Your smartphone is burning a lot of carbon


This is our weekly newsletter on all chances environmental, where we highlight trends and solutions that are moving us to a varied sustainable world. (Sign up here to get it in your inbox every Thursday.)

This week:

  • Do you separate your smartphone’s carbon footprint? You should
  • Green investing is a feel-good moneymaker
  • Wind-solar power by a hairs breadth reached a major milestone
  • Reader tips on reducing your environmental footprint

Your smartphone use is aflame a lot of carbon

Your smartphone is burning a lot of carbon

(Sanjay Kanojia/Getty Images/CBC)

We all do it — snuggle up in bed or on the sofa, or perhaps during our daily commute, and watch a video clip on our phones. We may even watch an entire movie that way.

It turns out this common, professedly innocuous act — and our internet use more generally — is leaving a lasting impact on the locale.

In a study published earlier this year, two professors at McMaster University in Hamilton looked at the carbon footprint of the dope and communications technologies industry (ICT), which includes the internet.

And it’s a Bigfoot-worthy imprint.

In the study, the ICT “universe” includes computers, phones and laptops; telecommunications houses, such as satellite dishes and routers; and, crucially, data centres, the purposefulness of the internet. (What it didn’t include is the Internet of Things, computers in jalopies and smart TVs. At the moment, that type of data use is still somewhat new, but the study’s authors say it would be figured into future studies.)

McMaster associate Prof. Lotfi Belkhir and his buddy Ahmed Elmeligi found that ICT is responsible for about 1.5 per cent of worldwide carbon emissions. As a juxtaposition, the energy sector accounts for roughly 27 per cent, while agriculture, forestry and other earth use make up 25 per cent.

The study suggests that by 2040, ICT’s carbon emissions could account for as much as 14 per cent, which is clumsily where the transportation industry is right now.

It might surprise you to know that. The verdicts surprised Belkhir, too.

Smartphones were by far the worst contributors to tech’s carbon footprint. That’s because of discrete factors, including the mining activity needed to extract the metals necessary to make our phones. For one thing, your phone requires almost 10 times as much priceless metals as a laptop or desktop computer.

Also, we just use our phones way numberless often.

Data can seem invisible to us — especially if you’re on an unlimited plan — but every email, tweet and video concludes on a server. With all the servers humming away in data centres, those superhuman buildings need to be cooled — and the emissions are through the roof.

The increasing extensiveness of smartphones is not helping. As the number of users is only likely to grow, Belkhir required we need to rethink how we power communications.

“What needs to change is the way we’re ceaseless our data centres,” he said. One of his study’s recommendations: Run those data cores exclusively on renewable energy.

Belkhir believes this is completely doable. He said solar might is getting ever cheaper, and server farms tend to be located remote urban centres, which are ideal locations for solar and wind placements.

He said consumers also have a role to play. For one thing, he contemplated we should keep our existing phones longer, which would abbreviate all that mining activity. A more immediate suggestion, however, is for us to shorten our internet use — particularly video, which eats up a ton of data.

That refer ti thinking twice before downloading and watching a movie on our phones.

Declared Belkhir, “Maybe going with friends to the movies and watching a motion picture there on the big screen is actually more environmentally friendly than each one of them surveillance it on their smartphones.”

Nicole Mortillaro

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As always, feel free to send comments to [email protected]

The learned money is in green investments

Your smartphone is burning a lot of carbon

(David Goldman/AP)

New numbers this week let slip a trend that may come as a surprise to many environmentalists: The world’s richest investors are at long last embracing their inner treehugger.

Canada’s Responsible Investment Tie (RIA) says that last year, for the first time, more than half the well-to-do invested in Canada went to sustainable investments.

By RIA’s math, that’s assorted than $2 trillion. And numbers out of the U.S. are even more eye-popping. The biennial record from the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment calculates that there’s $12 trillion US being put to bring about on investments in renewable energy and other initiatives seeking to mitigate the capacities of climate change.

That’s music to the ears of Toronto-area investment coach Tim Nash, who indicated that for too long, his clients had a hard-wired bias against green investments, assuming that anything “sustainable” was in one way inferior in the core aim of making money.

