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Sustainable IT: how you can help reduce tech’s impact on the planet (Sponsored)

Across Europe, we are seeing a wave of green innovation and attempts to make our society as a whole more sustainable and more planet-friendly. At the same time, though, our society is going increasingly digital – and this is responsible for a hefty amount of greenhouse gases. Scaleway, a European cloud provider, is stepping up its efforts to reduce environmental impacts and shared some insights into how startups can leverage Green IT to do the same. 

Did you know that the digital sector currently accounts for about 3.7% of global greenhouse gases (GHGs)? Or what about the fact that the sector is responsible for 10% of global electricity consumption? 

While the world goes digital, we are also seeing increased attention to going sustainable, to going green – but just how can we balance these movements? The pace of digital transformation is speeding up and tech is now an integral part of everyday life with new innovations constantly being developed and evolved. If nothing changes soon, the impact of digital tech on the environment is only set to worsen. 

For example, GPT-3, the AI behind ChatGPT, one of the newest kids on the tech block has already used enough energy to power nearly 100k EU households for a day. Or looking at the crypto space, we can find that bitcoin mining uses as much energy as a medium-sized European country like Denmark. It’s also reported that data centres use 1-2% of the world’s electricity. 

How did we get here?

Technology is an amazing thing. Some of Europe’s brightest minds are using tech to make our lives easier, enhance health and medical outcomes, to change our diets, to make us more connected, and also to push forward the green agenda. But, clearly, its development has some negative consequences  – and we need to be aware of that. 

As tech development escalates, so does the amount of electricity and power we use. It’s set out in Moore’s Law that processors’ power doubles every two years, and, as illustrated by Jevon’s paradox, the more power we have, the more we tend to use it. So, we do things like make web pages with 146 times more code than they had in 1995, which means they hog resources without necessarily being 146 times better. 

There’s also the waste associated with tech gadgets – from both a habit to toss out old tech rather than repairing it and the manufacturing impact. It’s thought that nearly 80% of a phone’s environmental impact comes from manufacturing, not its daily use (recharging etc), for example. 

What can we do?

Don’t panic! The situation isn’t entirely doom and gloom. 

The digital sector and tech development clearly have some problems to reflect on, however, it is true that tech innovations are bringing about positive climate impacts – and we should celebrate that too. 

One such example, that is being pioneered by Scaleway, is the rise of Green IT. 

Sustainable IT: The benefits of the Cloud 

Using the Cloud for data storage is one of the ways that businesses, startups and technologists can mitigate their environmental impact. It’s way more efficient than managing data on-premises, and providers, like Scaleway, are actively working on decreasing their impact. 

Scaleway’s DC5 data centre, for example, uses 30-40% less energy, and 90% less water, than standard data centres. Furthermore, the latest cloud tech, like Serverless, only consumes energy when it’s being used, which saves resources. 

Scaleway: Pioneering Sustainable IT

Scaleway has stepped up its plans to reduce environmental impact, in line with its parent company, Iliad Group’s objective to reach carbon zero by 2050.

For the digital market, environmental responsibility needs to focus on mutually dependent pillars: the supply and intrinsic energy efficiency of the data centre, and water usage and preservation. 

Scaleway’s strategy means that startups and businesses using their cloud service can rest assured they are not contributing to a growing environmental problem, but rather, helping to minimise it. 

Let’s take a look:

  • Rather than storing data on-premise, where service may only be used to about 40% of its capacity, a cloud provider ensures server capacity is optimised. Storage is used by multiple clients within the same space. This way, minimum space and energy is wasted
  • Scaleway uses 100% renewable energy – and that’s a massive way to reduce impact. They’ve been doing it since 2017 so really are a pioneer in this regard.
  • Air conditioning, the main way data centres are cooled, can account for 40% of their energy consumption. Scaleway uses a different approach – using fresh air from outside, aka free cooling. Good for the planet and good for the electricity bills.
    • DC5 is one of Europe’s more sustainable data centres as it uses free cooling during most of the year. In summer, it uses a unique process called adiabatic cooling, meaning no A/C is ever needed – that’s 30-40% less energy and 90% less water used.
  • Going circular is the next link in the chain. Scaleway has invested in a lab which recycles as much hardware as possible. It means that 80% of servers’ components are reused -what isn’t used is given to local companies that employ underprivileged youth to reuse the components – and servers can be used for up to 10 years thanks to regeneration – pretty impressive given the average is 3-4 years. 

Impressed by Scaleway’s Sustainable IT approach? Why not check out their cloud offering for startups here and see how you can start a new, greener year?

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Patricia Allen
Patricia Allen
is the Head of Content at EU-Startups. With a background in politics, Patricia has a real passion for how shared ideas across communities and cultures can bring new initiatives and innovations for the future. She spends her time bringing you the latest news and updates of startups across Europe, and curating our social media.

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