Guest Writer for Wake Up World
Becoming more aware of the effects of our pollution and waste on the environment, people are looking for “greener” ways to live, from buying local (and sustainable) food and products, traveling via lower-emission transportation methods, and building up recycling and composting programs.
When it comes to reducing your day to day energy consumption, there are some obvious things that help — like riding a bike to work or turning off the lights when you leave a room — but everyone tells you that stuff. I wanted to focus on some of the ways that everyday technology like email, social media, and data storage contribute to your energy consumption, and give you some practical ways to reduce your use and “green” up your tech.
Before you press ‘send’…
Going paperless is great, but electronic communications aren’t exactly pollution free. All the emails sent scurrying around the internet in a single day generate more than 880 million lbs. (that’s 44,000 tons!) of carbon. Not to mention electricity consumption and physical computer waste.
Now, this isn’t to say that email is a bad thing: it’s certainly better than sending all of those messages on paper in paper envelopes using sticky paper stamps. But there are a lot of ways to cut down on your consumption, and reducing the number of emails that go whizzing from server to server.
Stop replying to all.
The “reply to all” function works by sending duplicate emails to all of the people listed in To: box. So instead of sending one email to lots of people, it’s actually sending separate emails to individuals — and multiplying the use of resources at the same time. Before replying to all, take a quick moment to see if everybody on the list really needs to get your message. You’ll save unnecessary emails and avoid aggravating all those people who might otherwise ask, “Why the heck did you send me that?”
Learn to search.
Becoming intimate with your email app’s search functionality can save time, energy and sanity. Instead of asking your colleague to re-send that document you need for the big presentation, do a quick search of your inbox and archives to see if you have it already.
Nobody likes to think they’re a spammer, but it happens. Even reputable companies with great products tend to carpet-bomb people’s inboxes with marketing messages that go mostly unread, in the hopes of finding just one more loyal customer. Just because you can send an email to anyone and everyone doesn’t mean you should. Tailoring your audience help you increase conversion rates while cutting back on the unnecessary use of resources.
On the flip side, if you’re receiving emails that you don’t have time to read, take a minute to remove yourself from the mailing list. It’ll help keep your inbox clean, and you can feel even better knowing you’re helping to reduce your energy consumption.
Start a conversation.
We’ve all done it; emailed that person who is sitting close enough that you could literally talk to them without even raising your voice. Instead of sending that email, have a little chat. Even if they’re down the hall, get up and go talk to them. Guaranteed, you’ll waste less energy by talking than you would by sending that email.
Less social media, more social awareness.
Speaking of conversations, maybe emails aren’t your thing. If you’re using your laptop, tablet, or smartphone to explore social media sites, chances are you’re not simply posting and then leaving. You’re probably browsing a bit, seeing what your friends are up to, making some comments, playing a game or two, engaging in highly politicized debates with unreasonable so-and-so’s who just don’t understand how the real world works… That sort of thing.
There’s nothing wrong with using social media, but here are a few thoughts to keep in mind:
Look up once in a while.
How social is it to spend your time looking at your phone? If you’re out and about with a group of friends, focus on what you’re doing rather than what “other people” are up to. Sure, it’s okay to post the occasional status update or share a pic or two, but constant use of smart phone technology is wasteful of both time and energy – and constantly bending your neck may ultimately lead you to a chiropractor’s office.
It’s okay to miss something.
The “Fear of Missing Out” (FOMO) is a psychological condition that has been exacerbated by the explosion of social media. While connecting with people you don’t get to see every day can be wonderful, if you’re scouring your friends’ posts to judge whether their activities are more interesting than your own, you could be missing out on the simple enjoyment of being “in the moment”. Save some energy and anxious brain cycles by turning those push notifications off.
Delete unused accounts.
Maybe Instagram just isn’t your thing. Maybe you don’t really understand the appeal of Tweeting. Or maybe you signed up on Google Plus to get more exposure for your business, book club, or improv group. Whatever the case, if you’re not using a particular a social media site, deleting your unused accounts can help decrease your energy footprint while also helping you declutter your online presence and protect your privacy. Just Delete Me has direct links to the delete pages for hundreds of social media sites, with a visual guide of how easy it is to send your account into cyber-oblivion.
Cloud your data.
With the rise of cloud computing, you can reduce your personal energy footprint by relying on the economies of scale that cloud storage provide.
Data centers use a lot of energy. But some of the ways many companies reduce their our own energy footprint is by installing LED lights, taking advantage of cool-weather conditions and making strides in server virtualization, which all help run processors at peak efficiency. For data storage for your own personal or company use, you may save energy, space, and money by keeping your servers on site.
Check your overhead.
All computers have an energy overhead, and in our experience most on-premises servers tend to be underutilized. Some of the most efficient network hardware costs an extreme amount of money and also requires large amounts of use to make them cost effective. Rarely can the average business justify such purchases, not just financially but also in utilization. Using a managed hosting service that optimizes its networked hardware for maximum efficiency can help you reduce your overall energy.
Most on-site servers use consumer-level cooling systems, utilizing carbon-excessive air conditioners, fans, or possibly water cooling systems that tap into municipal supplies. Cloud storage centers, however, can develop custom cooling technologies that are much more efficient on a per-machine basis.
Back up smartly.
Even if your main server is on the premises, you still have to worry about offsite backups to protect your company and customer data. Setting up a second server can multiply your energy use and jack up your costs. Virtual machine solutions can be integrated with efficient server architecture to provide redundancy and diagnostic tools.
The pollution levels associated with our society’s lifestyle won’t be solved by any single person, company, or even government. It’s going to take a lot of people all over the world working together to understand how their everyday activities affect the environment, and implementing ways of living as a sustainable part of it for the long-term.
Until we have clean, renewable energy systems, every individual decision we make helps. Most people are not merely mindless consumers of technology, but want to use ethical technology to make connections with others, so they can live more fulfilling lives. In the end, it’s about awareness.
Hopefully this post has helped you learn more about a few of the ways you can make small strides in reducing your energy consumption through technology. And we know we can always learn more, too. We’d love to hear some of your tips and ideas!
 Berners-Lee, Mike. “An email.” How Bad Are Bananas? Vancouver: Greystone Books, 2011. EPUB file.
 Bellona, David and Tash Wong. Tweet Farts. tweetfarts.com. Accessed Aug. 7, 2014.
 “Carbon & Energy Impact.” Facebook. n.d. Web. Aug. 7, 2014.
 Wilson, Jacques. “Your smartphone is a pain in the neck.” CNN.com. Sept. 20, 2012. Web. Aug. 7, 2014.
 Wortham, Jenna. “Feel Like a Wallflower? Maybe It’s Your Facebook Wall.” The New York Times. nytimes.com. April 9, 2011. Web. Aug. 7, 2014.
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