“They just assume doing is going to be worse,” Nash said this week, “against all certification to the contrary.”

For a long time, green investing was seen as something exclusive idealistic hippies were into — not ruthless, profit-hungry hedge bucks. But saving the world, it seems, is good for business, which is why the smart dough on Wall Street and Bay Street wants in.

Even the capitalists who run Canada’s allowance plan are getting in on the action. The Canada Pension Plan Investment Trustees (CPPIB) has earmarked $3 billion in the past two years to green dash projects.

For Ben Lambert, CPPIB’s interim head of sustainable investing, the intention is simple.

“Our job is to maximize returns without risk of loss for generations to come … and the inquiry shows that companies that do well on these sustainability unsettles extend their corporate life and are more likely to create value during the long term.”

Which is why these days, big investors are more conceivable to put money into an oil company that’s readying for a world without oil than they are to gobble up a pollution-belching extracting company that has no plan beyond its next quarterly results.

“It’s beside doing the right thing and generating returns,” Lambert said. “It’s a win-win employment.”

Pete Evans

The Big Picture: Worldwide solar and wind power

In August, check out firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that the combined introduced capacity of solar and wind power globally had surpassed one terawatt, or 1,000 gigawatts. (That’s about the total power capacity of the U.S.) It took about two decades to get here, but Bloomberg NEF gauges it will only take until the middle of 2023 for this build to double — and that installing the second terawatt will cost 46 per cent tiny than the first.

Your smartphone is burning a lot of carbon

You’re doing your part

Your smartphone is burning a lot of carbon

(David McNew/Getty Materializations)

In our last newsletter, we asked you to share some of your personal leads in reducing your carbon footprint. And you kindly obliged.

Here are some of your models. We will continue to publish other reader tips.

Claudette Preece of Courtenay, B.C., forgave:

“We have had a heat pump for 16 years and replaced it last winter with a model that require withstand minus–20 temperatures.

“We installed solar panels down three years ago. Thirty-six of them. We got rid of our hot water heaters and installed a gas-fired hot liberally on-demand system. We have gone from our 14-year-old gas-driven car to a Mitsubishi PHEV. Need one that did more mileage on battery but the waiting list was eight months. This does reasonably mileage on battery to do all my errands and shopping trips. On long trips, if the appliance kicks in, it is to recharge the battery, not to run the engine. Since purchasing it May 1st, we have told it up with gas about five times, and on none of those occasions was it totally empty.”

One reader, who wished to remain anonymous, had a raft of good iotas, including:

  • Using reusable grocery bags, and keeping them in your boot so you never forget them!”

  • Carrying a reusable water bottle there at all times, saying there is no need for bottled water, because “town tap water is safe and delicious.”

  • She has LED lightbulbs and low-flow showerheads installed at almshouse.

  • She also does clothes swaps, in which she and friends get together and the Board gently used clothing.

She also made a couple of bigger points:

“The 3 Rs are authentic, and “reduce” is so important. Shop less. Bring less stuff into your quarters.”


I get out in nature as often as I can, as someone who works behind a desk in an office, to marvel at its beauty and appreciate it, and improve my physical and mental health.Knowing sundry about the environment and loving all of its wonderful qualities helps you understand why it sine qua non be preserved and protected.

Amen to that.

Finally, Chélie Elsom of Salmon Arm, B.C., wrote in to differentiate us that she has been so “passionate about plastic pollution” that she started an online implore.

Petition 1834, which is sponsored by Green Party MP Elizabeth May and slated to be tabled in the Domicile of Commons in January 2019, calls for a “National Plastic Strategy.” That tabulates a ban on “the manufacturing, distribution and use of all plastics that cannot be recycled” and a “Zero Meretricious Waste Canada” by 2030, where all plastic packaging is 100 per cent recyclable, reusable or compostable.

Postpone in touch!

Are there issues you’d like us to cover? Questions you want solutioned? Do you just want to share a kind word? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at [email protected]

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Journalist: Andre Mayer | Logo design: Sködt McNalty

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