Small steps by every business and every individual today will make a huge impact on our environmental footprint in the long run. We should all be thinking of cleantech living and doing whatever we can to help reduce our environmental footprint.
Cleantech, short for clean technology, refers to any technology or process that aims to minimize environmental impact and promote sustainable development. It encompasses a wide range of sectors and innovations that focus on reducing carbon emissions, improving energy efficiency, conserving resources, and mitigating climate change.
Digitalization has numerous benefits across various sectors and in our private lives.
Digitalizing processes can greatly increase efficiency and productivity. By automating routine tasks, companies can save time and resources, allowing them to focus on their core competencies. It can often lead to a decrease in operational costs resultingfrom efficiencies such as a reduced need for physical storage space, less printing and paper usage, or automated workflows that require fewer personnel hours.
Digitalization is also making the world a smaller place. Digital information can be accessed from anywhere in the world, fostering better collaboration and convenience. It enables remote work, e-learning, telehealth, and many other activities that don’t require physical presence. What is more, it has revolutionised the way and the speed we communicate. It’s now easy to stay in touch with friends, family, and colleagues around the world through email, instant messaging, video calls, and social media platforms.
But be warned: Digitalization comes with a hidden environmental impact.
For all the benefits mentioned we of course need the digital devices to make them happen, and we also have to store the data somewhere. According to Cybersecurity Ventures, the world will store 200 zettabytes of data by 2025 (one zettabyte is equal to a trillion gigabytes – that’s a 1 with 23 zeroes after it!). This includes data stored on private and public IT infrastructures, on utility infrastructures, on private and public cloud data centres, on personal computing devices – PCs. laptops, tablets, and smartphones – and on IoT devices.
The approximate number of personal computers in use worldwide is 2 billion. Mobile phones approx. 4 billion. And we haven’t yet counted all the game consoles, smart watches, smart home devices, etc.
But all this tech needs to be powered somehow. And we’re not talking just the power to use the devices but also to manufacture them. We need much more energy to manufacture all these devices than for their operation. This is the hidden environmental impact of digitalization. The side we rarely think about, but we must consider embodied energy or in other words the total energy required to produce a product. This includes all stages from raw material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, installation, maintenance, and to its end-of-life disposal or recycling. It is an important measure in assessing the environmental impact of products.
As an example, let’s look at the lifecycle of a mobile phone. Its lifecycle involves several stages, each with its own environmental impact:
What are we doing about embodied energy and its environmental impact?
There are efforts within the electronics industry to improve energy efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of device production. This includes optimising manufacturing processes, adopting cleaner energy sources, implementing waste reduction strategies, and promoting recycling and responsible disposal of electronic waste.
But we need to be asking ourselves do we really need a new mobile phone every year? Or a laptop or all the new gadgets? What is our environmental footprint and how can we reduce it?
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