How to Reduce Your Tech Carbon Footprint

Ways to be environmentally conscious with technology

Because technology also comes with a hidden environmental cost, here are some smart ways in which you can reduce your tech carbon footprint! 

When we think of our carbon footprint, we often take our commute into consideration or how much we recycle. But rarely do we factor in the tech devices we use everyday. Digital technologies have a hidden cost to the environment that few of us think about, and they can increase our carbon footprint without us even realizing. 

If you’re conscious of your environmental impact and want to find ways to bring it down for a more sustainable lifestyle, your tech usage could be a great place to start. Here are some tips on how to reduce your tech carbon footprint and why it’s important to do so.

The environmental impact of technology

Digital devices are widespread now and impact the planet in various ways. From the mining of materials which results in deforestation, landscape degradation and water pollution, to the huge amounts of energy required to produce complex electronics which results in greenhouse gasses and air pollution. 

The environmental cost of technology and mass consumption means we throw away around $60bn of electronic waste. As highlighted back in 2020 only a small percentage of those devices are actually recycled, and this continues to be an ongoing issue. Tech companies are predominantly to blame for this, with planned obsolescence and a constant need to iterate and develop new technologies, with no circular processes built into manufacturing. But there are ways that we, as consumers, can play our part in reducing the impact of this industry. 

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Buy refurbished tech

Refurbished technology has the potential to save you hundreds of dollars on your tech devices and in many cases, the quality is practically the same as when you buy brand new. Refurbished or used technology can range from a customer sending an item back without having used the product at all, to a new product with damaged packaging, all the way through to a used, pre-loved item that’s been repaired and brought back up to the right standard before you buy it. 

With a growing awareness of the need for sustainability and an appetite for eco living, particularly among younger generations, more businesses are offering customers the opportunity to buy used items for a fraction of the cost. In fact, according to MPB, a company specializing in used photography and video equipment, under 35’s are more likely to embrace the concept of buying used and 69% agree that it’s the best way to reduce the environmental impact of the equipment they use.

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Donate or recycle old items 

In a similar fashion, when you’re ready to upgrade your tech items, donate or recycle them so they don’t end up in a landfill. Not only does this reduce the e-waste produced every year but it also prevents chemicals from leaching into the ground and waterways. E-waste is responsible for around 70% of toxic chemicals in landfills, including materials such as lead and mercury. 

What no longer serves you in your life may still be of value to someone else. When you trade in your phone, it can be refurbished and resold, and you make a profit in the process, so it’s a win-win. There’s also the option to donate it to a charity organization who can give your phone to those in need, such as flood or natural disaster victims. 

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Be smart about the tech you buy

If you can make a swap to a more energy-efficient alternative, it not only saves you money on your electricity bills but helps your eco efforts. So, be clever about the devices you buy and do your research into the options available within your budget so you can make the right choice. For example, smart technology makes it easier for you to keep track of your energy use and stay within your budget, while also making it more convenient to turn off devices and appliances when you’re out of the house, so you’re not wasting electricity unnecessarily. 

Likewise, a standard laptop consumes as much as 90% less than a desktop computer, in addition to being more versatile in terms of your work location. Swaps such as these can make a big impact on the overall power consumption of your day, just by being conscious of the devices you choose and how you use them. For example, follow the manufacturer’s directions for optimizing the battery life of the device and not replacing it until you really need to. 

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Pay attention to your digital activities

It’s not just the equipment you use that impacts your digital carbon footprint, but also the way you use that technology on a day to day basis. There are small changes you can make that will have a big impact overall, and the more people who adopt these practices, the larger that environmental impact will be. 

Using an ecological search engine, like Ecosia or SearchScene, is a fantastic way to absorb your CO2 emissions without compromising on anything in your daily life. A 2019 study showed that 1200 billion trees would be enough to absorb two-thirds of the 300 gigatons of carbon emissions produced by humans since the 19th century, and by using a search engine that plants trees or donates to charities fighting climate change, you can play your part in achieving that. Alternatively, you could stay on top of the trash piling up in your email mailbox — storing an email emits around 10g of CO2 for every year it’s stored, so removing them can help keep those emissions down.

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Tech is something we can’t avoid in our lives, and naturally it offers so many advantages to how we live and work. But we can’t ignore the impact it has on our environment anymore. Living a sustainable lifestyle means making changes where we can to lessen our impact on the planet, and that may mean anything from being more conscious of our email use, choosing more energy-efficient devices or paying closer attention to where we buy our tech from. Each small step makes a larger collective change and one that could help tackle the climate crisis more effectively.

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