 7% of global greenhouse emissions in 2030 and 15% in 2040.”
Considering the average American may spend up to 12 hours a day connected to some sort of media—be it TV, their phone, laptop, or something else—we can all take a look at our online habits and figure out how to make them more sustainable.
Laura's tip: "When you're watching that show, don't be on your phone, too. You're just doubling up your energy usage, and you're not doing justice to the show," says Wittig. "I think we have to get away from this concept of being so glued to our phones all the time whenever we're doing anything, including consuming other content. It's just not good for our mental health. It's not good for our wellness. And, obviously, there's some negative impacts to the planet, too."

2. Limit Your Social Media Screen Time

The problem: Social media platforms are literally designed to keep us scrolling for hours on end... and it's working. Being on these platforms means we're typically always on Wi-Fi or using data and recharging devices. In addition, these social media companies require large data centers that utilize
205 terawatt-hours
of energy each year to keep everything up and running.
Laura's tip: "If you were to scroll one hour per day over the course of the year, your TikTok scrolling would be the equivalent of driving 143 miles in a car. So that's a lot," says Wittig. "Maybe just consider putting a time limit on your app. And actually, there are some apps that will do this specifically for you, as well as a feature built into most smartphones where you can limit your screen time."
If that doesn't work for you, Wittig says to get the screen time report from your phone. "The one that's crazy for me is the weekly one. That's staggering," she says. "I have so many things that I actually should be getting done around my house and doing with my physical hands. When I hear that stuff, it drives me to pause and be a little bit more mindful about what I'm doing."

3. Unsubscribe From Unwanted Emails

It's estimated that
333 billion emails
were sent and received around the world in 2022. These emails add up. When it comes to the carbon footprint of emails, a
standard email is 4 grams of CO2e
and emails with attachments can be up to 50 grams of CO2e.
Laura's tip: "You can reduce your carbon footprint by cleaning out your inbox, starting with getting rid of those attachments," says Wittig. "The other thing you can do is unsubscribe from unwanted emails."