We have been talking about digital and virtual events for a while and maintaining that they are more sustainable than traditional events – which they are. There is clearly no comparison between a trade show that requires thousands of visitors to fly to a certain location and converge to a certain venue, which has to be powered with electricity, cleaned with chemical products, while everyone gets fed by a catering service that produces non-recyclable waste, and one that… does not require any of that. Does this mean, however, that digital events leave no carbon footprint whatsoever? Unfortunately, no. The internet is not environment-neutral, let alone environment friendly. All the servers that run constantly to even allow the internet to exist consume energy, which means they do generate emissions. Is there no way, then, to make a virtual event carbon-neutral? Here comes the good news: you can offset your digital carbon footprint – just like we are.
Are you harming the environment right now?
Probably, we all are. Human beings are, after all, the least sustainable species on the planet. Fortunately, we are also the only one that’s trying to do something about it. Whether you are at home with your laptop plugged in or riding a bus and reading this on your phone, which you charged prior to leaving the house, the electricity you are consuming has had a small impact on the environment. Now look around you and try to calculate the magnitude of all the “small impacts” being generated in your house, in your office, or on the streets you walk every day. According to a Greenpeace report, data centres and telecommunications networks consume over 2,000 billion kWh of electricity. And because these networks are growing at an exponential rate, their impact on global warming cannot be ignored. Therefore yes, your website, your blog, your digital event, and your zoom call are harming the environment. What can you do about it?
How can you offset your digital carbon footprint?
We have been considering this question when planning GECO, the first major online event on sustainability. We joined a project called Zero Impact Web, powered by LifeGate, which helps businesses offset their digital carbon footprint. Specifically, they fund the implementation of projects that generate better air quality in various regions of the world, fighting greenhouse gas emissions through reforestation. By calculating the environmental impact of each activity, based on the energy it consumes, they are able to identify suitable projects to counteract it effectively, with equivalent reforestation projects. The emissions of our website, for example, are offset by the creation and protection of new woodland areas in the Ticino National Park.