How to reduce your carbon footprint in your daily life

In this short article, YMI member, Cécile Maitre-Ferri, will be discussing how one’s digital carbon footprint can be lightened.
On the path to a sustainable environmental footprint there are many small habits that will cost you very little and still have an impact. We hope that this list will help you learn more of those tips. Even if it goes without saying, it is important to remember that the tips given are intended to complement other greener behaviors’, not replace them.

Two big actions

Keep your hardware at least twice as long as you usually do

✅At least halve the number of videos you watch online

Four additional actions

Try to store your data locally, and reduce the size of what you store

Reduce the size of the attachments in your emails, including your signature

Delete at least 5 emails everyday

Power off all electrical equipment at the end of the day

Hardware maintenance

The first sizable action you can take is to keep your hardware, be it your phone, laptop, tablet, screen, TV, etc., as long as possible. Good maintenance of the equipment is your ally in helping you keep it longer!

This article will not explain the whole impact of hardware extraction-production-distribution-trash sorting so as to not make this too long of a read. But keep in mind that it is HUGE and that by simply using your hardware at least twice as long, you reduce your impact by at least 50%

Data consumption

The great majority of the information services we rely on every day, whether it be streaming video, emails, social media, cloud storing, video conferences, etc. rely on data centers to store, process, and communicate the data. So, using those online services means using the data centers that power them, and that consumes a lot of energy.

Some estimate that data centers consume about 3% of the global electricity supply and account for about 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions, while other estimate those emissions to be at 4% of greenhouse gas emissions. To give an idea, the 416.2 terawatt hours of electricity the world’s data centers used in one year was significantly higher than the UK’s total consumption of about 300 terawatt hours that same year.

In 2017, Forbes estimated that

“U.S. data centers used more than 90 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, requiring roughly 34 giant coal-powered plants”.

Forbes, 2017
How can we reduce our consumption of data and the energy it requires?

First, by reducing the behaviors that consume a lot of data. Since you have probably saved a text file, a picture, or a video, you know how different their sizes are. And you will not be surprised to hear that video consumption represents the biggest part of all global data flow. Online videos are estimated to generate over 300 million tons of CO2 per year. It represents 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions of all digital devices (use and production included), and 1% of global emissions, i.e. as much as Spain.

So, the second sizable step would be to reduce your online video consumption, on all devices and all platforms. Stop playing videos you are not watching (for example because you are doing something else, or because you are only listening to the audio). Also, reduce the size of the videos you post as well as the pictures you share online. Here is a short guide that allows you to significantly reduce the size of your videos.

And reduce non-essential online video watching as part of your new greener habits.

If, paradoxically, you need an explanation in video to understand this, and want to spend 8.7grams of your CO2 budget, here is a short video.

Cloud storage

Any document can be stored on your device or in the cloud. Storing in the cloud means sending your file/picture/video to a data center for it to be stored and re-sending it back to your device each time you need it.

It is estimated that it requires 0.000005 kWh per gigabyte to save your data on your hard disk. For cloud storage, it is estimated that the energy cost of data transfer and storage is between 3.1 kWh and 7 kWh per gigabyte. Saving and storing 100 gigabytes of data in the cloud would result in a carbon footprint of about 0.2 tons of CO2 per year (based on the usual U.S. electric mix).

To reduce the environmental impact of digital storage, store locally on your hardware. If you have access to the services of an IT technician or are yourself IT curious, you can run your server. This suppresses the impact of constantly sending data back and forth between your device and far-away data centers. And if you live in a country relying on a greener energy mix, this is another benefit of local storage.

If you cannot do the above:

  • Stop or limit automatic synchronization between the cloud and your device to reduce the data transfer between them.
  • Do not use more than one cloud service to avoid multiplying your impact.
  • Choose a server with higher environmental standards.
  • Make sure you are not storing files, pictures, or videos you know are not useful anymore.


Each time a person accesses one page of your website, all the data contained on that page must be transferred. An average website produces 4.61 grams of CO2 for every page view. For websites that have an average of 10,000 page views per month, that makes a staggering 553 kilograms of CO2 per year.

And with all the highly successful mediators reading this, this is a lot of highly viewed websites we are talking about. Estimate the carbon footprint of your web page, they will also provide you with a great explanation of how they reach their estimate, and how to make your website more energy efficient. You can also use this add-on in your browser.


The footprint of emails is estimated to vary from 0.3g CO2e for a spam email, to 4g CO2e for a regular email and 50g CO2e for one with a photo or hefty attachment. So:

  • reduce the number of emails, recipients, the size of the attachment, and your signature.
  • send a link to download files instead of attaching them.
  • unsubscribe from newsletters you do not read anymore.
  • clean the list of recipients of your newsletter.

Delete 5 emails you do not need every day (especially if they have heavy attachments) or spend 30 minutes every month doing that.

Those are indeed small steps, but easy and can add up. If every adult in the UK sent one less “thank you” or “LOL” email a year, it could save 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year – the equivalent of taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road.

You can also reduce the impact of your web browsing. According to figures released by Google a few years ago, each internet search had a footprint of 0.2g CO2e, which is not much but there are billions of web searches every single day. So, reduce your number of web searches by using more specific keywords, save as favorite the frequently used website, or type the address directly into the URL bar. It is also a good habit to close the tabs you do not use anymore (the pages are constantly being reloaded), to delete cookies and browsing history. The add-on “Carbonalyser” allows you to visualize the electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions that your Internet browsing leads to. And you can use another plugin to block advertisements, which means that all the data related to the advertisements will not need to travel to your computer.

Finally, do not forget to switch off your PC and/or screen when the day is done, and when consuming data on your cell phone, use Wi-Fi rather than 4G or 5G which consume much more energy.

We hope you can start introducing some greener digital habits!

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