Do we realise that each time we network or send email, we pollute the planet through the carbon emissions from fossil fuels burned to power our computers, servers and databanks?
If you are a member of green groups, you must get at least one petition a week that you're expected to sign. You dutifully click in, and go to bed happy you've done your good deed for the day. Good deed? Think again, says an Agence-France Presse report, pointing to an irony behind that act. Take the campaign for Earth Hour, it says. You were asked to turn off lights to save the earth, but “with every email, every tweet, every appeal watched on YouTube or “liked” on Facebook, environmentalists are stoking the very problem they want to resolve.” You network, and you give out carbon dioxide through the fossil fuels burned to power your computers, servers and databanks that store or relay your message. On the Earth Hour campaign emails went to 130 countries.
The French government energy efficiency agency ADEME has figured that in emails alone, the typical officeworker in France is responsible for 13.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. The more people you forward copies to and the bigger the mail, the greater the carbon emissions, ADEME said. How many emails does your office send/receive a year on average?
Buzz about this has gone around. Greenpeace collected 700,000 signatures for a “greener” Facebook, Twitter posted last year that the company added only 0.02 grammes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere with each 140-character tweet, but 50 million tweets equalled one metric tonne of carbon dixoide a day. Sure, the Internet keeps down carbon compared to snail mail, phone calls, and travel for face-to-face meetings. But the number of people using Internet connectivity tools is leaping ahead, right?
There's plenty we can do to help. No, I'm not asking you to read in candlelight. When a Google group, I'm part of, decided to go easy on carbon footprints, members volunteered to add only their own words to the discussion, not the entire thread. We've learnt to write concisely. We provide links rather than paste text. We express opinions only when necessary. Earth Hour suggests that we use Yammer, an intranet social platform to cut down on internal emails.
There are cooler ways to compensate for our digital networking sins. For one, “topping up” our gadgets by leaving them in the sun should get a grand welcome. Start with a SolarKindle case; it comes with a built-in solar panel and battery. This is said to give you three months of reading time in “normal” sunlight, without dipping into Kindle's own power.
Count in the solar keyboard that runs on natural or house light through built-in solar panels. LED bulbs run for 15 years and are good for your wallet and the earth. Energiser solar torchlights charge from a built-in solar panel, and on cloudy days, from a carabineer clip. The hybrid Solio Mag charger, claims the company, is compatible with over 3200 portable tech-gizmos — take mobile phones, PDAs, iPhones, iPods, MP3/MP4 players, GPS devices and cameras.
Envirogadget.com has its own list of solar gadgets. Buy a solar-powered inverter, it says, to bring down those shocking electricity bills. If you are investing in a generator, look for the solar option again — use them when indoors or outdoors. In our power-starved existence, owning solar radios should get serious thought too. Festivals can be brightened by sunshine, if you choose solar lights to decorate your house on Diwali or the tree for Christmas.
Enjoy the wonderful experience of solar cooking with solar ovens. The best-selling solar ovens are light and compact, have a large surface area and keep the food warm for a long time. Solar cookers have been around for a long time. Ever tried them? They work!
The coolest ideas are about what you can do with printed circuit boards (PCBs) that get chucked without a backward glance. Did you know many PCBs are discarded before use because they don't meet the strict standards? If the increasing piles of PCBs (3 per cent of all e-waste) give you a guilt-trip ticket, read on.
Friends say the fashion and gift business in discarded — and recycled — circuit boards is huge. On sale for a while are PCB photo frames, business card-holders and wall clocks. Now unused PCBs find themselves in fashion markets as funky pendants for slip-knot-cord necklaces. Depending on how it is cut, each PCB can have a unique size and shape – pick what you like! Remember PCB accessories when you go hunting for a gift!
DOS AND DON’TS
* Use “Reply all” only when necessary.
* Use “cc” sparingly. Don't forward chain e-mails.
* Just a 10 per cent reduction in the number of emails leads to a gain of one tonne of carbon dioxide.
* Switch off computers, printers, photocopy machines, TV, VCRs, DVD players, after every use.
* Ditto with kitchen appliances, e-clocks.