According to the Shift Project 2019 Lean ICT Report the Digital energy consumption has increased by 9% yearly since 2015. "Digital" includes Internet, all our digital devices and the infrastructures needed to support them.
Converted in GHG emissions, given the worldwide electricity mix, this represents around 3.7% of global GHG Emissions. It is already at the level of the airline industry. And the trend is worrying with a projection to double by 2025.
"Digital footprint" comprises several energy consuming focuses:
- Production of devices
- Usage of devices (Electricity consumption for batteries and data consumption relying on electricity consumption too)
- Destruction of obsolete devices
All of them are at the core of green ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) thoughts to decrease our carbon footprint.
Energy Sobriety is the most effective way to curb energy consumption in general. And luckily, it can be applied to digital usage: prevent depletion of raw material, hazardous e-waste, rebound effects and to make our existing equipments last longer...
Restraining our use of digital devices and technology whenever possible is key, yet very hard given our current world.
Here are some easy quick-wins to adopt low-carbon practices in your digital daily life:
603 kg CO2e
1250 kg CO2e
Some MOOCs and reports:
- MOOC: MOOC for a sustainable IT by the ISIT Academy
- Documentary: Greening the Net by CNA Insider
Implement good printing practices is possible !
Here are some easy quick-wins to curb your resources consumption during printing:
- Reduce Paper usage by:
- Reduce Ink usage by:
- IT teams can deploy/update relevant laptops masters. By enforcing such masters, employees cannot change some printing settings. This practice can save a lot of resources in the end because it "automatically" enforces a sober mode for printing: two-side mode, Black & White mode, blank pages feature removed ...
- Deploy sign up/check-in processes to prevent people from printing at anytime for anything. If we have to walk to the printer to start the printing job, if we have a quota on printing jobs... we will think twice before printing it!
- Display visible, permanent guidelines nearby printers & Train your staff.
- Deploy specific printing softwares to monitor printing consumption. We recommend this one from Paper Cut.
As this section focuses on IT practices, please refer to this other section for paper & printing general solutions.
50 times more
Changing your device before the end of its lifespan for a better energy saving one is NOT a solution, as most of its environmental impact arises during production.
A study on timely replacement of notebooks showed that a realistic energy efficiency improvement of 10% between two notebook generations meant the amortisation periods would be between 33 and 88 years!
In a word, keep your devices as long as possible and adopt low-energy practices while using them.
Here are some of the low-energy best practices you can adopt in your daily life:
If you wish to know more about mobile phone energy consumption, you can have a look at this interesting (yet long) article.
ElectronicsCrazy is an online electronics marketplace in Singapore.
They deal in ten most popular categories including mobile phones, computers and laptops, cameras, network switches, smart power sockets...
They have a wide range of certified refurbished computers and other refurbished items.
In terms of carbon footprint, Google uses a mixture of renewable energy and carbon offsetting to be carbon neutral. They have also announced to have eliminated their total carbon legacy and their next global sustainability goal is to operate entirely on 24/7 carbon-free electricity at all their data centres by 2030. Sembcorp is providing a whole energy solution with a focus on locally-sourced renewable power to support Google’s operations in Singapore. The deal includes energy generated from close to 500 public housing flats with rooftop solar installations.
Microsoft, which owns the Bing search engine, has promised to become carbon negative by 2030, and efforts are underway to investigate whether this footprint is now higher or lower.
However, those carbon neutrality goals do not take into account the transmission of data from the datacentres to our devices and therefore we still need to pursue frugality in using our digital devices as shown in above solution "Reduce Digital Footprint".
108 millions trees
Gexsi is a purpose-driven search engine and a certified B Corporation. Revenues generated by search requests are used to support worldwide projects and social innovators dedicated to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
As an example, they support projects such as reforestation, infrastructures to fight poverty or plastic removal from the oceans.
They are using BING search partnership services.
For servers and datacentres, as energy consumption is their main carbon footprint, it is important to continuously work on decreasing their energy consumption.
Before any best practices, let us focus briefly on datacentres to understand what is at stake.
First, it is good to keep in mind that datacentres/servers are not bad guys here! Their efficiency has been improved ridiculously over the last decades. According to GreenIT.fr, datacentres' activities increased by 550% over the last decade, for a slight 6% increase of electricity consumption.
Datacentres are listed into Tiers - depending on the average unavailability of service (per year). The more the service is ensured, the higher Tier it is (and the energy consumption too!).
Therefore, before anything, it is important to estimate the importance of a service to deploy it on a server/datacentre. Non critical services are not necessary on a Tier 4 datacentre for example.
Last - but not least: data flows are important to understand to lower their impact. Isit Academy estimates that:
- 15% of data received/sent by datacentres are processed from end-users
- 15% of data received/sent by datacentres are processed from external datacentres
- Remaining 70% (!) data are internal flows (save, security, storage...).
This gives perspective to know where improvements should be made in priority. Especially, security processes are considered being the most energy consuming services in a datacentre.
Finally, the electricity consumed by a datacentre also includes all interfaces, screens, people.... Some improvements have to be enforced here also, not only in the datacentre processes themselves.
Some important Best Practices to implement:
7450 kWh per year
For servers and datacentres:
- International Energy Agency (IEA) report
On the big picture regarding ICT and datacentres energy consumption:
- nature.com paper
More ideas to reduce energy consumption:
- age of awareness
More on datacentres in Singapore and ASEAN:
- white paper on the future of datacentres in the face of climate change
Schneider Electric provides energy and automation digital solutions & services, with a focus on efficiency and sustainability, for buildings, datacentres, industries and infrastructures in all kind of sectors (IT, healthcare, finance, retail etc.)
