digital sustainability

Digital Sustainability Becoming More Key in Our Society

Jane Marsh - March 23, 2020

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Digital sustainability was initially frequently associated with the corporate world. It refers to the holistic approach businesses can take to become more environmentally friendly through technology investments. Many national leaders urge business executives to move toward improved sustainability, and some countries impose penalties on companies that fall short in areas like pollution. However, it’s becoming more apparent than ever that it must be a long-term goal. Technology can help companies get closer to their aspirations. This is where digital sustainability comes into play. However, as you’ll see, digital sustainability is not just for companies. Individuals who are committed to the future of the planet can benefit from it, too

Online Portals Link Nonprofits and People Who Are Ready to Help

Several nations, including France and Denmark, require companies to submit reports about their corporate sustainability (CSR) efforts. However, lawmakers in India took things a step further. They mandated that businesses meeting a profitability threshold spend at least 2% of their three-year average net profits on CSR each year. Online platforms can aid companies in finding nonprofit causes that align with their CSR goals. For example, if a business wants to reduce its water usage over the next year, it might connect with a charity that’s already embracing eco-friendly ways to do that. Similarly, maybe you’re a concerned citizen who wants to volunteer to help the planet. In that case, the internet can serve as a jumping-off point. VolunteerMatch connects users to 120,900 different nonprofits.

Companies Are Manufacturing Greener Products

Modern society is unquestionably centered on technology. Most people are so used to getting things done with smartphones, computers and other gadgets that they can hardly imagine life otherwise. Fortunately, forward-thinking brands give consumers options for embracing the digital revolution without sacrificing sustainability. For example, Apple estimates that its products consume 70% less energy since 2008. Additionally, all its facilities run on 100% renewable energy, and the brand helps its suppliers make the switch to do the same.

The availability increase associated with sustainable technology means you can depend on it for particular things, even if you hope to live an off-grid lifestyle eventually. In that situation, you need to learn to live off the land by becoming proficient in hunting, fishing and building fires. It’s also crucial to learn to identify edible plants. Plenty of apps exist that can assist with those things, and you can even watch YouTube videos to grasp basic techniques. 

Digital sustainability is all about making smarter technological choices. People can start small, then gradually scale up. For example, a company may begin by installing energy-saving lightbulbs in its factory. It can then become even more sustainable in the coming years by installing sensors on equipment to measure resource usage and investigate how to minimize it. From a consumer point of view, you may purposefully shop for the most sustainable products and prioritize doing business with brands that aim to keep the planet’s future in mind. Think of your digital sustainability quest as a lifelong journey, not a box you can check off on a list. 

3D Printing Could Cut Shipping Emissions

Getting on board with digital sustainability often means examining current practices and assessing how to make them more eco-friendly. According to some estimates, the shipping industry could account for approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Things must change — and fast. Some manufacturers are interested in the option of using 3D printing to create spare parts on an as-needed basis.

Then, brands don’t have excess inventory in their warehouses, but they can replace components of products for customers who submit warranty claims. 3D printing typically involves sending a digital file to a printer to tell it how to function. Then, the machine makes the new product layer by layer. This process does not eliminate shipping, but it reduces it since manufacturers can get their spare parts with in-house equipment rather than depending on an outside supplier. 

Data Analytics Can Remove Some Sustainability Uncertainties

Becoming more sustainable may require making some changes. People are comfortable with what they know, which means doing things differently can be a little scary. Data analytics is an example of another technology that can support digital sustainability. It can maximize the output of solar energy.

Solar panels are extremely accessible, and types vary by size and strength. You can even make money with them over the long term by selling excess energy back to the grid. Numerous ongoing projects are relying on big data to forecast solar panel output or help people choose the best placement. Things like shaded areas, snow accumulation and leaves can all impact a solar panel’s efficiency. Data analytics can help people be more aware of those things before they finalize where to install their solar energy equipment. Compiled information about an area’s weather patterns can also be valuable as someone decides if their region gets enough sunlight to meet their energy requirements. 

Many companies use data analytics beyond solar energy to pinpoint their most wasteful processes. Then, those enterprises can figure out how they could enjoy the biggest payoffs from certain sustainable enhancements. Even though it’s not possible to predict the future with absolute precision, we now have a wealth of data that enables spotting trends and having an idea of what to expect in the coming days, months or years. Knowing what’s ahead could increase people’s confidence about moving forward with sustainable solutions. 

Digital Sustainability Offers Exciting Potential

As this overview shows, there’s no single way to see how digital sustainability could help you. The ideal starting point is to become more familiar with technologies that promote the future of the planet, then explore which ones are most appropriate for your needs and aspirations.

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About the author

Jane Marsh

Starting from an early age, Jane Marsh loved all animals and became a budding environmentalist. Now, Jane works as the Editor-in-Chief of where she covers topics related to climate policy, renewable energy, the food industry, and more.