Tips for greener use of the Internet

If you want to reduce your waste, you will soon come across the idea of working digitally: Online invoicing, storing cooking recipes in the cloud, etc.

However, be careful not to exaggerate. Although we might not be aware of it, our digital life has a big impact on the environment. Not only do digital services consume energy, but also “grey energy” related to our devices is a concern (e.g. use of rare minerals, resources used for production, transport, etc.).

Putting documents in the cloud, adding a picture to your email signature, subscribing to unnecessary newsletters: all this costs energy. However, there are ways to improve our energy consumption.

Tips and tricks

For e-mails:

  • Send e-mails in text format (12x smaller data volume).
  • If you’re sending e-mails in HTML format: Do not insert images and style sheets, but allow the recipient to download them.
  • Configure a spam filter.
  • Empty your inbox – Delete unnecessary messages from the server (e.g. empty your recycle bin, sent messages, etc.) and save important messages and attachments to a hard drive.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters – Yes, all the ones you never read! There are several free tools to help you with unsubscribing, e.g. unroll.me or Cleanfox.
  • Use an email service that respects privacy – providers like Protonmail or Newmanity do not collect data for commercial purposes.
  • Reduce email traffic – If you can just talk to the recipient . Otherwise, stop a minute and consider who really need a piece of information before hitting the « send all » button. Each recipient consumes additional power.
  • Use simple email signatures – avoid email signatures with pictures.
  • Send fewer attachments – use a USB stick , it uses less energy than sending an attachment. If you have a shared repository, an alternative is to send the path for accessing the document.

For web search:

An average Google search consumes as much power as a 100 W lightbulb turned on for 1 hour (taking into account all devices needed for generating a results page).

Therefore, we need to make searching more efficient and use a suitable browser. The websites www.lesnumeriques.com/appli-logiciel or www.vergleich.org/browser list the performance of different browsers. Chrome and Firefox currently have the best performance.

Today, 269 billion e-mails (non-spam) are sent over the Internet every day. If the Internet were a separate country, it would be the fifth largest electricity consumer in the world.

How to make your search more efficient:

  • Avoid search engines if possible: directly go to the right website – use the favorites list to avoid unnecessary search queries. If you know the URL of the website, enter it directly in the browser’s address bar.
  • Use unique & specific terms.
  • Use quotation marks for word combinations and exact sentences – Example: to search for the association ZeroWaste Switzerland, type “ZeroWaste Switzerland”.
  • Refine your search – use the character “-” to limit the search results. Example: to search for Zero Waste without ZeroWaste Switzerland, type “Zero Waste” -ZeroWaste Switzerland”.
  • Use delimiters – like movie:/ music:/ file type:/ inurl:/ site:/ title: / allintitle:/ related:/ , Example: to search for a movie about Zero Waste, type “film:/ zero waste”.
  • Use the search engine’s advanced search feature to refine the search results.
  • Prefer sustainable search engines – for example Ecosia (plants trees thanks to advertising revenue), Goodsearch (a humanitarian search engine) or Ecogine (donates all its research revenue to environmental associations).
  • Long live the black! – Reduce screen brightness and use black search engines such as Blackle or Ecofree to reduce the power consumption of your screen.
  • Block advertisements – Internet ads also consume energy. Therefore, use advertising blockers like Adblock or Ghostery.

Storage on servers:

  • Reduce cloud storage – A cloud is certainly very practical, but somewhere in the world a real server (and probably several servers with copies) stores the information and consumes a lot of electricity and uses energy for server cooling (the temperature of the servers should be constantly regulated to 20°C).

For computers:

  • Keep your computer for longer – 6 years or more.
  • Prefer certified products (especially EPEAT).
  • Buy second hand if possible, e.g. smiples.
  • Dispose of broken devices the correct way (collection, recycling, reuse).
  • Use a black screen saver.
  • Reduce screen brightness (conserves battery).
  • Use a multiple power outlet with a separate switch for peripherals.

Print:

Excessive use of ink and paper is harmful to the environment. 14% of prints are never read, 25% are discarded within 5 minutes of printing. 38% of the print volume is generated by email.

In Europe we use 4x more paper than the world’s average! 92% of printer energy consumption is generated in standby mode.

Tips for printing:

  • Use recycled paper – This uses 3x less water and energy, and causes 25x lower chemical pollution. Each ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 26,500 litres of water and 4,100 kWh.
  • Prefer certified products – for example Blue Angel, EPEAT for hardware, FSC, (even better: refill systems for toners and inks).
  • Order prints.
  • Rent a printer service (fight against programmed obsolescence).
  • Use network printers instead of several individual devices.
  • Install multifunctional printers instead of multiple single devices.
  • Use codes or badges with which employees must collect their printouts.
  • Print in draft mode, use both sides.
  • Use low ink consumption fonts.
  • Optimize online content for printing (removing banners with images, etc.).
  • Use audit software and optimization precautions (Doxense WatchDoc).
  • Prefer solid inks.

Mobile phones and tablets:

Tips:

  • Reduce screen brightness (the screen needs the most power).
  • Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use (reduce power consumption).
  • Avoid animated wallpapers.
  • Close unnecessary apps.
  • Install the “Energy Saving” app.
  • Promote longer battery life. If your device contains lithium-ion batteries, charge it regularly and avoid fully charging it since that accelerates aging of the battery. In addition, do not expose the device to high temperature (device in direct sunlight) to protect the battery’s capacity.
  • Suppress push messages – the phone constantly connects to different servers to check emails, Facebook notifications, etc. You can change these settings so that servers are checked only hourly or even manually. The same applies to the cloud. The fewer data you transfer, the longer the battery life.
  • Use the camera sparingly, the HD also consumes a lot of energy.

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Sources:

– Life cycle assessment: Earth Overshoot Day, www.footprintnetwork.org

– Global Warming: COP21

– Population growth – Water: www.pranasustainablewater.ch

– Disappearance of natural resources: Living Planet, report 2016

– Blood on our mobile phones: enquête Action de Carême et Pain pour le prochain

– Planned obsolescence: ABE broadcast (French)

– Energy costs: www.greenit.fr

– New trends: More Data, Less Energy – Maria van der Hoeven

– The goals of sustainable development (SDG): www.sdg.org

– Global Reporting Initiative

– ISO 14040 standard: Life cycle assessment

– Life cycle assessment: www.pre-sustainability.com, www.quantis-intl.com, www.codde.fr/en/

– Environmental service branch: www.itopie.ch, cradletocradle, ecofina, jobEco

– Waste: International Telecommunication Union

– Waste in Switzerland: Broadcast TTC: “réparer c’est moins cher” (waste in Switzerland)

– Waste: Where are we in Africa?

– Ecolabels : Epeat, ecoprofits, SwissClimate, Carbon Neutral

– Software Ecodesign: Quick&Dirty Operating system

– Open source & sustainability software: www.ll-dd.ch

– Ecoconception Web: GTmetrix, ecoIndex.fr, webenergyarchive.com.ourssite.com

– Workplace, good practices: Microsoft Windows Forum

– Print : ecofont

– DataCenter : the green grid

– Mobile Phones & Tablets : www.phonandroid.com, the impacts of the smartphone

– Fairphone : vimeo.com/107812653, www.fairphone.com

– The choice of browser: www.lesnumeriques.com/appli-logiciel