Digital Cleanup and Saving the Environment

Have you ever heard of “digital waste”? It’s similar to the junk you have in your room or home, except this one is digital. Did you know the digital wastes that are not appropriately cleaned up and left stored in your devices or cloud can contribute to the carbon footprint in the environment?

Since the internet was born on January 1st 1983, we have seen how quickly and vastly the internet grew in different households around the world. From dial-up to 5G, more people in the world are able to access the internet, especially with the abundance of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and PCs available. In Malaysia alone, 88.7% of Malaysians make use of the Internet in 2020. This totals up to about 28.7 million people. According to the Malaysian Communications And Multimedia Commission (MCMC), the top 3 devices used to browse the internet are Smartphones (98.7%), Laptops/ Netbooks/ Notebooks (37.9%) and PCs/ Desktops (16.2%). Source

Malaysia Internet User 2020

So where does the digital waste come from?

When you browse the internet for hours on end; when you send or receive e-mails and keep them in threads; when you store gigabytes of photos and videos in your gadgets; when you purchase cloud storage but did not use them; when you keep on streaming your music, movies and gamings — these are the digital waste. The things that you do online are stored in servers and the backups of servers and these servers consume large amounts of electricity to keep them running.

Electricity is not only used to keep the servers running or to send messages from servers to your gadgets. Those giant servers need to cool too and more energy is required to keep their temperature low.

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

As an individual, you might think that you only use a small amount of energy for your online activities. You are right, but multiply that with 28.7 million, it becomes a significant amount. You should then multiply that amount by the number of global online users. Did you know that in a year, the internet and its supporting systems produce 900 million tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the air? According to statista.com, the number of internet users globally would be around 5.3 billion people by the year 2023 in comparison to 4.5 billion people in 2020. Imagine how much CO2 and methane gases would be released into the atmosphere by that year?

Find more statistics at Statista
Now how can we help save the environment and the Earth we live in?

According to scientists, global warming is real and there’s no way we can stop it. However, we can certainly slow it down so that our children and our children’s children can live on a safe, environmentally healthy planet that can still sustain for another hundred years. But, the key take is that slowing down global warming should start now. And we can do that by keeping the Earth clean physically and also by cleaning and “un-burdening” the digital world.

So what can you do?

  • Clean up your gadgets (smartphones/ tablets/ laptops/ PCs)

Be honest. How many of those apps on your phone that you use regularly? We tend to download apps when we need them but then leave them in our smartphones for months without using them anymore. Yet, these apps take up space in our smartphones, use up data for updates and some keep running in the background and depleting our phone batteries unnecessarily. Delete them.

Review your photos and videos. I know, I do this too. I would take 100 photos for that 1 great shot and once I’m done, I leave the photos or videos in my phone for ages, Delete blurry, duplicate, or backup photos and videos. Free up that valuable storage or transfer the important photos and videos to an external hard disk instead.

Check your email and see when is the date of your first e-mail. Archive old important e-mails or if they’re unnecessary, just delete them. Try to refrain from sending redundant e-mails like a two-word “thank you” or a one-word “ok” in an e-mail thread, especially if they are work-related. Only send e-mails that are important and after half a decade, delete those e-mails so there would be space for new ones. Also, unsubscribe from newsletters that are no longer relevant to you.

  • Start small, start slow and then grow

Reduce unimportant online hours slowly. If you’re looking for particular news online, search for that and leave after you found what you’re looking for. Social media hours should be cut down and spend more real-life hours with friends and family members. If you love to stream movies, music, or gaming, try to reduce the time on these platforms too. Go to the kitchen, make a cup of coffee or get out and smell the rain. These small steps would not only help save the environment in the long run, but they can also help reduce stress, eye strains and mind-block too.

The Embassy of Malaysia supports the initiative of saving the planet and keeping it clean by forming a culture of cleanliness during ‘World Cleanup Day’ on 18th September 2021. Let’s together join hands globally and also support the Global Digital Cleanup Day 2022 that runs from 1st October 2021 until 20th March 2022. Together, we can reduce our carbon footprint and greenhouse gases. Together, we can slow down global warming and make our world safe for the animals and our future generations. Together, we can do this!


Aliza M. is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Aliza M.
Author: Aliza M.

Traveller, Dreamer, Realist. Someone who can't wait to travel again.