Digital contributing to climate crisis

According to “The Cost of
Music,” a joint study penned by the University of Glasgow and the University of
Oslo, greenhouse gases were recorded at 140-million kilograms in 1977 for music
production activities (vinyl; plastic packaging). Moreover, they were at 136
million kilograms in 1988 and 157 million in 2000. In 2016, the age of
streaming, greenhouse gases were estimated between 200- and 350-million
kilograms in the U.S. alone.

“Storing and processing
music online uses a tremendous amount of resources and energy,” Dr. Kyle
Devine, an associate professor in music from the University of Oslo explained, “which
has a high impact on the environment.”

Furthermore, I read an
article a while ago, which said that the amount of energy consumed by a voice
assistant while turning the lights off or on is significantly greater than the
amount of energy required for a human to get up and turn the lights off or on.

smartphones are particularly villains when it comes to energy waste. “In
absolute values, emissions caused by smartphones will jump from 17 to 125
megatons of CO2 equivalent per year (Mt-CO2e/yr) in that time span, or a 730
per cent growth,” Lotfi Belkhir from McMaster University stated. Consequently,
since much of this energy is used up in production–combined with the fact that
smartphones have extreme obsolescence strategies seeking to establish a habit
that you must change them every two years–it results in a willful and
deliberate waste of energy.

Every text message, piece of content, photo, email, or chat contributes
to the climate crisis. We need to consider our digital carbon footprints and
seek out how we can reduce it because the digital world is a parasite on
earth’s energy and resources. As designers, we should design in an environment
friendly manner and be as digitally green as possible.

It’s one thing for a useful piece of information to consume
energy through production, publication, and presentation costs. This
information could potentially be carbon neutral by helping those who consume
the information to consume less energy. A smart home, for example, could
identify waste and reduce it.

Even with useful information, waste may be involved. “Based
on the information provided by HTTP Archive, the average web page size in 2010
was 702kb compared to in 2016 which is 2232kb,” an article in KeyCdn stated. So
why does that matter? Because these bloated pages need to be stored and
transmitted. “The gigantic data centers that power the internet consume vast
amounts of electricity and emit as much CO2 as the airline industry,” a Yale
article stated.

information is an absolute waste. How much useless information are we
producing? Can we use less text or fewer images? Can we take unnecessary weight
out of our images and code?  Ironically, useless
information hurts the organization that produces it because it makes useful
information harder to find and use. Further, most websites I deal with tend to become
much more efficient after they delete 80% of their pages. Imagine how much
energy we could save if we never created those pages in the first place?

The digital environment is much more wasteful than the physical environment since it is easy to create, copy, and publish digital things. Our oceans are full of plastic. Our websites are even more full of crap. We treat our digital environment even worse than our physical environment. It’s high time we changed.

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How smartphones are heating up the planet

Music consumption has unintended economic and environmental costs

Podcast: World Wide Waste
Interviews with prominent thinkers outlining what can be done to make digital as sustainable as possible.
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