Digital sustainability: how to be digitally sustainable at least a little?


5 simple steps to implement sustainability in your digital behaviour

The internet is where we communicate, do business, find information, and much more. In 2020 alone, the carbon footprint of the internet and systems supporting it accounted for 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions. Digital sustainability does not always associate with digital carbon footprint when discussing digital sustainability or economic and social dimensions. In this article, we try to shed light on digital sustainability and cover 5 easy steps to be digitally sustainable, at least a little!

What is digital sustainability?

Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, according to McGill University. Digital sustainability is means that reduce the digital impact on the environment – human, ecological, economic health and vitality.

Sustainability, as well as digital sustainability, is an equation that consists of environmental, economic, and social components. Achieving sustainability means combining the three of them. Even though there is very little research on the digital carbon impact, it can be challenging to understand who bears the most responsibility regarding digital sustainability. Is it businesses? Is it hosting providers? Is it an individual? All in all, we believe the responsibility starts with us despite who we are. And there are actions we can take!

A great example of three dimensions and actions we can take is the Sustainable Development Goals founded by the United Nations. It's a universal call to action to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all

How to be digitally sustainable – even if you’re starting small

Let’s look at where five simple steps to become more digitally sustainable can get you.

Step 1: Check your website’s digital carbon footprint

Our Powerhouse Partner, Kruso, covered digital sustainability in one of their latest articles, “Sustainability on the web front”. They introduce us to an interesting tool that shows your website’s digital carbon footprint. Simply enter your URL and check the results →

We tested the website. Whenever someone visits our site, it produces only 0.37g of CO2.  Yearly, produces 44.16kg of CO2. It shows that the site also runs on sustainable energy.

Check yours, and dive into the following steps that may guide you in how to be digitally sustainable at least a little. 

Step 2: Re-think systems and databases

It is always a good idea to revisit the organizational systems and databases - digital sustainability or not. But when it comes to digital sustainability, did you know that an overload of data in your systems causes a significant increase in CO2 emissions? That’s why data clean-up is essential - because it reduces the load. 

In addition to that, every system or program uses electricity and resources. It may be the perfect time to assess your organization's systems and evaluate whether they are all necessary.

Step 3: Choose a green hosting provider

Green or eco-friendly hosting is basically green energy to reduce the environmental impact. Websites are hosted on servers located in data centres. Data centres require a lot of energy. Not just for the computers but air conditioning systems and other resources.

Choose a hosting provider that uses renewable energy resources. If you’re uncertain about which questions to ask a green hosting provider, Wholegraindigital covers them in this article: how to choose a green host. It says that the main things to consider are:

  • Does the hosting provider have renewable energy sources, like solar panels or wind turbines?
  • Where does the provider buy renewable energy credits?
  • Does the provider have direct energy supplies from other local renewable providers?

Read the article and all the other significant inputs.

Step 4: Surf mindfully

So, while checking your website’s CO2 emission, you might’ve noticed that each website visit ejects emission. Every search query, Instagram post, or even a message can eat up electricity and spew CO2 emissions. So, the more programs and social media we use, the bigger the damage we do to the environment. Mindful surfing is a good term to know in order to decrease your emissions.

To control your CO2 emission while surfing the internet, you can think of the Waste Management Pyramid equivalently. It does not fit a specific digital behaviour, however, it can be an inspiration on how to start your digital sustainability journey and become a more mindful internet surfer:

How to be digitally sustainable? Waste management hierarchy




To become a more mindful surfer, ask yourself these questions:

  • Can I live without this digital activity?
  • Can I reduce my time surfing the internet/social media/this specific site?
  • Can I repurpose any of the information I have from other sources?

Step 5: Reach out to digitisation experts

If you are looking at a new or upgrading your current e-commerce solution, think of a future-proof solution like a composable commerce approach. Future-proof means a flexible solution that can scale with your business model and adapt to changing market and e-commerce trends. 

Prolonging your digital setup’s longevity taps into the Waste Management Pyramid because you don’t start building all over again.

For this step, choosing the right digital agency partner is essential. Your Partner should be able to advise you on asking the right questions, selecting the fit systems, deciding on the right digital sustainability strategy, and practical stuff like, e.g. ways to optimize the page speed of your website (which can be one of the biggest CO2 emitters on your website if you’re loading too many/heavy resources).

In addition, starting with a professional digital agency can inspire you to look at the environmental part of your solution and carbon footprint and start implementing social and economic goals in your business life. 

In addition, starting with a professional digital agency can inspire you to look at the environmental part of your solution and carbon footprint and start implementing social and economic goals in your business life. 

Start small. It’s completely ok!

It is absolutely okay if your digital sustainability strategy starts small. It's better if many of us start small and transparently with digital sustainability rather than a handful of organizations doing it perfectly. 

If you want to get started with improving your digital sustainability, we recommend you:

  • Check out your current solution’s CO2 emission;
  • See whether you need a data clean-up;
  • Consider green hosting;
  • Become a (more) mindful (internet) surfer;
  • Talk to digitization experts.

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