Digital Sustainability Alliance
Information, Innovation and Action
The Digital Sustainability Alliance is the leading voice for innovative, sustainable technology practices and solutions that address the environmental impact of storing and computing digital data.
Computing and digital activities are impacting the environment, but to what extent?
Digital data and computation are exploding at an unsustainable rate – both logistically and environmentally. The carbon emissions associated with computing today are already more than that of the global airline industry. The rapid growth of computing and data storage, if not tempered by more sustainable practices and greener technology, could easily outstrip carbon intensive industries such as cement and transportation.
AI and Other New Technologies Will Require More and More Energy
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that data centers, cloud computing and transmission activity use up to 3% of global electricity consumption. By 2030, the most optimistic estimates say electricity use for global computing could double, and the most pessimistic say it could increase 10-fold. We live in a world in which almost a billion people don’t have access to electricity and with electricity generation comprising 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Data is on the Rise – We are Talking Zettabytes!
The size, complexity, and exponential growth of digital data are some of the key factors driving energy use. In 2021, International Data Corporation (IDC) estimated the world had roughly 80 zettabytes of digital data–much of it redundant, superfluous copies of the same data–and could quadruple by 2025. That growth rate, with no end in sight, is not sustainable logistically nor environmentally with legacy practices of storing and computing digital data.
Simply building more data centers to keep up with demand is not the answer. Indeed, it’s a major contributing factor to the problem. Creating each new data center triggers an increase in mining of precious minerals (done, in part, by forced and/or child labor) and the manufacturing and transportation of new hardware, significantly adding to the impact of data storage on the environment.
In a world that benefits tremendously from leveraging digital data—improved healthcare, velocity in scientific discovery, efficiencies in automation, public safety, greater knowledge transfer, AI, etc.—the aim is not to curb these data-driven advancements. Rather, the solution is to foster game-changing innovation and to become better stewards of the precious, finite resources we have.
The greenest data center is the one that doesn’t have to be built.
Can You Actually Make a Difference?
The answer is yes – and we are here to help. We understand that digital sustainability can be a challenging and rapidly changing space. That’s why we formed the Digital Sustainability Alliance—a group of industry experts coming together to help you stay up to date with the latest information and innovative solutions to meet your digital sustainability goals. This allows you to embrace new technologies and still make the world a cleaner place.
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