The E-missions project is investigating the growing digital consumption and its impact on the environment. Most people are unaware of the significant ecological footprint created by being connected and using social media, video calls, email, blockchain, and streaming. An email only becomes tangible when printed, and a streamed series is less tangible than a DVD box. This lack of tangibility is a reason why the consequences of digital behaviour are often overlooked.
The increasing use of the internet has created a growing ecological footprint, which is putting the environment at risk. In just four years, video streaming, video calling, and online gaming have generated 15 times more digital traffic, leading to an exponential increase in energy consumption, server usage, and cable production. If we don’t change our behaviour, the internet could consume 20% of the total global electricity demand in a decade, warns the French think tank The Shift Project. This in a time of climate change, where we are in such need of reducing emissions.
The European Union is working to expand the CO2 trading rights system ETS; a first step was taken in Dec. 2022 with agreeing on a new pricing of CO2 emissions for both companies as individuals. Once this becomes a European law, we all will have to pay for our emissions.
Fortunately, there are simple steps that internet users can take to reduce their online CO2 emissions. Cleaning up emails, minimizing cloud usage, turning off cameras, and switching to lower resolution can contribute to reducing emissions. Or what about rethinking the social media algorithms that currently encourage us to share ever more. However, for digital friendly behaviour to become accepted and mainstream, we need support in digital literacy and digital etiquette.
We created a free online E-missions platform with 10 calculators for digital activities. This platform offers a personal overview of simple measures to reduce CO2 emissions from online activities.
The ten topics of investigation
The eco-cost of internet activity can lead to a drastic increase in CO2 emissions over the next 10 years. An increase, while we so desperately need a decrease!
Wondering what affects the CO2 of your internet behaviour and what you can do about it? Read our topic pages, calculate your CO2 output with our calculators and select your ‘resolutions’ to surf on the green side.
In conclusion, to reduce the ecological footprint of digital behaviour, we need to embrace a new digital etiquette, align our digital lifestyle with sustainability, and reduce data consumption. By taking simple steps, we can reduce CO2 emissions and show respect for both people and nature. It is time to align our digital lifestyle with our sustainability ambitions. The E-missions project provides tools and information to help individuals and organizations make a difference.
The work has been exhibited at:
2021 ■ The Grey Space in The Middle (NL-the Hague)
2022 ■ Sonic Act (NL-Amsterdam)
Jens Gröger (Öko institute, GE) / Yoeran Luteijn
This project is supported by SIDNfonds. SIDN fund stands for a strong internet for everyone. The fund supports projects with social added value that contribute to a stronger internet and strong internet users, or that use the internet in an innovative way for our society.
Leanne Wijnsma is also supported by Creative Industries Fund NL to realise the installation. The first test was supported by and took place at The Grey Space in the Middle.