They developed EcoStruxure, an IoT-enabled platform for better control, analysis, services and connectivity.
They provide in Singapore relevant sustainable solutions for datacentres:
- Uniflair products as chilled water cooling system
- DCIM solution (Datacentre Infrastructure Management) which gives data analysis tools and energy use data to effectively monitor Datacentres PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness).
Specifically, they can help save energy and time over large infrastructures through agile flexible stacks and IoT-based solutions.
Engie is a global energy company, whose SEA entity works towards low-carbon solutions. They focus on reducing consumption, energy-efficiency, renewables... with the help of smart solutions such as IoT. Engie SEA intervenes all along the value chain, from strategy and engineering, to operations management and outcome assurance.
ENGIE brings knowledge and solutions in Design, Build, Management and Operation of mission-critical data centres that deliver significant gains in energy efficiency, reduction in cost and carbon emissions.
Specifically, they can help save energy and time over large infrastructures through agile flexible stacks and IoT-based solutions. Also, they can deliver services for energy usage optimisation.
Green Koncepts develops smart solutions to save energy and time for buildings, cities, datacentres, offices...
Their DCIM solution (Datacentre Infrastructure Management) provides energy-use data and analysis tools to effectively monitor Datacentres' PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness).
Specifically, they can act over large infrastructures through agile flexible stacks and IoT-based solutions.
With more than 15 years expertise, EcoXplore provides integrated automation, smart meters and IoT products in Singapore.
Their solutions range from Datacentres Infrastructure Management (DCIM) and Energy Management System (EMS) to Building Management System (BMS) and Lighting Control Management System.
Datacentres' carbon footprint is relatively high due to their energy consumption. After reducing datacentres' energy consumption (see solution above and in green hardwares and suppliers), the second step is to turn to greener energy sources and adapt your organization accordingly.
Indeed, solar energy is unfortunately not a 24x7 hours source, as a result, you may also depend on purchasing energy credits if you want to become carbon neutral.
At least, you may consider shifting recurrent computing tasks to times when solar energy sources are available. See more in the International Energy Agency (IEA) report.
Another way to save energy for datacentres may lie within microgrids to deploy automated distributed systems to save and optimize all energy consumption. More information here.
200 TWh per year
100 billion liters
Set up a Green or Responsible IT team, in charge of implementing the company's sustainable policy / CSR strategy and its sustainable procurement in the IT department.
They should develop a specific sustainable plan for the IT department in collaboration with your Sustainability Manager or your Company Green Team, establish and track KPIs, measure progress and set new targets every year. To help you along the way to build your green community, refer to our article to engage people on a sustainable journey.
It is important that the Green IT Team educate all the IT users on the digital world carbon footprint and impact, and talk with them about digital sobriety. If you are not aware of the problems, you cannot resolve them ! Share your your IT department's sustainability strategy, explaining the main targets, timeline and KPIs.
They should also regularly train all users on Green Best Practices (see above solutions) including Paper & Printing Best Practices if need be (see here) and on how to increase lifespan of IT equipments (and why).
Once they understand the problem, your IT users will eventually question their needs and habits (do I really need a second or third screen? do I really need to built a completely new website / software ?...). They will be a great help when conducting digital footprint audits, action plans implementation and monitoring.
Sustainable IT collage workshops can be perfect to kick-off sustainable actions! Liase with us for more information.
It is necessary to perform audits and technology overviews to measure and thus reduce your IT carbon footprint.
Start simply with online calculator tools and then take a step further by implementing full hardware and software audits.
As there is not yet a comprehensive way to calculate your total footprint, first identify the environmental indicators (energy, GHG, tension over fresh water, resource depletion … ). Then, define the scope. You may want to measure:
Set also the timeline and frequency of your measurements.
Include equipment ratio per employee for asset / hardware audits and lifecycle assessments (LCA).
After doing so, you can use some of the following nice online tools:
For software engineering, you may ask the help of a third-party company to assess your software carbon footprint in terms of design (front-end) and architecture / coding (back-end). Implement necessary actions to reduce its carbon footprint and optimize the solutions you have before launching costly projects. Please also refer to our dedicated page on design and coding best practices.
At least, always audit before disassembling hardware or software. It will help you understand which ones can be re-used, re-conditioned and what has to be properly recycled.
The « green journey » may feel overwhelming sometimes, but you are not alone.
Our Buddies have tried, succeeded, failed to implement change in their companies. They share their experience so you can learn, take shortcuts, get inspired and ask questions.
Everybody can become a Buddy and give back to the community; if you are keen, get in touch with us.
Passionate about travels, Benoit left France in 2011 for Asia, lived in Hong Kong then landed in Singapore 6 years ago, working for Credit Agricole CIB. With 15 years of experience in IT across different sectors and industries, he is now managing a team focusing on IT application support. In 2017, he was one of the founders, and now the leader, of their first green team in Singapore.
Ivona is a sustainability consultant, founder of Sustainao, a Singapore-based company that helps businesses in their sustainability journey, from conducting materiality assessments, creating a sustainability strategy, to implementing and improving sustainability reporting and performance.
Ivona has an MBA in CSR-Sustainability and a master’s degree in Environmental Management. She has first worked for Air France Industries and Arkema in their environmental and sustainability departments. After that, she has gained strong experience as a sustainability auditor for KPMG France. She verified non financial information published in the Sustainability Reports of French groups of Media, Agri-food, Transport, Industry sectors and conducted audits in 15 countries across Europe, Africa and Asia.