Digital Pollution: What is it?

Digital pollution includes all sources of environmental pollution produced by digital tools. It is divided into two parts: the first is related to the manufacture of any digital tool, and the second to the functioning of the Internet.

Increasingly, the internet and the digital sector are being singled out for their environmental impact. Today, some people even claim that a person who is connected is the worst polluter. Indeed, the digital sector represents significant greenhouse gas emissions. As well as various other forms of pollution and resource consumption.

At the same time, digital uses also mean better information sharing, instant communication and improved exchanges. This means less waste of paper and time. Less travel and more sharing and collaboration.

So how can we optimise our daily use of digital technology? How can we reduce digital pollution and its impact on the environment? 

While the environmental impact of digital often becomes an argument to discredit the ecological commitment of anyone who dares to have a facebook account, or even worse, a smartphone. We will see that digital players often actively promote the creation of green energy and that there are many effective solutions to reduce digital pollution.

produire électricité éolienne

Digital pollution in numbers

Digital technology contributes significantly to humanity's environmental impact. According to a study carried out in 2019 by Frédéric Bordage, a French digital expert, it would represent nearly 3.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That is the equivalent of about 116 million round-the-world car journeys!

The equipments are the main source of pollution linked to digital technology, and in particular their production. In 2019, the ranking of impact sources (in decreasing order of importance) is as follows:

  1. Equipment manufacturing ;
  2. Electricity consumption of the equipments ;
  3. Network power consumption ;
  4. Data centres' power consumption ;
  5. Manufacture of network equipments ;
  6. Manufacture of equipment hosted by IT centres (servers, etc.)

According to the Shift Project report also produced in 2019. The power consumption of digital is increasing by 9% per year. The share of electricity consumption would be due to the use, up to 55%, against 45% for the production of equipment.

However, it is important to note that digital is 2.5x less than road transport CO2 emissions, not counting vehicle or infrastructure production. It is also 3x less than the carbon impact of deforestation. It is also almost 2x less than the energy consumption of commercial buildings.

déchets électroniques pollution digitale

What are the main causes of digital pollution?

As these figures highlight, the main causes of digital pollution are both the manufacture of the equipment and the electricity consumption of the equipment and the network.

In particular, the use of resources and the extraction and processing stages of raw materials for the manufacture of electronic equipment. As well as the methods used to produce electricity.

In this regard, it is important to note that electricity is the least polluting energy since it emits neither fine particles nor CO2. However, this is only possible if it is produced from renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, today this is still far from being the case. Since the world's electricity production is still mainly based on fossil fuels.

Why choose a green web hosting?

Web hosting is known to be very energy-intensive and not very ecological. Indeed, as we have seen previously the electricity consumption of the network is among the main causes of digital pollution.

Typically, data centers have several thousand high-powered computers and servers, most of them using CPUs and hard disks all the time. This means that they generate so much heat that the supplier will usually need an air-conditioning system to keep the temperature where they are installed at a tolerable level.

The players in the web hosting industry have understood the importance of going green. Whether for economic reasons, for marketing impact or driven by real eco-responsible motivations, many of them are offering green web hosting solutions. Their commitments range from offsetting their carbon emissions to promising to be powered 100% by renewable energy. 

Others go further, such as Infomaniak, a pioneer in ecological web hosting in Europe. In particular, with the introduction of an environmental charter containing 20 commitments, such as:

  • 100% renewable energy, 
  • outside air cooling system, without air conditioning
  • low-energy servers
  • waste recycling

Here is a comparative table of different basic eco-friendly web hosting offers:


Disk Space


SSL Certificates


Energy Type






100% renewable






300% compensated






100% renewable

How can we reduce the impact of digital technology on the environment?

Green solutions are obviously quite numerous when you are a blogger, just as if you simply want to create an eco-responsible website for yourself or for your company. But what about reducing the impact of digital carbon footprint on a daily basis? In this respect, as users, we can also act to minimize these impacts.

Aim for equipment longevity

Digital equipment has environmental consequences throughout its life cycle. The production of their components requires a lot of energy, chemical treatments as well as rare metals. Always remember that the best waste is the one you don't produce! So, before you buy, always ask yourself if the purchase is really necessary. Or, is the electronic device you want to dispose of still in working order? If so, consider reselling it. There is a growing market today for reconditioned appliances. On the other hand, if it no longer works, always remember to recycle your electronic waste properly.

Do emails pollute?

The impact of sending an email depends on the weight of the attachments, its storage time on a server but also on the number of recipients. To lighten your emails think about:

  • Target recipients, clean up your mailing lists and delete attachments from a message you reply to
  • Optimize the size of the files you transmit
  • Consider using drop-off sites rather than sending as an attachment
  • Regularly clean your mailbox and unsubscribe from mailing lists that do not interest you.

Does the data storage pollute?

Data storage is increasingly being done on mail servers and on the Cloud. To optimize your storage of documents, videos, photos or music, think about:

  • Only keep what is useful
  • Store and use as much data as possible locally
  • Only store what you need on the Cloud

Lastly, note that online videos account for 60% of the global data flow and are responsible for nearly 1% of global CO2 emissions. So, to reduce their impact, consider disabling automatic playback in application settings. Give preference to downloaded music or audio streaming platforms rather than those with music clips.