7 Global changes – Electronic communication

6: Electronic communication

Fewer than 20 years ago, email and videoconferencing had us imagining a future with paperless offices. Today, we may still use paper, but take instant, global communication for granted. So how green is computer-driven communication? The jury’s still out. True, email saves cutting down trees, using water and chemicals to manufacture paper, or sending letters on a fossil-fuelled journey around the world, where they end up incinerated or in landfill. But electronic communications require resources, too. One study claims that sending a 4.7 megabyte email attachment results in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to boiling a kettle 17.5 times. Why? Electronic data infrastructure demands computers, servers and buildings – all of which require materials and energy to manufacture, store, run and cool. We CAN make e-comm greener: ask your service providers to run their server farms on renewable energy, empty online email storage caches regularly, send smaller attachments – and do more social networking face-to-face!

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