The linked article tells us that we should consider the carbon cost of our online lives, and “take the pledge to reduce your digital footprint“. How? By deleting emails from your inbox, and unsubscribing from RSS feeds.
Quite apart from the technical misunderstandings (do they really think that Google, for instance, stores a separate copy of each blog post for each of the thousands of people who subscribe through their Reader product? Or that archiving email on your own computer is more energy efficient than leaving it in a purpose-built data centre?), the whole idea reeks of the kind of “austerity measures” that most strongly impact individuals while corporations aren’t held to any kind of standards of all. Actually, it reminds me of the recent drought here in Australia, where everyone I knew kept a bucket in the bottom of their shower and watered their garden with the runoff, while it turned out that something like 90% of water use was coming from a small handful of industrial users. The effect of limiting your Flickr uploads or Facebook posts is infinitesimal compared to a few steps that could be taken by major technology corporations and/or legislators if they chose to.
So, in that vein, here are a some actually useful ways to reduce our “digital footprint”:
- Run data centres more energy efficiently and/or on renewable energy.
- Produce gadgets (computers, phones, etc) that are intended to be longer-lasting, are upgradeable without total replacement, and which can be easily repaired if/when broken.
- Regulate polluting manufacturers, even if this means moving manufacturing to somewhere local rather than eg. China.
What’s that you say? That would cost corporations too much money, and cut into their enormous profits? Oh well in that case obviously we should all just tighten our belts. I’m going to start by throwing out all my backup drives. After all, I hardly ever need them.