how to put technology and innovation at the service of the environment and ecology?
If the question seems simple in appearance, its implementation is not always so obvious. Yet, on a daily basis, at work and in your private life, it is possible to put technology at the service of better protection of the planet. Here’s how to do it in 5 tips.
1 – Do not believe that technology is always green
When we think about the relationship between technology and ecology, we tend to see only the positive: how the internet can reduce the use of paper, how technology can produce renewable energy, how we can invent technologies to store Carbon … We end up saying that technical progress is almost always beneficial for the environment. But this is not true!
In fact, very often, technology has very significant impacts on the ecosystem. For example, the Internet, which is often seen as a green technology because it is dematerialized (no paper, less transport) is in fact extremely polluting. The environmental impact of the internet is between 2% and 7% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions, more than all of the world’s aviation. It is also a large consumption of metals, non-renewable resources, and other materials. The fault in the manufacture of equipment (computers, servers) and the energy needed for data centers. Another example: electronic reading lights. They are often thought to be green because they avoid printing books (and thus cutting trees), but in reality, they often pollute more than paper books. As for renewable energies, if they are indeed very useful for the ecological transition, they also have their share of environmental impacts
We must be aware that most technologies, even if we say “green” are not always ecological. Sometimes their impact is even considerably higher than a low technology alternative. It is not because a company pulls out an electric taxi cab, a revolutionary system for storing carbon or a solar charger that it is truly ecological. It is necessary to look at the rate of energy return, to compare the consumption of materials, and it is generally more complicated than one thinks it. So before you turn to a technological solution for ecological reasons, find out: this is not necessarily the case! This is important because it allows relativizing a paradigm that is sometimes very damaging for the environment.
2 – Learn the right things to use technology in a green way
Once we have realized this, the second step is to learn the actions that can precisely limit the environmental impact of the technology. To take the example of the Internet: it is not because the Internet is very polluting that it is necessary to do without using it, it is necessary on the contrary to learn how to use it correctly to limit pollution. Thus, studies show that the most energy-consuming on global Internet networks are streaming video. Limiting streaming viewing or adapting image quality can, therefore, be ways to limit the environmental impact of the Internet. There are also many other actions to limit our data consumption, whether on computer or mobile: navigate on eco-designed sites, use eco-designed apps or software …
Same thing for the use of your mailbox or your computer: all these technologies can be used in an optimal way to reduce their energy consumption, preserve their life, and thus limit their impact on the environment. For example, you can adopt the eco-gestures of the green it. Or, eco-friendly digital gestures to reduce your ecological impact.
3 – Use technology to measure and optimize
However, technology can be useful when it makes it possible to measure and otherwise optimize data that is difficult to understand. There are many examples: some companies use big data and artificial intelligence to measure and predict pollution peaks and thus fight against air pollution by adapting traffic conditions for example. Others use data management enabled by new technologies to streamline road traffic, anticipate and better predict the movement of companies’ fleets of vehicles to reduce CO2 emissions. There are dozens of ways to use big data to make the business more sustainable.
And it is also possible at the individual level. For example, there are now digital systems that can measure energy consumption in homes to optimize and adapt: connected thermostats, home automation, connected electricity meters … All this can prevent a number of wastes, using technology and data to identify and prevent them. Provided of course that these technologies themselves are optimized not to consume too much energy and resources.
4 – Putting new forms of communication at the service of the environment
Another way of putting technology at the service of the environment is to use the means of communication it offers to protect nature.
From now on, many initiatives are based on the new communication technologies for this: IFREMER, for example, has launched an app that allows citizens to make testimonials on micro-algae blooms. This application allows everyone to invest in the protection of the coast. Around the world, there are collaborative and participative programs that use online networks to quantify and evaluate environmental changes: the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) or Vigie-Nature of the Natural History Museum for Animal Biodiversity, Tela Botanica for plants. More and more, these features are expected to develop around the world to help scientists better understand the climate, nature, biodiversity … There are also mobile applications that provide a better understanding of the state of the environment around us: Quality River which allows knowing in real-time the situation of the French rivers, or INPN Species which allows exploring the biodiversity in the territories…
5 – Choosing innovation (high-tech or low tech) to serve the planet
Most often, the best way to do ecology is to avoid buying high tech items. But sometimes technology, digital, innovation also, despite everything, improve our modes of production and consumption. As a consumer, we have a role to play in choosing technologies that are based on an ecological goal. There are some everywhere! Whether choosing a renewable energy supplier, an eco-designed phone, micro-irrigations systems for its vegetable garden, or eco-driving apps, we can all choose more ecological products, most often thanks to techniques like eco-design.
It should not be forgotten that there are low-tech innovations that greatly improve our environmental impact. This is the case, for example, in the house, a day well systems or even natural insulating materials that allow better lighting and better heat without spending energy. Basically, you have to revisit your vision of technological innovation if you want to be green. Do not choose a product just because it is innovative or technological, but only if its technology allows real savings in energy and resources. Of course, it is not inevitably obvious to make the process of informing yourself at this point, but if you really want to make a gesture for ecology, it is essential!