ICT

INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY (ICT) may help reduce energy consumption but at the same time increase exploitation of natural resources. Being aware of these implications is important as this area has a big impact on work in the cultural sector. ICT is based on material resources. Particular metals are necessary to produce computers, while energy and water are needed to maintain servers and cool down ICT infrastructure. 
Every activity performed via ICT consumes energy. According to a report by Digital for Planet (December 2020), ICT is responsible for 4 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, which is more than the aviation industry [link].
Turning the computer on alone generates emissions, similarly to searching for information, which appears to be an indispensable part of our daily routines. If you want to check the carbon footprint of your most frequently visited websites, have a look at:  https://www.websitecarbon.com. We send and receive 306 billion emails every day [link].
Data is stored by external infrastructure such as servers which must operate 24/7. Huge amounts of energy are needed to serve such a large quantity of data and natural resources are necessary to produce the equipment. Servers are exchanged every few years, but few components are recycled.
Conscious and sustainable use of technology becomes crucial for climate action. This concerns the choice of internet suppliers, search engines, apps and social media. Promoting alternative solutions is important in as much as the current ICT industry is dominated by just a few corporations.

How can we reduce emissions connected with ICT use?


STEP 1


Ecological solutions make it possible to limit energy consumption, lower carbon dioxide emissions and reduce waste by choosing appropriate equipment and recycling it. Digital technologies account for a similar amount of global CO2 emissions as aviation. The internet is powered by physical infrastructure operating 24/7, running on the electricity derived from fossil fuels. Pro-environmental activities which are easiest to introduce include information ecology, e-mail use standards and appropriate disposal methods.

Information ecology.
Information ecology is all about adequacy, i.e. choosing tools adequate for your assumptions to avoid creating unnecessary websites or apps. Whenever possible, you should use your phone rather than a computer to search for information as phones use up less energy. Other elements of information ecology are accessibility and efficiency, i.e. matching the tools to the recipients’ capabilities. The risk of disinformation is increasing, so it is increasingly important to care about credibility and verifiability of information shared by employees and recipients. Cybersecurity is also important in this context.

Good practices associated with sending emails


Clean your inbox of unnecessary newsletter subscriptions using Cleanfox.

Only copy your email to essential recipients. Prepare your message carefully so that it only includes the necessary information. Limit the number of emails you send. 

In the footer of your email include text instead of images. You can also include a request not to print the email and some advice on more conscious email usage. An example message: A typical email generates 4g of CO2 emissions. If it contains an attachment with an image, more space is needed to send it, so its digital carbon footprint increases to 50g. As far as emissions are concerned, sending 65 emails is equivalent to driving a car for 1km. 

For direct messaging, try to use encrypted messaging apps, e.g. Signal. You can choose settings which would cause your messages to be deleted after some time, thanks to which they would not use up space on the servers.

Find an email provider other than GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft) [link]. Lack of appropriate regulation allows big IT corporations to censor the freedom of speech on their own terms, support the circulation of ‘fake news’, manage the data of their users in a non-transparent way, and dictate marketing rules (e.g. launching free or low-cost products in order to gain monopoly and raise prices).

You may wish to consider choosing one of the below:
https://kolabnow.com/
https://riseup.net/en
https://protonmail.com/
https://www.greennet.org.uk/
https://posteo.de/en
https://canarymail.io/
https://soverin.net/
https://www.ethicalmail.org.au/

Good practices associated with Internet browsing. 


1. Examples of search engines:
Ecosia – uses servers powered by renewable energy;
DuckDuck – anonymises online searches;
https://www.startpage.com/
https://metager.org/ – created by NGOs, powered by green energy, respects privacy of its users.

2. Examples of open source browsers:
https://www.mozilla.org – the best-known and most popular alternative;
https://www.torproject.org – enables anonymous surfing. Additionally, it is worth checking https://snowflake.torproject.org/, a plug-in which makes it possible for people in areas restricted by censorship to use the internet. Requests from such places go through the servers of volunteers, i.e. people who have the plug-in installed;
https://brave.com/ – it emphasises privacy and energy use optimisation while browsing;
https://www.waterfox.net/  – focuses on privacy protection;
https://gexsi.com/en/ – a European product, a certified B Corporation.

3. Install Carbon Analyzer extension to find out how much energy is used by your frequently visited websites.
4. Optimise your social media apps. Firstly, turn off automatic video playing in the background.
5. Download playlists and videos onto your device. Streaming podcasts and music without WiFi connection consumes large quantities of data. Try to avoid video streaming, do not listen to music on youtube. 
6. Use WiFi instead of 3G/4G mobile connection. The amount of energy used by WiFi is much lower. 
7. Set automatic app updates only when connected to WiFi.
8. Use work platforms based on open-source software, e.g. www.jitsi.org or share paid access to platforms with other institutions. 


STEP 2


The main goal is to reduce power consumption through server consolidation and using energy efficient electronic equipment. 

Consolidation of servers and using cloud services.
Consolidation of servers allows for a maximum use of physical server resources by creating many virtual server systems within one physical server. The process of consolidation consists of replacing a large number of ineffectively used servers with a smaller number, more effectively using virtual servers. It is also possible to use cloud services, i.e. external servers. Such solutions not only save physical space but also energy and allow for a fuller use of computing power. Providers of such services should inform their customers where the energy comes from, as was the case with these Swiss providers. The Green Web Foundation website contains a directory of data centre providers which use renewable energy.

Energy efficient equipment.
These are appliances with high energy efficiency ratings. The highest energy class is A +++. It is worth checking electronic appliances for the Energy Star labels. Energy Star is a programme promoting energy efficient products. It defines maximum power consumption levels in three modes: on, standby and off. Energy efficient equipment should be repairable or have extended warranty.

Recycling of appliances.
ICT is also about material infrastructure. Appropriate recycling of equipment allows for the recovery of valuable metals which could be used when producing new devices. Cleaning memory disks is also part of disposal procedures carried out by specialised companies. 


STEP 3


At this stage, it is important to think systemically concerning conscious choices of pro-environmental IT solutions providers. The energy consumed by servers, network devices, power and cooling systems is systematically increasing, which is why movements such as Green IT or Green Data Center which act for greening ICT are on the rise.

Conscious selection of IT solutions providers.
Cooperate with companies which strive to lower their carbon footprint and use green energy. In order to avoid exploiting the natural world and people, such companies should have control over the supply chain for their products. The Green Web Foundation makes it possible to check whether a given website is hosted by a data centre which uses green energy. Website Carbon calculates carbon footprint of websites. A listing of ethical alternatives for numerous technological products is available here.