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Topic of the month

Did you know how digitalisation affects our environment?

thema des monats - Digitalisierung
© iStock/weerapatkiatdumrong

We stream films instead of buying DVDs. We write emails instead of letters and we meet in video conferences instead of travelling from A to B for an appointment. Shouldn't this save a lot of CO₂ and resources? The correct answer to this is: Yes and no! It is true that this saves greenhouse gases and resources, but not all of them. Because just because something takes place digitally doesn't mean it has no impact on the environment. 

Everything that happens online is processed by so-called data centres. Data centres store, compute and transmit data. The challenge here: Data centres need a lot of energy. In addition, manufacturing the servers installed in these data centres is itself energy-intensive. It also requires rare raw materials that cannot always be recycled. 

Such problems also apply to the production of mobile phones, laptops, tablets and most other electronic devices that we use more and more because of digitalisation. In this context, the environmental footprint of the software installed on these devices has so far often been ignored. Because how much energy our hardware in the form of mobile phones, laptops or tablets consumes also depends on the software they use. And it is also largely responsible for the fact that devices only have a limited service life. The software is therefore environmentally relevant in two respects simultaneously, although this has so far received little consideration in the development process.
The Blue Angel shows how digitalisation can be made more environmentally friendly. The eco-label has developed award criteria not only for sustainable computers, printers and mobile phones, but also for software products, data servers and even data centres. In all these product groups, the focus is on energy efficiency and the careful use of resources. Mobile phones with the Blue Angel must for instance be easily repairable and the award criteria for data centres make precise specifications on how the air conditioning of the servers, which is responsible for a large part of their energy consumption, can be made more environmentally friendly. 

Further information: 
Blue Angel for Green IT / electrical appliances  
Green Information Technology - Green IT | Federal Environment Agency
(content only available in German)