Digital Pollution : Data Storage

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Digital pollution involved more than half of the world population who have access to Internet. Internet is now more polluting than the airline industry. That’s why it’s an important to highlight the impact of digital pollution how we can tackle it.

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What is going on on the Internet ?

In the first place, we have to focus on the internet’s key figures to understand its pollution. There are 4.1 billion Internet users in the World as at December 2018 (hostingfacts). This is around 54% of the world’s population. Each Internet user can do many things on internet : research, watch online videos, send e-mails or publish content on social medias.

There are some key figures about what happened every minute on the Internet :

  • Twitter : 347 222 tweets posted
  • Instagram : 38 194 post shared
  • Google : 2,4 millions search queries
  • Mails : 150 millions sent
  • SMS : 12 millions sent

Moreover, these impressive figures are steadily increasing as well as digital pollution. In 2020, all of internet’s data will represent 5000 gigabyte per person.

And now we have to focus on the carbon emissions these data emits :

  • One e-mail pollutes 10g of CO2 each year  (Cleanfox)
  • One text message is less polluting, it emits 0,0014g of CO2 per message (NPR). But when you consider all of the text messages send each minute in the World, the carbon footprint is 16 800g of CO2 per minute
  • A search on the web emits between 7g and 15g of CO2 (searchengineland)

Unfortunately, there are no exact data about pollution from social medias posts.

How is it possible ?

It’s as simple as sad. When you send an SMS or email or post a holiday picture on a social network, there are stored in a data center. In addition, it should be known that when this data is stored, it is in duplicate and in two different servers. Why ? To ensure the security related to the loss of data during a breakdown for example.

Also, data centers can be needed by companies or anyone else who use softwares like Dropbox or Google Drive. Because theses softwares need data center to store the files they host.

Data centers consume a lot of energy for their power supply and cooling : about 40% of their energy consumption is used only for server cooling. And most of their energy is generated by fossil fuels. A dormant and disturbing pollution because it doubles every two years.

Is it possible to make storage more ecological?

The answer is YES!

It is possible to provide servers with renewable energy. In fact, some key actors ad Facebook, Google or Apple have already committed themselves in 2013 to do so. They race to provide their servers with 100% of renewable energy. Nowadays, more than twenty companies have also committed themselves. (Greenpeace)

Other solutions already exist: In May 2017, the first pool heated with numeric boiler has come in the 13th district of Paris. The « Buttes aux Cailles »’s pool was heated partially with the energy of a data center. It allows a saving of 45 tonnes of CO2 per year. (datacenterdynamics)

However, it can be better. First, our data storage have to be rethink. The first thing to do is to think more about the data actually stored. Is it necessary to keep your 10 years old school papers on your drive? Only in a very limited cases. Just think to sort your social networks and delete all your old facebook posts, tweets, or pictures old from years. A cleaning full of memories but ecological. And if you really want to keep this papers, it is better to print it. On a long-term basis, it will pollute less that powering data centers. (The Guardian)

Discover how, by deleting e-mails, we can effectively tackle pollution. Cleanfox application, it is nearly 3 million users who made this simple and free gesture of deleting e-mails. Each Cleanfox user reduced their carbon footprint of more than 6kg of CO2.

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