Four out of five Germans help protect climate in their everyday digital lives

81 percent of Germans are mindful of using less energy and resources in their everyday digital lives. Many avoid electronic waste and no longer use printouts.

Virtuelle Konferenz via Laptop in der Nähe einer Grünpflanze

Digitization can help reduce CO2 emissions. (c) Unsplash / Siegmund

However, most Germans know very little about the CO2 emissions caused by their online activities and want more transparency from device manufacturers and internet service providers. Only one in ten trust German and international policymakers to reduce CO2 emissions. These are the results of a recent survey commissioned by the e-mail providers WEB.DE and GMX.

More than half of respondents (57%) say they use electronic devices for as long as possible. Almost every second respondent has stopped printing out e-mails and documents in order to save paper, and 45 percent are careful to switch off electronic devices completely rather than leaving them on standby.

Germans are also saving energy with their smartphones: 42 percent of them delete unnecessary apps in order to reduce the energy needed for updates. Very few, however, are willing to change their TV viewing habits: not even one in six (15%) would watch Netflix or YouTube videos on their smartphone or tablet rather than on TV – which has significantly higher power consumption.

Three quarters lack necessary guidance to save CO2

By contrast, 61 percent of Germans do not yet pay much attention to CO2 emissions when choosing online stores or service providers. Only about a third of respondents rarely (15%) or occasionally (13%) pay attention to whether providers use green electricity to run their data centers or offer CO2-neutral shipping. One reason for this ignorance is that almost three quarters (73%) say they have no idea how much CO2 is emitted when they use technical devices or the internet.

“In view of the climate crisis, it is important to look at the net effect of digitization. On the one hand, digitization offers huge potential for saving CO2, for example through video conferencing instead of business trips and the digital delivery of mail or advertising. On the other hand, we need to make sure that the amount of CO2 caused by digitization is as low as possible. The survey figures do demonstrate, however, that users are more than willing to adapt their behavior if the necessary transparency is provided,” says Jan Oetjen, CEO of the e-mail providers WEB.DE and GMX.

High level of acceptance for digital letters and brochures

More than half of all respondents regard the reduction of letter mail as a particularly obvious environmental benefit of digitization: services that digitize the contents of letters, postcards or brochures and deliver them online appeal to 65 percent of Germans. This would significantly reduce the CO2 emissions caused by paper production, printing, and delivery of letter mail. More than a quarter of all respondents (27%) would definitely use such a service and 38 percent would consider doing so. One in four (24%) say they already read newspapers, magazines, and journals online whenever possible to save CO2.

IT experts, Greenpeace, Fridays for Future and AI are all regarded as more effective than politicians

Asked who they thought could develop sensible measures to reduce CO2 emissions caused by internet usage, almost a third (31%) put their trust in IT experts from the business world. Around a quarter (23%) expect a solution from organizations such as Greenpeace or Fridays for Future, and 18 percent would entrust the task to artificial intelligence. Politicians are at the bottom of the list – whether at European (11%), international (10%), or national (8%) level.

Majority in favor of mandatory updates and CO2 seals

But which measures are most likely to reduce CO2 emissions from internet usage and technical devices? A majority (52%) is in favor of a legal obligation for manufacturers, who should offer software updates for longer than at present in order to extend the useful life of devices. More than a third (35%) of respondents are in favor of a CO2 seal for energy-saving technical devices such as laptops, PCs, or smartphones. Thirty-one percent would like to see more transparency with regard to the CO2 footprint of internet services – making it possible to see how much CO2 is generated during use. By contrast, barely one in ten (8%) would support a CO2 tax on internet usage.

You can find the detailed survey results in our presentation here (external link to SlideShare).

Radio and podcast editors can download sound bites on the topic, including transcripts, in the audio resources section.

Article link GMXArticle link WEB.DE

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