How to reduce your digital carbon footprint

Enjoy the benefits of internet connection while reducing your digital carbon footprint.

Here’s another reason to get off your device! Every click, tap and download contributes to your digital carbon footprint. Our lives are increasingly intertwined with technology, so it’s easy to overlook the environmental impact of online habits.

Tread lightly in the virtual and real world.

What’s a digital carbon footprint?

Your digital carbon footprint is the total carbon emissions generated by your online activities — from streaming videos, playing games and scrolling on social media to downloading files, attending remote meetings and sending emails.

The internet has transformed nearly every aspect of human life, reshaping the world in profound and multifaceted ways. It’s fundamentally reshaped society — connecting people, empowering social and environmental movements and driving innovation across nearly all sectors of the global economy. But as reliance on digital technologies grows, so does the associated energy consumption. This surge in energy demand contributes to carbon emissions and climate change, increases resource depletion and worsens environmental degradation.

More than five billion people worldwide have internet access. As more industries digitalize, the demand for energy-hungry technologies will escalate, further straining already stressed ecosystems and compounding social and environmental inequities. Addressing rising digital carbon footprints requires collective action at individual and institutional levels.

Woman sitting with her credit card out making an online purchase using her laptop.

Unpack online shopping’s environmental impact

Online shopping has revolutionized buying habits. You can get anything from clothing to groceries and furniture at the click of a button, delivered right to your door. Online shopping’s convenience and accessibility can’t be denied. But it comes at a hefty environmental price.


Every click counts: The environmental impact of digital activity

The internet functions like a vast web of roads connecting different places. Information travels across these networks in data packets containing information of all sorts.

Every single online action — whether you’re sending an email, watching a video or browsing social media — uses energy to send requests from your devices to servers in data centres. The warehouses of the internet, data centres store and process vast amounts of information. Though essential to online activities, they have an enormous environmental impact.

Energy use

Though advanced data centres owned by massive internet entities like Google and Facebook have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030 via carbon offsetting and investment in renewable energy infrastructures such as wind and solar, most draw power from non-renewable energy grids. Data centres and data transmission networks are responsible for nearly two per cent of energy-related carbon emissions — on par with the aviation sector!

Water use

To prevent servers from overheating, data centres support cooling processes with enormous amounts of water. An average Google data centre uses approximately 1,703,435 litres of water every day.

Data centres are often built in drought-stricken areas. According to 2021 research, about 20 per cent of those in the United States rely on watersheds under moderate to high drought stress. Many draw from potable water sources, depleting drinkable water communities need.

Land use

Data centres use vast amounts of land for construction, operation and infrastructure development. This often leads to deforestation, habitat destruction and biodiversity loss. A data centre proposal in Virginia gained significant attention in 2022 when it was revealed it would require rezoning 2,100 acres of land. More than 30 regional and national organizations came together to emphasize the irreversible long-term environmental costs.

Marine disruption

There are nearly 1.5 million kilometres of submarine fibre optic cables at the bottom of the ocean. The backbone of internet connectivity, they carry telecommunication signals throughout the world. Their installation, maintenance and decommissioning phases have caused physical habitat disturbances, and chemical and noise pollution. Noise pollution has been linked as a cause of mass stranding of dolphins and whales, resulting in untimely deaths. During operation, their long-term effects include heat emission, electromagnetic field radiation, chemical pollution and creation of artificial reef and reserve effects, which cause physical habitat disturbances and ecological disruption.

Did you know?



Streaming on your television for one to two hours a day uses the same electricity as running your refrigerator for half a year.


Social media

Five minutes of scrolling on TikTok every day for a year is the equivalent to driving 20 kilometres every week.



A single cryptocurrency transaction emits the same amount of carbon as an average household does in three weeks.

Source: Plan Be Eco

Nine ways to reduce your digital carbon footprint

Enjoy the benefits of being connected to the internet while reducing your digital carbon footprint.

1. Be a smart streamer

Streaming video and audio consumes a significant amount of energy. In fact, video streaming causes 75 per cent of global data traffic.

