Sunday, March 3, 2024

10 Ways Technology Can Help Decrease Your Environmental Impact


Technology, while not without its problems, can also be an incredible tool to help us live a more sustainable life.

If you’re someone who’s always looking for ways to mitigate the impact you have on the environment, you’re not alone. The importance of caring for our planet has never been clearer, as research continues to point to a climate tipping point. It is as crucial for individuals as it is for businesses and governments to take ownership of their role in keeping the planet healthy for future generations.  

Technology and the planet

Technology has significantly contributed to climate change through various means. Data centers that power our internet and digital services emit approximately 1.5 percent of global carbon emissions, according to a study by the International Energy Agency. Additionally, the production of gadgets such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops involves mining for rare earth elements, a process that leads to deforestation and land degradation. According to the United Nations, the electronics sector generates up to 50 million tons of electronic waste each year, much of which ends up in landfills, emitting hazardous substances into the atmosphere.

The automotive industry’s technological advancements have also played a role in climate change. Despite efforts to produce electric vehicles, approximately 28 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States still come from transportation, as reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The combustion engines in cars, trucks, and buses emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Furthermore, industrial technologies, especially in sectors like steel and cement production, are significant contributors to emissions. According to the World Steel Association, the steel industry alone is responsible for 7 to 9 percent of all direct emissions from fossil fuels globally.

woman phone
Are social media ‘scroll holes’ as bad for the planet as they are for our mental health? Keren Levand | Unsplash

How to use technology to reduce your environmental impact

But technology isn’t all bad, of course. It’s powering changes to address climate change, such as carbon removal, agricultural waste clean up, new types of food and materials that use fewer resources and are gentler on the planet in their end-of-life processes. And, fortunately, for the conscious consumer, there are a lot of the changes you can make in your own life that are simple and easy, made even easier by the use of clean technology.  

1. Invest in an EV 

An electric vehicle is one of the best ways to help reduce your personal carbon footprint. Fossil fuel-powered vehicles are one of the biggest causes of emissions, and there is a significant push from many governments to encourage drivers to switch to electric, including tax incentives.

recycling ev batteries
Courtesy Tesla

EVs can be pricier than conventional vehicles when initially purchasing, but you’ll get great benefits in the long term as fueling costs are significantly lower. Look into the different makes and models available to find the one that could suit your lifestyle best, being mindful of the driving range each offer.  

2. Install a smart thermostat 

A smart thermostat can be an excellent addition to the home; it can help you manage the heating throughout your home and reduce your energy consumption significantly.

Smart thermostats are also handy for managing the temperature of your home on the go; you can turn up the heat before your commute home on a cold day or warm up the kitchen before getting out of bed in the morning. Smart thermostats will also offer insights into your energy use and help you develop schedules for your heating to minimize waste.  

3. Get solar panels

Solar paneling is one of the most popular pieces of green tech around. Harnessing the sun’s rays to create energy for your home is an effortless way to reduce your carbon footprint and show that you’re serious about taking care of the planet. Many countries even have the option to sell back any excess energy you produce to the grid — a real win-win for both eco concerns and your wallet.

4. Reuse and recycle 

To be truly eco-conscious, you’ll need to break out of the habit of buying and replacing, instead choosing to reuse and recycle tech when you can. There are electronic stores, both digital and physical, that specialize in refurbishing second-hand devices into perfectly functional machines – even, in some cases, better functioning. You could look at ways that you can reuse your own devices or find suitable places to recycle them once they have reached the end of their life cycle.  

5. Decrease your computer storage use 

You’ll also need to use your tech in a way that maximizes its efficiency if you want to improve sustainability throughout your life. Laptops and computers are used daily, so they are a good starting point for making sustainable change.

Computers, courtesy freestocks | Unsplash

It’s a good idea to get into the habit of minimizing the storage you use on your computers and devices to make them more energy efficient. If possible, you could also reduce your reliance on cloud storage which itself creates emissions. Compressing your files, like PDFs and JPEGs, can go a long way to freeing up storage space and keeping your computers running smoothly and efficiently.   

6. Setting your tech on a timer 

Many people leave technology and electronics plugged in even when they’re not being used. This can lead to unnecessary energy consumption that is bad for the environment and your finances.

A smart and simple option if you don’t want to go through the house turning things off at the end of a day is to use a timer. You can set the times that you use these devices most often and have them automatically shut off between times. This is most effective for anything that normally remains plugged in overnight.  

7. Download your media 

Many people download music, TV shows, and films to enjoy on the go, but you might not realize that this is not just convenient but it is also good for the planet. Downloading your media uses up the same energy as streaming it once, but no more for subsequent plays. Of course, you’ll be limited by the size of your device’s storage, but it is a good move for anything you play regularly.  

8. Increase the lifespan of your tech 

The tech we use is valuable, and anyone who doesn’t try their best to prolong the lifespan of their devices will end up paying more over time — to say nothing of the impact on the environment. You can prolong the lifespan of your devices simply by taking proper care of them; you might be surprised to know how many laptop and computer owners don’t know the simple fundamentals of their care. These include: 

  • Regular cleaning 
  • Handling with care 
  • Keeping out of reach of children and pets 
  • Unplugging when charged 
  • Antivirus scanning 

9. Turn your devices off for a while

It’s important to find balance in all things, and this applies as much to the use of technology as it does to other areas of our lives. As much as tech can help us live greener lives, it is important to take regular breaks from devices to give our minds a rest. Try going into Monk Mode for a bit and see if that gives you a refresh.

a tv in the forest
E-waste | Courtesy Tom Wheatley via Unsplash

This time off of devices can also be invaluable to help prolong the lifespan of our devices and cut back on unnecessary energy use from charging them throughout the day. You could consider setting yourself set screen-free time throughout the day – maybe an hour or two to start, then increasing over time.  

10. Share and inform to build awareness 

It is everyone’s job to learn and be aware of how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. When possible, it can also be invaluable to show others how and why being green is so important.

Technology offers us an incredible platform to educate others within our social circles and beyond – you can inform your connections on social media about the ways they can be more eco-conscious or simply lead by example by showing your latest personal green initiatives.  

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