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Digital sobriety

Our digital habits have a hidden environmental cost. With 4% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2023, the digital industry is already worse than air transport. And it won't get better anytime soon, as our usage is growing rapidly.

From a purely material standpoint, we must include the manufacturing and use of network equipment, which contributes greatly to this carbon footprint, but so do our internet usage habits. The ecological footprint of all our emails is equivalent to that of 7 million additional cars on the road (source: CapGemini UK 2021). What about video streaming and future metaverse projects?

We are at the dawn of a new ecological awareness. Acting for the climate requires us to collectively rethink our digital habits.

  • Creating data (photos, messaging) consumes energy.
  • Processing data (editing, compressing, converting) consumes energy.
  • Storing data (servers) consumes energy.
  • Transmitting data (attachments, transfer) consumes energy.
  • Consuming data (video streaming, social networks) consumes energy.
  • Destroying data consumes energy.

However, going from awareness to action is much more complicated with digital than with transportation or building HVAC, because digital data is inherently intangible. Our subscriptions to online content do not reflect this environmental cost at all. Worse, internet service providers and digital publishers advertise "unlimited" offers and place content in "clouds", thus conveying the idea that data weighs nothing and is worth nothing.

This animation makes intangible data tangible, with the hope of raising awareness of the very real impact our digital life has on our environment.

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