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Rethinking digital service design could reduce their environmental impact

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Jeanne Hoffman
May 06, 2019 06:13
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Human-Computer Interaction researchers from the University of Bristol looked at how much electric energy was used to provide YouTube videos to people globally in 2016, to enable them to estimate the service's carbon footprint in that year.

Their analysis showed it was around 10Mt CO2e (Million Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) - approximately that of a city the size of Glasgow.

They also assessed the reductions that could be gained by eliminating one example of 'digital waste' - namely avoiding sending images to users who are only using YouTube to listen to audio.

While previous academic studies have identified ways in which Interaction Design could reduce the carbon footprint of digital services, this was the first to quantify the benefits of one such intervention.

"Digital services are an everyday part of our lives," said lead researcher Chris Preist, Professor of Sustainability and Computer Systems, from Bristol's Faculty of Engineering.

"But they require significant energy to deliver globally - not only in data centres, but also in networks, mobile networks and end devices - and so overall can have a big carbon footprint."

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Jeanne Hoffman
May 06, 2019 06:13
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