Environmentalists are urging people to declutter their devices to help reduce their carbon footprints.
Let’s Do It! World, an NGO that began in Estonia, claim carbon dioxide emissions from internet use are comparable to those of the airline industry.
It is organising the “first-ever global” Digital Cleanup Day on 22 April.
The clean-up is part of celebrations for Earth Day, marking its 50th year of championing environmental protection.
“People don’t often realise that in the digital world there is also pollution that influences the actual environment,” said Let’s Do It! World.
“Almost all online activities increase our carbon footprint.”
“By deleting unnecessary documents, old emails, unused apps, duplicate and blurry photos, and videos that fill the storage of the devices, we become more aware of our own dirty digital footprint and are able to better organise our digital life,” says Anneli Ohvril, one of the Digital Cleanup Day’s project leaders.
“If each British adult would abstain from sending out a ‘thank you’ e-mail, we would conserve more than 16,000 tons of CO2 per year – equal to 81,000 flights from London to Madrid.”
A report by computer security company McAfee in 2009 found that it takes the same amount of energy to deliver billions of spam e-mails as two million US households use in one day.
NGOs estimate data repositories will make up 20 per cent of the world’s energy consumption by 2025.
“This is a cleanup that anyone can do, you don’t even have to get up from your couch,” added Heidi Solba, president and head of the NGO.
“There are a predicted 3.6bn Cloud users, if each and every one of them would transfer 1GB of data to external hard drives, that would mean a total of 3.5M TBs being freed up in the data centres.”
The Let’s Do It World Network say that organising your digital workspace can have positive psychological effects, as well as an environmental impact.
“The world is in lockdown, many countries have imposed severe restrictions of movement on their citizens who have to face weeks between their house walls,” said Heidi Solba.
“I am sure they have already cleaned their possessions, now it’s time to turn attention to the digital clutter of their lives.”
Let’s Do It! World network also organised the “largest-ever clean-up action” in 2019, in which 21 million people turned out to clean 180 nations worldwide.
With many countries enforcing social distancing restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, commemorations for Earth Day have been forced online.
“Amid the recent outbreak, we encourage people to rise up but to do so safely and responsibly – in many cases, that means using our voices to drive action online rather than in person,” added Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network, in a statement.
The United Nations have also underlined the importance of the 50th Earth Day, and have stated that “the need to take climate action has remained as urgent as ever“.