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Weighing the Cloud: Our Digital Carbon Footprint

There is an unsaid promise of the cloud: as we move from physical to digital products and documents, our environmental impact is lighter. However, our production of digital content is exponentially increasing every day. For example, Facebook alone handles 250 million photo uploads per day. To house this growing data, we are building a vast physical infrastructure that depends on non-renewable energy resources.

This infrastructure comes in the form of data centers – factories of the Information Age. Similar to the massive structures of the Industrial Age, we are again choosing to build systems that use resources faster than this planet can provide. We have an opportunity to create this massive new infrastructure sustainably and we shouldn’t just expect it to happen. As designers, we need to create tools that allow others to demand it.

I will outline the problem space, explain the concept of digital carbon footprints, and propose solutions to move the conversation forward.

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David Bellona, Interaction Designer, Self-Employed


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