  • Opt for lower resolution settings when streaming.
  • Download content instead of streaming multiple times.
  • Subscribe to services that prioritize energy-efficient servers.
  • Turn off auto-play on YouTube and other video streaming services.

2. Adopt mindful emailing habits

Sending an email with a large attachment can have the same carbon footprint as driving a car one kilometre!

  • Use cloud-based solutions to reduce the size of emails. Always link to online files, if you can, instead of attaching documents.
  • Unsubscribe from unwanted or unneeded newsletters.
  • Regularly delete old emails.
  • Compress large files before sending.
  • “Reply all” only when necessary.
  • Encourage your workplace to adopt eco-friendly email practices. (Start a green team!)

3. Choose green hosting services

More businesses are prioritizing sustainability, including web hosting companies.

4. Reduce your energy consumption

Energy is essential to powering digital devices. But energy is also a dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for about 60 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing your devices’ energy consumption is key to lowering your digital carbon footprint.

  • Enable power saving mode whenever possible to optimize energy usage.
  • Unplug chargers and devices when not in use.
  • Reduce screen brightness.
  • Use dark or grey mode on devices.
  • Reduce notifications.
  • Close or disable unnecessary apps and background processes running on your device.
  • Choose sleep and hibernation modes when not using your device to reduce idle energy.

5. Extend the life of your devices

E-waste is the fastest-growing domestic waste stream, fueled by planned obsolescence, fewer repair options and higher consumption rates of electric and electronic equipment with shorter life cycles. Keep your devices clean and well-maintained — inside and out.

  • Follow the six Rs.
  • Repair devices (if possible) instead of replacing.
  • Update software regularly to keep devices’ operating systems and apps up-to-date.

6. Declutter your digital spaces

Every file, app or program stored on your device requires energy to create, maintain and access. The more cluttered your device is, the more energy it consumes during use. And if you use a cloud server, your data is syncing regularly to data centres and increasing their energy demand. Include a digital declutter into your decluttering routine.

  • Regularly review and delete unneeded and unused files and apps on devices.
  • Think twice before downloading new apps or files.
  • Periodically clear your web browser’s cache and cookies to free up storage space.
  • Reduce the size of documents, images, videos and other multimedia assets.
  • Save and back up files and data onto external hard drives.
  • Delete duplicates.
  • Regularly delete outdated and unnecessary digital bookmarks from your web browser.

7. Do a digital detox

Take a break from your devices! Not only is this good for your mental health, it also reduces your digital carbon footprint.

  • Regularly schedule digital downtime in your day. Try not using devices during meals, before bedtime or during family and friend time.
  • Set screen time limits on streaming and social media apps.
  • Designate certain areas in your home, such as the bedroom or dining room, as tech-free zones.
  • Limit unnecessary notifications to minimize distractions and temptations to constantly check your phone or computer.
  • Disconnect from your device and reconnect with nature. When you have the impulse to scroll, go outdoors and stroll. Need inspiration? Take the One Nature Challenge!

8. Make green crypto investments

A single bitcoin produces emissions equivalent to 330,000 credit card transactions. Participate in the world of decentralized finance and minimize your digital carbon footprint.

  • Opt for cryptocurrencies that use alternative consensus mechanisms like proof-of-stake or delegated proof-of-stake which consume significantly less energy than proof-of-work options.
  • Look for cryptocurrency projects that prioritize sustainability and have initiatives in place to reduce environmental impact.
  • Invest in cryptocurrencies and blockchain projects that focus on developing energy-efficiency technologies and solutions for the future of finance and digital transactions.

9. Limit AI use

AI use has surged in recent years and become an accessible application for anyone connected to the internet. AI-powered chat bots like ChatGPT have amassed more than 180 million users since 2022. The process of training these AI models used 1,287 megawatt hours of electricity and generated 552 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Each query on ChatGPT produces 4.32 grams of CO2 — more than a Google search!

  • Only use AI programs, applications and generators when necessary.
  • Choose AI models that advocate for and have implemented green technologies and practices.
  • Bring back traditional research methods, such as literature reviews, interviews, experiments and surveys.
  • Lean on the power of community. Host a skill-sharing workshop.