The average European produces ten DVDs of data per day

From emails and watching videos to the apps on our smartphones and fitness trackers, we generate approximately 1.7MB of data per person per second. At the end of the day, that results in ten DVDs of Ones and Zeros.

All those bytes are also collected, processed, and stored in data centers around the world. By 2025 there will be an estimated 180 zettabytes of data stored. Today that equals 180 billion terabytes or the equivalent of 6.8 billion years of continuous Netflix streaming. Actually too much, because research shows that 65 percent of the data generated is never used.

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This vast amount of data also creates a powerful trail, according to research from Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England. Our average data usage per year leads – per person! Emission of about 22 tons of carbon dioxide, compared to 26 flights from London to New York. Another shocking example: all the snapshots that the people of the United Kingdom take with their phones creates 805,083 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. That’s no fewer than 934,109 flights from London to the Big Apple.

“Digital technology plays and continues to play a vital role in our efforts to achieve climate neutrality,” says Professor Ian Hodgkinson. But we also need to be aware of the hidden carbon costs associated with how society and organizations use digital technology. Defining and quantifying the carbon footprint of the data is essential for future strategies to reduce the economy’s emissions.”

Accessible measurement tool

So Hodgkinson and colleagues developed Carbon scale for data (See also the video that accompanies this article), a tool to help data companies quantify the impact of their data management. The system helps determine the ideal size of the required data set, how often the data needs to be refreshed and how it can best be stored. The CO2 emissions of the different options are also calculated each time.

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“With this tool, organizations can make informed decisions to reduce their impact on the environment and still achieve their business goals,” says Professor Tom Jackson, who was involved in developing the system.

Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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