Digital pollution and the use of digital in the event industry
Are virtual fairs a sustainable option to counter the pollution caused by digital technology?
For a few decades, we have been witnessing a global awareness regarding environmental issues. Each of us, at our own level, is trying to adopt an eco-responsible approach in our daily lives.
Far from the obvious pollution generated by waste or CO2, digital pollution is not negligible (4% of global greenhouse gas emissions in January 2021; and is estimated to double by 2025)(1).
This form of pollution is not very much considered because of its intangible aspect. We don’t realize at first glance that by watching streaming content, we are actually harming our planet. Small habits that form part of our daily lives (reading our online newspaper, shopping on the internet, downloading games on our smartphone) are the submerged part of the iceberg when it comes to digital pollution.
In reality, digital pollution is generated by 3 main sources:
- The manufacture of equipment (37%)
- Data centers and other network infrastructures (25%)
- The use of digital devices (38%) (2)
Items sent by email, documents stored on the cloud or videos viewed in streaming, all increase little by little our carbon footprints. Our consumption patterns are evolving and more and more of our daily tasks are now done online.
Digital pollution is real and will continue to increase with the digital revolution our society is facing. However, we must also be aware that sending an email is less polluting than sending a paper card by postal mail.. Making a one-hour video meeting is less polluting than having 4 people travel 50 kilometers to meet up. A car journey pollutes on average 55 g of CO2/passenger/km(3), so for 50 km, we are far from the 150 to 1000 grams of carbon dioxide estimated for one hour of video conference (4) by American researchers from Purdue University, MIT and Yale. Moreover, it seems that if we turn off the cameras during our online meetings, we could reduce their carbon footprint by 96%(4), which is far from negligible.
So yes, digital pollution exists and it is important, but if the internet is used with care, it remains an essential alternative in our daily lives.
What about the event industry?
The event industry, and especially trade shows, is not good for our planet: between the numerous travels of the visitors (sometimes at an international level), the waste generated from printing and the industry of goodies and food: the carbon footprint of a face-to-face event can very quickly reach impressive figures.
Digital pollution is also unavoidable in the physical world: upstream contact, storage of customer files, development of a dedicated website, online ticket sales, on-site computer equipment… In the end, even if the event does not take place online, it can also generate digital pollution.
Many organizers are turning to virtual or hybrid solutions to limit the overall impact of their event. Concerned about the planet, they are aware that the pollution generated by a virtual exhibition exists despite everything. If the organizer opts for one of these two “planet friendly” solutions, he can find ways to reduce his impact as much as possible.
Reducing the impact of an event remains a collective work, as it does not only depend on the organizer, but on all of everyone involved. By offering a guide to good practices regarding digital pollution, the organizer can help his participants to pollute less.
For example: platforms like AppyFair, with a certificate in digital sobriety can help organizers wishing to reduce the CO2 footprint of their event.
Some tips to reduce your digital footprint:
1- Selecting eco-friendly computer equipment
Prefer reconditioned equipment and environmental labels when purchasing your computer equipment. To considerably reduce your footprint, take care of your hardware and keep it as long as possible to avoid overconsumption. Regularly cleaning the hard disks, sorting out applications and softwares will avoid slowing down and overheating.
2- Sort your emails
Web storage cannot be ignored when we consider digital carbon footprint: simply sorting out emails, and cleaning up data stored on the cloud will already allow you to reduce the impact related to data centers. Store as many files as possible on your computer or on external hard drives… and think about regularly deleting mailboxes that you no longer use.
3- Close your tabs
When you surf the Internet, remember to close your tabs that are no longer useful. When you spend all day on the computer, the number of open tabs starts to accumulate and eventually, you don’t find your way around anymore! Closing your useless tabs will be good for the planet, but also for your mind, try it out!
4- Use an ecological search engine
You can also install an ecological search engine like Ecosia, Lilo or Ecogine. If you know the address of the site you are looking for, don’t use the search engine, enter it directly in your browser. Preferably use applications that have received an eco-label or a digital sobriety label, find out how we obtained a digital sobriety label in this article.
5- Turn off your camera during meetings
If you’re participating in a video call and the camera isn’t needed, consider turning it off. Scientists estimate that if you turn off your camera, your footprint will decrease by 96% (4).
6 – Unplug your devices
Another simple habit: remember to unplug unused devices, and to switch to standby mode when you are not using a device for a few minutes, but also, and above all, remember to turn off the computer completely when you are not using it anymore.
7 – Turn off your wifi router when you are away
At home, remember to turn off your internet box when you are away, its annual consumption would be equivalent to that of a small refrigerator. And on the contrary, if you are at home, activate the wifi on your devices rather than using 4G.
All these small daily habits can have a considerable impact on the global digital footprint.
Towards a general awareness
Have you taken the step to reduce your environmental impact? Congratulations!
This is already a great step to improving the consumption patterns of tomorrow.
Get even more involved by raising awareness, informing and educating people about good practices in terms of digital pollution.
Don’t hesitate to introduce the right habits to your colleagues, employees or relatives and friends. By taking this into account, we can all help virtual events into an even more reduced carbon impact.
We hope to see you soon on AppyFair for more eco-responsible virtual events; contact us now!