A comprehensive guide to digital sobriety

by Filevert Monday, May 9, 2022 - 13:51

What is digital sobriety?

Digital sobriety is a concept aimed at reducing the environmental impact of digital technologies by adopting more reasoned and responsible uses. This movement has gained momentum in recent years in response to growing awareness of the pollution generated by digital technology.

Digital sobriety is a concept that aims to reduce this impact by adopting more reasoned and responsible uses.

Where does the concept of digital sobriety come from?

The term "digital sobriety" was popularized by Frédéric Bordage, a French expert in digital responsibility and founder of the GreenIT.fr association in 2004. This association promotes eco-responsible practices in the digital sector;

Why care? The environmental impact of digital

Although often perceived as immaterial, digital technology has a heavy ecological footprint at every stage of its life cycle, from the manufacture of devices to their use, via the management of data centers.

According to the report "Lean ICT - For digital sobriety" published in 2018:

  • Digital already accounts for 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions
  • This share could reach 8% by 2025 without any change in course
  • Data center energy consumption is increasing by 9% per year

Keys to digital sobriety

Reducing the digital footprint requires changes at different levels: service design, individual and collective uses, and public policies.

The eco-design of digital services

Digital companies have a major role to play in integrating environmental criteria into the design of their services, for example:

  • Optimize data transfer and storage
  • Favor lightweight interfaces
  • Limit untimely updates

The guidelines published by the GreenIT association list the good practices detailed for responsible digital eco-design.

Review our individual uses

As users, we can take concrete action on a daily basis to reduce our digital footprint:

  • Extend the lifespan of our devices
  • Turn off WiFi and Bluetooth when not in use
  • Avoid very high definition videos
  • Unsubscribe from unnecessary newsletters 
  • Delete obsolete files and emails

A Green IT study has shown that extending the life of a smartphone by 1 year saves the equivalent of 49 kg of CO2.

&strong>The role of public authorities

A guide published in 2020 by the Ministry of Ecological Transition recommends 10 priority areas for local authorities :

  1. Include digital sobriety in strategic documents
  2. Appoint referents and train agents
  3. Optimize equipment
  4. Adopt an exemplary purchasing policy

The benefits of digital sobriety in everyday life

Beyond the environmental aspect, adopting digital sobriety practices has many concrete benefits:

  • Reduce your energy bill by optimizing your usage
  • Increase productivity by limiting digital distractions
  • Preserve your well-being by reducing screen time
  • Access cheaper hardware through refurbishment

Some figures on potential savings:

  • Turning off your laptop at night can save you 45€ per year
  • Replacing an aging internet box with a recent model cuts electricity consumption by a factor of 2
  • Expenditure on paper and ink is reduced by an average of 30% thanks to rational printing

Private companies commit to digital sobriety

More and more companies are integrating digital sobriety into their CSR policies in order to reduce their costs, their carbon impact and to display an eco-responsible image.

Towards sustainable and inclusive digital

  • Whether you're a professional, a company or an ordinary citizen, everyone can do their part to contribute to a more responsible digital world.

  • The stakes are many :

  • Combating climate change
  • Preserve natural resources
  • Opt for responsible purchasing
  • Protect and raise awareness among young people.

By combining good individual practices, eco-design of services and proactive policies, it is possible to lay the foundations for a sustainable, ethical and inclusive digital world for future generations.

Deepen your knowledge

Want to know more about digital sobriety? Here are some additional resources:

  • Association GreenIT.fr
  • Ministère de la Transition écologique
  • Agence de l'environnement et de la maîtrise de l'énergie (ADEME)
  • Book "Sobriété numérique : 50 gestes pour réduire son impact écologique" (2019) by Frédéric Bordage
  • Report "The Information Technology & Climate Change Landscape: A Synthesis of Findings" (2019) by The Shift Project

Digital sobriety is an essential step towards a more environmentally-friendly digital future. By adopting simple practices and supporting eco-design initiatives, we can all contribute to a more responsible and sustainable digital future.

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