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Broadband - Does it make us greener?

The Broadband Bridge, was a report published by the Broadband Commission, UNESCO, in which they linked ICT with climate change. In a nutshell, the report states that although ICT contributes around 2.5% of total greenhouse emissions, it can also play a far greater role in the reduction of worldwide emissions.

The report discusses how there are three main areas in which broadband can make a difference with climate change. The three main points are climate adaptation, climate mitigation and transformation.

Climate mitigation is essentially the reduction of emissions in the ICT sector itself. Climate adaptation, discusses how technology can be used to help reduce the impact of climate change. However, its transformation that I’m going to discuss today, as this is the one that affects more of us personally and on a daily basis.

Transformation is the “dematerialisation […] of physical products in favour of e-products and services”. What this means to me and you is the changes we are making in our everyday life to reduce carbon emissions.

  • Online banking: One of the most obvious changes is that of online banking. It’s probably fair to say that for many of us, the use of on-line banking is more for convenience purposes than a conscious attempt at reducing carbon emissions. However, every trip we don’t make to the bank has the knock on effect of using less paper and often a trip in the car. Additionally, e-statements obviously save on paper and most banks offer this as an either/or service now.
  • Social networking: Whether you’re looking to say happy birthday, write a letter to a friend on the other side of the world, or just show off a couple of pictures you took at a music festival, the amount of paper we’re saving by utilising these sites is enormous. The days of showing people the family photo album when they come to visit are slowly disappearing in favour of uploading them to Facebook.
  • E-books: Kindle have recently reported that their e-book sales have overtaken Amazon print sales. Whilst it’s unlikely that traditional print will ever disappear, as too many book lovers want something they can hold and indeed feel and smell, the dent that e-books have made in the market is substantial.
  • Downloading music: Since the introduction of iTunes in 2003, Apple has sold somewhere in the region of 16 billion songs. That is a lot of music and a huge reduction of manufacturing costs and all of the implications that it has on the environment.
  • Office reductions: The most obvious one being that of saving a great deal of paper due to sending e-mails and working online. However, there are also online seminars that save on travel and paper and the use of VoIP, which saves travel to and from meetings.

Whilst these savings may at first seem negligible, the combined savings from people across the world will have a much greater impact on the whole. The great aspect being that most of us aren’t making these changes for the environment, but for ourselves as it makes life easier. The positive environmental effects are just a bonus which may turn out to be invaluable for our future.