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    Energy Action Month: Reduce the impact of your digital activities



    Story by Christophe Morel 

    U.S. Army Garrison Benelux

    Chièvres, Belgium -- The evolution of technologies and the fact that we use less paper thanks to online news, forms and files, or emails instead of letters leave us with the impression that we are more environmental friendly. However, digital data need to be stored and transferred. This comes with an environmental, energy impact and a related financial cost.

    When you use your computer or your smartphone, the electricity you consume is not only the one used to power your device! According to the International Energy Agency, the energy demand of data centers and transmission networks account for about 2% of the electricity demand worldwide.

    We are all familiar with the “only print if necessary” summons seen on many occasions at the end of emails, but we should start considering only replying if required” and “only keeping if necessary.”

    Sending a standard email produces four grams of CO2. The bill gets worse for an email with multiple attachments (50 grams of CO2), to be multiplied by the number of persons in the To and Cc lines. Forwarding to other recipients and hitting the “Reply all” button will only make the overall cost higher.

    It does not stop here: all the recipients may keep the emails and their attachments in their mailbox “just in case” and may even store them for future reference on their computer or on their organization server. Think about how many copies of the same document exist in the same organization or even in the same division. As an organization, we need to improve our overall document control, use sharepoints and sharedrives when feasible, and start saving and keeping only what is necessary and delete everything else!

    Additionally, sending an email is not the answer to everything. Face to face contact may be a lot more efficient in moving a project along. “Sadly, it is easier to email than converse with people,” said Col. Sean Hunt Kuester in a message to the workforce. “However, it is not necessarily as effective. Consider if you are better served by a phone call or visit. When email is clearly not working, pick up the phone, go visit.”

    Once you have started with your work computer, you might want to look at your personal data, pictures and videos. Take some time to sort out your files, rename them if necessary. This will avoid having duplicates all over the place on the cloud, in your mailbox on your phone or on your laptop. Do you still have an old inactive mailbox? Close it for good. Do you read all the newsletters you receive every day? Unsubscribe then! Do you really still need that email saying that your package delivered four years ago? Or the ad saying that you can get a 10 percent discount that expired more than three years ago. If the answer is not, hit the trash bin button and don’t forget to empty the trash bin.

    Take advantage of October Energy Action Month to start your autumn digital clean up!

    For more information on the impact of digital activities, visit the International Energy Agency’s website at or read Mike Berners-Lee’s “How Bad are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything“ at

    By Melanie Chaballe, Energy Manager



    Date Taken: 10.23.2019
    Date Posted: 11.04.2019 10:02
    Story ID: 350352
    Location: CHIèVRES , WHT, BE 

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