Ana González, mayor of Gijón, took advantage of the opening of the Conference on the 2030 Urban Agenda in her city to appeal against the excessive use of messaging on WhatsApp due to the excess energy consumption that this entails, and with it, the increase in the carbon footprint.
“Almost everyone has WhatsApp and belongs to WhatsApp groups. Well, let’s set a rule in WhatsApp groups and in our relationships, which is that when someone tells us ‘see you tomorrow’ or ‘see you tomorrow’, that we don’t all start to put ‘ok’, because each ‘ok’ of those supposes a carbon footprint”.
grams of CO2e
Although it may seem like an ordinary occurrence, and in the absence of knowing if that phrase came sustained in studies or not, is not without reason. Although there is no published data on the energy impact of a WhatsApp message, there is for its older brothers, emails: Ovo Energy, a British energy distribution company, said in 2019 that one mail produces 1 gram of CO2 equivalent. And they extended it with a calculation: if each of the users of an email service in the United Kingdom stopped sending an email a day, at the end of the year the equivalent of 81,000 London-Madrid flights would be saved.
Although that calculation seems excessively pessimistic once their numbers are analyzedeven splitting it in half would leave 40,000 planes a year flying between Heathrow and Barajas that we could save. Only in the case of mail not sent in the United Kingdom.
A McAfee research published by The Guardian In 2010, he reached a very similar conclusion regarding the carbon footprint: he estimated an email from spam, at 4 grams a genuine mail and at 50 grams one that included a heavy attachment. The 1 gram average seems about right.
This impact is calculated by the required time of electrical consumption of the device, that of the connection to the network, and above all, by the space occupied in serversthe heaviest actor in this cast.
We can argue about the effectiveness of the proposal or its position in the list of priorities, but we know that online communications also have an impact on the carbon footprint
Does sending an “ok” on WhatsApp have a similar impact? According to the BBCa little lower. As it also has to send tweets, messages on any platform, etc. SMS messaging, with 0.2 grams of CO2e, is the one that has the least impact, although we can write much less text over there than in an email or a WhatsApp message, which benefits it in the comparison.
In the same way that until a few years ago emissions did not matter much until they began to be regulated, or just as there began to be a certain feeling of guilt for traveling by plane, especially if the train or the car are valid alternatives (although not much blame), it is possible that in the next few years there will begin to be advocates of moderating our online behavior to avoid too much superfluous triviality.
Whether something like this will be successful or not, or whether there will begin to be a certain awareness of not using digital communications in an “abusive” way, be it on WhatsApp, Instagram or Twitter, only the passage of time will tell and how that awareness permeates the collective imagination. Another question is whether it makes more sense to directly attack other causes than the twenty “ok” in a row in a WhatsApp group, which could perhaps be punishable for other causes.