Skip To Main Content

Our Digital Footprint

Our Digital Footprint
Stephanie Douglas, UWC Thailand Science and Mathematics Teacher

Have you ever wondered how much energy is being used to store and save those 50 copies of the same  picture of you and your friend in front of a smoothie stand in slightly different poses?  Where are all of our photos, files, etc.. stored and how is it powered? What is the extent of our digital footprint?

In order to understand our digital footprint, we first need to understand how electricity is measured.  Electricity uses a unit of measurement called Watts. Often you see a prefix in front of Watts such as kilo or mega; these are used for measuring larger amounts of energy;  Kilo = 1000 and mega = 1,000,000.  [1] 

Generally, kilowatts-hour are used when talking about household everyday use and this is what you see on your monthly bill. The average yearly rate of a  house in the USA is ~7,200 kilowatt-hours or 600-800 KW-hours per month. To put it into perspective, a large appliance such as a refrigerator would use between 300-400 kilowatt hours per year.  A smartphone uses about the same if not more in the same period of time.  [1] [2] 

So, where is all of our data stored?  What is “The cloud”? The information-communications-technologies (ICT) ecosystem encompasses all of our digital “toys”. There are tens of thousands of huge warehouse buildings used to store all of our data around the world. These data centres contain the information essential for all of us to go about our daily lives. [3] 

Data centres account for between 1-10% of the total energy consumption of our planet. Shockingly, this is comparable to the amount of energy used by literally everyone on earth in the year 1985. [2]

Thailand currently has over 20 data centres. Asia has over 500 data centres from ~18 different countries. The USA has over 5000.

Reducing this use of energy is a relatively easy process. Simple even! Recent research shows that if each individual on the planet cleaned out 10 junk emails right now this would immediately save 55.2 million kilowatts of power. [6] 

So imagine how much energy we could save if we all took 20 minutes once a month to go in and clean out any emails, documents and duplicate pictures that we no longer need.  

Our goal here at UWC Thailand is to have all of our secondary students and staff do a “clean up” of all of their junk mail or files they don’t need once a month in their homeroom class for 15 minutes.  We hope that at least some of our students will get into the habit of doing this regularly, so we can reduce our carbon footprint with very little effort.

For further statistics on what you can do to reduce your digital footprint please read this article.

Bibliography: here