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#OnlyOneEarth - The Impact of Tech On The Environment

Coti Besozzi
Coti Besozzi
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raw - #OnlyOneEarth

In the universe are billions of galaxies, In our galaxy are billions of planets, But there is #OnlyOneEarth. Let’s take care of it.

The IT industry plays a major role in generating a greener and more sustainable future. In 2021 Data Centers alone accounted for between 1.1% and 1.5% of worldwide electricity consumption; now in 2022, and with all the advancements and development in Green Energy generation, you’d think that we’d be in a lower percentage. But, you guessed right! We are not. In the next post, I’ll let you in on why and what’s being done to reverse that situation.

The (un)usual suspects of technology’s impact on the environment

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Did you know Data Centers consume more energy than entire countries? For those of you who, like me, are non-technical, and need a little bit more info to actually get what we are talking about, Data Centers are huge facilities that store computing infrastructure. Kind of what you’d imagine in a Matrix movie, but uglier.

I’m guessing this is what you are picturing:

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And this is what it actually looks like:

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Not at all cool, huh?

And these buildings exist so that you can scroll through your Tik-Tok or Instagram home smoothly, (actually they do a little bit more than that, but we are trying to keep it casual).

Anyways, our point here is that, even if you’d think that working in the IT industry is as eco-friendly as it gets, it’s definitely not.

In fact, just to write the blog post you’re reading now, not only did it use an entire country’s energy, but also, a whole lot of carbon was emitted. The carbon footprint is the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by me, you, us, the bus (or whatever you’d like to measure) expressed as Carbon Dioxide Equivalent.

What does that even mean? That every time you send an email, you like a post, or just upload a story to your ‘gram, carbon is emitted. Every year, 1.6 billion annual tons of greenhouse gas are emitted because of the internet alone.

1.6 billion tons = 1 million bulls

And just to get you a further idea, 1 million (people, not bulls) it’s like the entire population of Amsterdam.

Fighting back — Carbon Credits & more

On the bright side, fighting climate change became a whole industry; from carbon credits tokens to waste to energy, our techy industry is fighting right back. Carbon credits tokens are the new cool kid in town, bringing blockchain a twist, with the opportunity to close the gap between crypto emissions today and a net-zero emissions industry. BTW, a carbon credit is a kind of permit that represents 1 ton of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere.

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Consumers are demanding that their favorite brands act on climate change. The tokenization of carbon credits allows users to fight Co2 emissions in an easy and edgy way in a hot market.

Happily, tokens of carbon credits are not the only thing emerging in sustainable tech, as we said before: there's a whole industry rising around climate change. Probably you have also heard of e-waste, which is, as the word suggests, electronic waste.

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E-waste hit its record in 2019 when 53.6 million metric tonnes were generated worldwide. That number only gets crazier when we think that the value of raw materials in 2019 e-waste is $57 billion US dollars. Comparingly, Uruguay’s GDP is 53.63 US billion right now.

But, even though those numbers can be a little bit scary, different strategies are taking place to reduce trash. Namely, waste to energy.

CopenHill: waste-to-energy plant by Bjarke Ingels Group

CopenHill: waste-to-energy plant by Bjarke Ingels Group

These facilities ensure the process of generating energy in the form of electricity and/or heat from the primary treatment of waste. But in order to get that done, it takes a few steps to get from this:

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To this:

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One of the most important steps in this whole process is the sorting of the waste, that way, what’s actually recyclable (like plastics, glass, metals) can be sorted out, and what is not, continues in the process.

And that’s when IT comes in: AI and machine vision-based technology can sort the recyclables from what’s going to continue the process of waste-to-energy; Artificial Intelligence is transforming waste management, while human workers can sort between 30 and 40 recyclables per minute, AI-powered machines can handle up to 160.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_TBFRnzIiw

Closing thoughts & fun facts

Bottom line, even though we are bringing up some uncomfortable topics and harsh truths, we are also super excited about sustainability tech. A growing and flourishing niche that we cant’ wait to see what it might bring up next.

If you got to this point, first: good for you! Second, here are 5 fun (and happy) facts about sustainability:

EcologyCarbon CreditsE-waste

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