How to make responsible tech choices while working from home(1) (en)
Our daily lives have been turned upside down with the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic on 11 March 2020. Since then, we have been navigating unknown waters, going from a strict lockdown to a mild lockdown to a gradual reopening that surfaces questions about when will be able to go back to “normal” and if that is to happen at all.
In the midst of this crisis, environmentalists have stepped back to give space to the crisis response. But now, considering that the normal we knew might not come back at all, thoughts about how to adapt the new realities to concerns for sustainability and human rights have naturally emerged. The “Black lives matter” movement is just one example of how societies are required to keep looking ahead, more importantly now, that we have been forced to change our economic status quo and to reconsider the paradigmatic beliefs it rests upon. In building back for better – towards a more sustainable and inclusive world, rather than returning to business as usual- understanding how we can leverage these disruptions for good is key.
Inspiring a green and ethical lifestyle
In an attempt to show alternatives to current consumption patterns and lifestyle choices, the Innovation Lab had already introduced its “Green Stories for Lunch” series in 2019. Through interactive and inspirational talks over lunch, the initiative aims to inspire the International Trade Centre’s employees to adopt a more ethical and green lifestyle to minimize their environmental footprint.
Thus far, sessions included a story on how to go zero waste, told by the founder of Zero Waste Switzerland Dorinda Philips, and a story on sustainable fashion, told by the Loopers, a Geneva-based initiative aiming to provide alternatives to fast fashion clothing waste.
Learning from Ecosia.org
As the COVID-19 crisis hurled ITC employees- more or less overnight- into the digital environment, the topic of the next Green Story was a no-brainer: a session on Tech and Sustainability that would zoom in on how choices made online affect the world offline. And as this story would be a virtual one- why limit it to a Geneva-based guest speaker and a Geneva-based audience? With that in mind, the initiative turned to a true veteran of sustainable technology for its next event on 15 July: Christian Kroll, founder and CEO of Ecosia.org.
Ecosia is an alternative internet search engine vowing to plant a tree for every online search. It realizes this promise by donating 80% or more of its ad revenue to reforestation projects across the world. With over 15 million active users, Ecosia has just reached the mark of 100 Million trees planted since its inception in 2009. On this coming Wednesday, Christian Kroll will share his story of setting up this remarkable project in a market that is dominated by internet giants, reflect on what should guide technology in the 21st century and offer his insights to the audience in a Q&A session.
Engaging with your digital carbon footprint
The story of Ecosia is only one of many inspiring stories of applying technology to sustainability challenges. As we have witnessed an unanticipated shift into the digital working environment, now is the time to get to know these stories by seeking out the most sustainable path in the technical world. Many of us are already aware of the ethical and environmental repercussions of using technology as smartphones, laptops and tablets continue to rely on rare metals, are emission-heavy in production and often replaced as soon as a new model enters the market.
Yet, many blind spots still exist around the digital realm. Already, the use of digital services- everything from streaming a movie to sending an email - is responsible for 2% of global emissions, a share as big as the aviation industry’s (The Guardian). If we fully want to reap the benefits of a digital economy, and turn it into a key instrument in addressing the most pressing challenges of the 21st century, we have to adopt a new, conscientious approach to how we consume digitally. That means actively engaging with our digital carbon footprint and understand that every action in the virtual realm has real, material consequences in the non-virtual world. At the beginning of this is an individual choice. From adjusting power and brightness setting over seizing to mindlessly copy colleagues in emails to selecting the most environmentally friendly streaming or search platform – a better alternative is sure to be only a mouse-click away!