Henning Ohlsson, Sustainability Director Epson Europe
Technology should make our lives easier. But in recent years it has been at the center of some problematic discussions. From the fear the pandemic sparked by using meteoric social media to sound the alarm about 5G to the ongoing fears surrounding data protection and cookies – what started with time-saving intentions has become layered and complex as it becomes more integrated into our daily lives.
But after some teething problems in what is actually an incredibly short period of time, it is becoming increasingly likely that the technological revolution could be the solution to the greatest threat of our time: climate change.
The pandemic proved to be an effective but temporary interruption to the massive amounts of CO2 we are pumping into the atmosphere. According to the scientific journal Nature“After rising steadily for decades, global carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 6.4%, or 2.3 billion tons, in 2020.” Despite the positive impact, this was still below the 7.6% predict the United Nations Environment Commission that we would have to make every year for the next ten years to meet their goals.
Using technology to achieve goals
Not only the UN, but many governments and companies have set goals to tackle climate change. These often rely on new and undiscovered technology to help us achieve them. From carbon capture techniques to machines that will rid the oceans of plastic, what these ambitious goals have done is turn down a slew of startups aiming to turn the power of technology into smart solutions for the climate emergency. What used to be focused on individual consumer needs has been innovated into tools that we as a global community can use to save ourselves from extinction.
Small changes, big impact
It’s a heartwarming landscape for tech, but what can we do on a daily basis?
Well, energy consumption is the most obvious culprit for CO2 emissions and is estimated to contribute to three quarters of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions worldwide. Fortunately, renewable energy was one of the first ports of call for technology, so switching from offices and homes to green alternatives is a good start.
But how do you find the best green alternatives, and where do you start?
The first step is to look for credible standards and labels that promote sustainability in the goods you purchase, meaning everything from office supplies to transportation and energy. Better yet, make sure your office supplier or logistics manager is aware of the latest ethical sourcing policies and, crucially, that they consider your carbon footprint throughout the company’s supply chain. It makes no sense to switch to LED office lighting if the lamps come from the other side of the world.
Rome was not built in a day and a company cannot go green overnight. Understand the value of prioritization; think about which emissions have the biggest impact – in my experience this is often building heating and cooling systems – and tackle those first. To attempt cross ventilation for example in the summer to keep your staff cool or to invest in green energy sources for mechanical ventilation.
Moving with the technological times
For businesses unable to get enough power from renewable sources, there are things you can do to maximize energy efficiency and reduce consumption. Across the EU, buildings consume 40% of total energy and are responsible for 35% of CO2 emissions. In reality, IEA analysis specifically points to the home appliances sector as an area that must meet net-zero decarbonisation if we don’t want to be at risk”a 100% increase in the frequency of extreme heat waves and a 40% increase in ecological droughts.”
So replacing obsolete electronic goods is a good start. And again, thanks to advances in technology, there are constant energy efficiency upgrades. There is one caveat, however, and that is that I recommend that your company only replace items if they need to be replaced; find new homes for old technology that can still be used. It’s also worth making sure your recycling service provider follows the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive.
Research by Tim Forman, senior research associate at the University of Cambridge, found that global switchovers to, for example, all laser and inkjet printers reduce energy emissions by up to 52.6% of the current levels.
It’s time we started making smarter decisions about the technology we use. To illuminate the expected global warming this century, it is important that we invest in heat-free, energy-saving technology that can help reduce the impact of the powerful greenhouse gases that harm our planet.
Technology and transparency
Another thing your companies can do, in addition to changing your own power supply and updating your appliances, is vote with your wallet on sustainable technology options. Supply chain transparency is an important factor in consumer buying behaviour, especially among the Gen Z and millennial audiences, and if we all invest in companies with a strong ESG rating and a genuine commitment to tackling climate change, we can other big tech companies are pressuring companies to put their weight behind the case.
We all thought the time for technology to shine was when the first iPhone came out or when Netflix started streaming box sets. But lurking in the background was an existential threat that apparently only David Attenborough saw coming. And it’s tech companies that I think will be the white knights coming to the rescue. As a company with a high impact and possible contribution to a good cause, do your part to promote the revolution: smart switch, buy smart, replace smart and keep working to be part of the solution.