December 29, 2017

Carbon footprint wars

Aviation vs IT, and a little side note about kindness...

When it comes to lightening our carbon footprints, there are a lot of different areas we can improve. Some of the usual suspects like air travel and eating meat get a lot of attention online, the beautiful irony of that attention lies in the fact that it is online. The internet and IT services are fast becoming a significantly impactful aspect of our collective footprint. How impactful? Well, as little as two years ago it was identified that the internet’s footprint matched that of the aviation industry, and in 2017, researchers are arguing that with the exponential increase in data storage it could now exceed aviation. It’s not that hard to imagine; think of all the information that’s at our fingertips being stored on servers that operate 24/7, not to mention cloud storage and personal computer/device energy use, that’s a helluva lot of energy!

I recently came across a social media thread about the impact of air travel that turned into a horrible scratch match of people accusing one another of not caring about the environment, and attacking one another for flying home to see family for Xmas. Around 500 comments in, it became really clear that while a lot of people were passionate about their causes (zero waste/veganism/environmentalism), in their tirade of meanness they were doing little to advance them. Obviously the arguments against flying are valid, it definitely has a huge footprint, but the impact of the internet goes unmentioned in the majority of these conversations. Despite this fact, a bunch of passionate people use social media to argue about the impact of air travel, so... errr, hmmmm, the more you know, eh?!

Rather than judging one another and spiralling into keyboard-warrior-mode on social media about whose lifestyle is the greenest, we should be raising awareness and supporting one another’s journeys! We are all on our own ‘green’ path, and making people feel like they’ve failed does little to foster the kind of community that attracts more people to it. Collective movements like zero waste or veganism or environmentalism (or the winning combination of all three!) need more people to join in, and building communities that are welcoming, kind and supportive is the best way to do that. Judging the journey turns caring for the planet into a pissing contest, but the thing is, anyone who is doing anything to help (even something small) is winning. No contest.

I believe that we are each doing the best we can with the knowledge we have in our given set of circumstances, and until we know better we can’t do better.

Being more aware of our impact and being more mindful with the frequency of our air travel, with our diets, our waste and our internet usage is a start, and by treading as lightly as possible, by offsetting our impactful activities and by supporting others to do the same, we can work towards an even ‘greener’ lifestyle.

Volunteering to do tree planting, to raise seedlings or do bush/forestry maintenance is a nice place to start a carbon offset journey this is something I’ve just signed up for to offset the travel I’m doing to present at conferences as part of my doctorate degree. It’s also something I now feel like I should’ve started doing regularly a long time ago! But we’re not judging, we’re supporting - so yay, I’m offsetting my travel and internet usage and pulping down my printouts into new paper!

Perhaps rather than calling each other out on perceived ‘failings’ we should be offering one another support and suggestions that help sustain our journeys and improve the planet along the way. With kindness and support this movement can grow and become the kind of community that everyone wants to be part of.

Anyone who’s interested in considering their internet/IT impact as part of minimising their footprint can check out the strategies offered in this great infographic: 

Little things such as unsubscribing from newsletters rather than siphoning them into your junk folder, unplugging chargers that aren’t in use, limiting unnecessary internet searches etc are small actions that have a cumulative effect. And if you think small things don’t have impact... try sleeping with a mosquito 😉

#bekind #offersupport #helpfulnothurtful #savetheplanet

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