Bay Tree VA

Digital waste – What can we do?

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Digital has become an accelerator for all things – good and bad. Our desire for everything to be as fast and easy as possible means that we consume far more of everything than we need. The energy needed for single exchanges such as sending emails, downloading images and streaming video is small. However, when approximately 4.1 billion people, or 53.6% of the global population, are doing it, we really have a problem.  

In a study by energy company OVO it was suggested that in Britain alone we send more than 64m unnecessary emails every day. If every adult sent one less email each day we could save more than 16,633 tonnes of carbon a year –that’s equivalent to over 80,000 flights to Madrid or taking over 3,000 diesel cars off the road. 

What can we do? 

Rather than dwell on the outlook (no pun intended) for digital and our indulgent use of it, we need to come up with some solutions to improve our own practices. One solution may be in relation to communication and the culture within your business. Think about being more collaborative.

One quite dramatic way to reduce email traffic and document creation is to use Microsoft Teams.

Whilst we would all like to think we have a good grasp of MS Teams for meetings since lockdown, most of us have failed to embrace the other features of Teams that further improve communication both internally and externally. For example, moving emails into MS Teams means that a group of people can discuss and respond without the need for long back and forth email strings. Documents can be moved into Teams and worked on in a collaborative way rather than forwarded as attachments in email.   

This is quite a shift in culture for many organisations, but it really improves working practices. Look out for the “Share to Teams” button on your Outlook ribbon and give it a try. Also consider using the chat function for short, instant messaging rather than always sending an email in Outlook. 

Teams is already used in this way by schools and colleges so, as usual, your teenage children will be able to give you some tech support! Failing that, discuss streamlining and ideas with your Bay Tree VA. 

It has taken about 50 years to understand how over consumption of our natural world created a disaster for this planet. Will it take another 50 years before we respond to the impact of over consumption with digital?  

Further reading

Digital waste is a massive subject and one we all need to take responsibility for. We recommend Gerry McGovern’s book World Wide Waste and his regular podcasts if you are interested in learning more. https://gerrymcgovern.com/books/world-wide-waste/.  

Also Mike Berners-Lee, (brother of Tim Berners-Lee who invented the web) is the author of How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything, another fascinating read. 

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