Absolute Quality scrutinises its digital carbon footprint as part of net zero drive

Absolute Quality Consultancy and Training has committed to reducing its digital carbon footprint as a part of its overall sustainability activities.

Working with sustainable digital consultant, Jamie Campbell, the company is on a mission to reduce its digital carbon footprint and has identified and prioritised the steps they can take to get started.

The move follows an examination of more well-known carbon footprint elements like commercial travel and office heating and lighting usage and explores the hidden impacts of digital and online activities.

Jamie said: “Digital isn’t clean, every action we take online impacts the environment in some way and often causes more carbon emissions that one might expect. It is vital to be aware of your digital carbon footprint and take measures to reduce it as much as possible.”

This includes the environmental cost of messages sent, cloud storage, internet searches, website load times, and even the sizes of files.

With approximately 5.3 billion people, or 63 percent of the world’s population, using the internet the energy and the associated carbon emitted with each online activity adds up.

Working with the Absolute Quality team, Jamie has developed a package of recommendations tailored to make most impact. Absolute Quality also plan to support their extensive client network to take similar measures and collectively reduce their digital carbon footprint.

The measures include:

Astute email management. It is estimated a typical email has a carbon footprint of around 4g of carbon emissions and one with large attachments around 50g. Reduce the size of emails by using compressed images or removing them, and hyperlink to files or information rather than adding attachments.

Think before sending an email. Research has showed the UK alone could reduce its carbon output by over 16,433 tonnes, if each adult sent one less thank you email a day. Check emails thoroughly before sending to make sure they include all necessary information, to avoid the need for a follow-up message. Switch to a less carbon intensive platform such as Slack, WhatsApp, texting, or Teams. This analysis of video conferencing tools looks at the performance of a number platforms, including Teams, to see how they stack up in terms of environmental impact.

Clean and maintain mailing lists frequently, remove contacts that unsubscribe, and update changed email address immediately. Remove details from mailing lists if you don’t read their updates.

Spring clean digital storage. Remove duplicate or unnecessary files from cloud services like DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Sharepoint, and iCloud. It takes energy to store files in the Cloud and minimising the number of useless documents stored will help to lower the energy used. Save files locally on a hard drive, introduce a policy to regularly review and remove anything not needed, and always ensure any stored files are optimised.

Shrink file sizes. Optimising the size of all files especially images and those that often contain them, such as PowerPoint and PDF, goes a long way to helping reduce the amount of space and energy needed when storing and sending them.

Watch video use. A Carbon Trust white paper states the carbon footprint of viewing one hour of video-on-demand streaming is around 55g. While this is small compared to other everyday activities, there are ways to lower this impact. Ensure videos are optimised using the latest compression formats, keep video content short, use a third-party platform like YouTube, and watch at a lower resolution. Only use video when it’s essential, reduce video calls, or switch off the camera when taking a call.

Choose green hosting. Data centres consume huge amounts of energy to power servers. Selecting a hosting provider that powers its centres with renewable energy will help reduce the digital carbon footprint.

Green the company website. There are nearly 2 billion websites worldwide that require power. Applying a Content Delivery Network (CND) to a website reduces loading times because it keeps static files in places local to the user. This means when accessing a website, files are served from a local server, so data doesn’t have as far to travel; this reduces energy.

Likewise, thoroughly review website content. Superfluous, outdated, or irrelevant content eats energy as users navigate a website looking for what they want. Keep content concise, only publish relevant and useful content, and have a strategy to remove expired content. This includes images as well as copy.

Jack Nunnerley, consultant and trainer for Absolute Quality, has worked with Jamie to put in place the digital carbon footprint initiative. He said: “Scrutinising our digital carbon footprint has been a helpful, eye-opening process as the environmental impact of digital activities in largely unknown. Everything we are doing not only helps us to reduce our digital carbon emissions and move towards net zero but is also helping to improve our efficiencies and productivity.

“We will also help our clients take similar actions to reduce their own digital carbon footprints, whether it be a quick and simple everyday activity such as opting for a phone call instead of a video call or making a plan to reduce the carbon footprint of their entire digital use.”

The digital carbon footprint support was secured via the North of Tyne Combined Authority and NBSL ‘To NetZero Programme’, a flexible fully-funded skills programme for residents of North Tyneside and Northumberland.