Time for a digital spring clean?

17 March, 2023

Stephanie Ferguson

Reading time: 3 minutes

Every file you keep, every message you send and receive uses energy. Join us on Digital Cleanup Day, 18 March and reduce your digital trash.

Coming from a long line of collectors (or hoarders, depending on your point of view), my digital world is sort of organised, just like my veg seeds are mostly in one place. I have multiple back-up systems, just in case, and an enormous number of filed emails because you never know, they might be useful. But is it time for a digital purge?

Hannah and I have been exploring website sustainability for the past year or so and have made changes to the CREDS site over time to reduce the page load and energy usage. We’re getting there. We’ve learnt a huge amount, and our next site will be even more digitally sustainable.

What we haven’t investigated are individual digital footprints – the aforementioned email archive, smart phone contents and general digital clutter – so we’re joining Digital Cleanup DayOpens in a new tab on 18 March to see how far we can reduce our digital waste.

The website has a list of really helpful suggestions for streamlining your footprint, but for me the main points are:

  • Delete most emails. I don’t need messages from 2011, and there are more efficient ways to organise stuff that might be useful.
  • Don’t use email for conversations that would be more efficient over a messaging system (although I haven’t worked out how to delete old conversations from Teams so they’re piling up there instead…)
  • Unused or used once apps on your phone? Delete them.
  • Rationalise your filing system – you only need one copy of each file, not multiples in various places.
  • Backup your working files to a cloud or shared service.
  • Don’t forget to empty your bin or trash regularly, it is not an additional backup system.

That’s lots of deleting for me, but if we are all more considered about how much we file and where we store it, we can help to reduce global digital trash. Just remember, every file you keep on your machine, your phone, or remotely, every message you send and receive uses energy.

One point the campaign doesn’t make but is close to my heart, please don’t include images in your email signature. They exponentially increase the size of each message and make searching for attachments very tricky. Although less tricky once your inbox is decluttered…

And because curiosity got the better of me, I did a quick carbon check of the Digital Cleanup Day webpage: 86 out of 100 on EcograderOpens in a new tab. Nice work!

Banner photo credit: Steph Ferguson | Babel by Cildo Meireles at Tate Modern

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