Understanding Digital Pollution

Did you know that your emails and your favourite social networks contribute to global warming? Paradoxically, the more digital we become in this age, the more goods and energy we consume. This is digital pollution. But what exactly does it mean? To what extent does your use of technology have an impact on the environment and what simple actions can you implement in your daily life to limit this impact?

What is digital pollution?

Digital pollution refers to all forms of pollution caused by new technologies: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, chemical pollution, deterioration of biodiversity, creation of electronic waste, etc. … To put it simply, all our digital activities also require massive amounts of energy that are harmful to the planet.

It’s difficult to imagine that the Internet, which is considered to be totally immaterial, could also contribute to pollution. Indeed, it’s composed of various computer equipment (computers, cables, antennas,…) that store and transmit data (videos, photos, emails, web pages,…) to our personal devices. All these technologies have to be manufactured and powered, generating huge ecological costs.

From the manufacturing of the product, to the energy needed for their daily use, and the resources needed to power servers and networks, technology accounts for about 4% of the world’s GHG emissions. This is about 1.5 times more than air travel.

Which of our habits have the most negative impact?

According to Greenpeace, video streaming alone accounts for 60 to 80% of internet traffic. Browsing social networks and sending emails are then added to this. The more an email is loaded with attachments, the larger its carbon footprint. With nearly 300 billion emails sent per day, most of them often end up unread or in the spam folder. Finally, search engines also require a huge amount of power.

Actions to adopt to avoid digital pollution

So how can we continue to use the Internet while remaining respectful of the planet? Here are our suggestions that are easy to implement on a daily basis: 

  • Think about avoiding programmed obsolescence

Extending the life of your equipment is perhaps the most relevant action to make a difference. As long as your device works, and despite the pressure of advertising, there is no need to buy a newer version. However, if you have no other choice but to buy, favour reconditioned or second-hand devices. Repairing a broken device is also an option that should not be overlooked. Finally, recycle your electronic waste in an appropriate center.

  • Limit your videos in HD

Adjust the resolution of your videos in your default settings so you have to think about it every time. 

  • Unplug your devices when they are charged and when you are away

Yes, electronic devices still consume a lot of electricity even when on sleep. Remember to unplug your phones when they are fully charged (rather than leaving them plugged in for hours) and your various devices when you’re away.

  • Switch to Dark Mode

A white background on your apps uses more power than a dark mode. Many applications now offer this option, so don’t hesitate to use it.

  • Manage your mailbox traffic and lighten your emails

A simple gesture is to think of regularly deleting your mails present in the spam folder, as well as in your trash. By also limiting attachments and the number of recipients, you will reduce your carbon footprint.

  • Close your tabs

It seems so simple, and yet!

What about digital marketing?

As digital marketing specialists, and wanting to remain conscious of our impact on the planet, we at Middle have adapted some of our practices. Here are two simple things you can do in your marketing strategies:

  • Create an editorial calendar so you don’t publish too much

This advice is valid even outside the context of digital pollution. Indeed, creating and following an editorial calendar is a very simple way to maintain your presence on your networks while being sure not to publish too often. The impact is as good for the planet as it is for your branding.

  • Be thoughtful when sending out your newsletter 

Few people like to have their mailbox filled with irrelevant newsletters. However, it is a communication tool that should not be neglected. As with the first advice, it’s a matter of finding the right balance and sending out these emails to the right audience and as often as necessary, without overdoing it.

These small, accessible actions are easy to add to your digital habits. We may not realize it, but when put together, our collective actions have a real impact on the planet.


Project manager