Digital Technology and Sustainability

Computer mouse and keyboard intertwined with ivy vines There are many aspects of digital technology that could take their toll on the Environment. This World Environment Day we are going through what these things are, and what can be done to minimise their impact. 

Environmental Impact of Digital Technology

    1. Energy Consumption:
The use of digital devices and the overall IT infrastructure requires energy. This energy consumption contributes to carbon emissions and can have a negative impact on the environment, especially if the energy is generated from non-renewable sources.

    2. Electronic Waste:
Hardware wise, the rapid advancement of digital technology, constant new releases, updates and new tech leads to electronic waste. There is a consumer culture around technology, many people want the newest phone, laptop or tablet, discarding their old items. Tech companies like Apple and Samsung also cause older devices to become obsolete, no longer releasing updates for their older models, causing those older models to be discarded. Not only does this cause physical waste, but the improper disposal of these items can release harmful substances into the environment, such as lead, mercury, and other toxic chemicals, posing risks to human health and ecosystems.

    3. Manufacturing:
The actual production of digital devices requires materials and an energy-intensive manufacturing processes. Tech devices use minerals and elements for electronics, all which have to be extracted from the earth, this extraction can lead to environmental degradation, habitat destruction, and pollution.

    4. Data Storage:
Any Social Media platform, website, email address or any other data needs to be stored. Data centres house servers and store massive amounts of digital data, to run these data centres consumes significant amounts of energy for cooling and powering the servers. Traditional data centres contribute to carbon emissions and require substantial infrastructure and resources to operate.

Although Digital Technology requires lots of energy, resources and materials, it has also transformed the way we live day-to-day, helping us reduce our emissions. Tech companies are also slowly getting on board with the Sustainability trend, and are beginning to integrate sustainable and environmentally friendly practices into their products. There are already many ways that Digital Technology has allowed us to reduce emissions.

Ways Digital Technology is Reducing Emissions:

    1. Virtual Communication and Remote Work:
Back in 2020, almost everyone was required to work from home, this triggered a drastic advancement in Virtual Communication Technology. The adoption of virtual communication tools like Zoom and Teams to facilitate remote work has contributed to a reduction in carbon emissions associated with commuting and business travel. By reducing the need for physical transportation, digital technology can help minimise individual environmental impact.

    2. Paperless Solutions:
Digital technology has drastically reduced our use of paper. Digital documents, e-signatures, and document collaboration tools like Google Slides, have made it easier to conduct business and share information electronically, without the need to print or write anything on paper. 

    3. Energy Efficiency:
Over the years as digital technology has advanced, so has its efficiency. In recent years, more technologies are becoming energy efficient, with some companies like Facebook achieving net-zero emissions. With this being said, there is a long way to go for many social media networks, with the app TikTok releasing more emissions per minute than Facebook and Twitter combined. 

What are WJPS doing to become more environmentally conscious? 

At WJPS, we are working hard to go more green, and use less power. 

To work towards this, in February 2022 we purchased a new server. Over the years leading up to this, we had felt the need for more server space in order to expand our capabilities and client base. To achieve this, we would buy another small server once a year or so. We decided that instead of topping up our server space with small additional servers, which use more power, we would purchase a larger, more efficient server. With this new large server, we eliminate the need for multiple small servers, allowing us to go greener and use less power while future-proofing our business, as we will only be running one server rather than three!

We are also dedicated to avoiding paper use as much as we can. Although contracts and paper copies do still need to be printed in our office, we use as little as possible.

Our Microbiological Reporting System, MRS, minimises the NHS' quality testing labs need for paper print outs. Before MRS, NHS Trusts would use printed copies of Excel spread sheets, printed forms and other printed resources, but with the introduction of MRS, all of these forms are digitised, minimising the need for printed media.

Our Website software, WCS, is also helpful in reducing the amount of paper used by councils. All documents, policy and procedure, minutes and agendas are now hosted digitally, and can be directly shared over email. This means that it is the users choice to print the documents if they want too, so overall less printed copies of these documents are being circulated. WCSs news feature also has a mailing list, allowing councils to digitally distribute their newsletters or updates, rather than printing them to drop through peoples letter boxes.

Published: 05/06/2023 Published by: WJPS

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