Eco UNESCO project by Millstreet Community School TY students

Let us introduce ourselves, our names are Molly Morley, Katie Morley and Amy Hickey and we are Transition Year students here in Millstreet Community School. As a part of our TY year, we got the opportunity to enter an Environmental Competition called Eco UNESCO and the title of our Project is “Did You Ever Think How Much a Thumbs Up Costs?”. When school closed in March, due to the global pandemic we were forced attend school virtually over zoom and emails and this got us thinking about the vast number of e-mails sent every day, which led us to explore if the online world is really free.

Ways to save our environment have been very topical recently and we are led to believe that using electric cars will reduce our carbon emissions dramatically. But, did you ever think that sending one less email could do the same thing? For most of us the answer is no because we never think of it unless it is money out of our pockets, we are led to believe that the digital world is free while in fact, it has an environmental cost. If sending an e-mail cost us physical money, then perhaps we would be a lot more conscious and conservative in what we send. For example, our age group could send at least a hundred snaps a day most consisting of either one word or an emoji. If we had to pay, say five cents for each one, we would be a lot more careful.  From a survey we did 62% of people agreed or strongly agreed that the number of emails they send and receive has dramatically increased due to the global pandemic.

From background research we found The Guardian newspaper told us that in a study done last year, if every person in the UK sent one less email, it could cut the carbon output by more than 16,000 tonnes each year. This amount of carbon is equivalent to 80,000 people or 444 plane loads flying from London to Madrid. We also discovered that streaming Netflix for 30 minutes is the equivalent to driving half a mile in your car in terms of Co2 emissions.  If we don’t reduce our online interactions, purely renewable energy isn’t enough to power these centres. If we each commit to making changes to our online habits like if we cut down on the amount of emojis we send, we are contributing to putting a stop to global warming by a split-second decision. We are the answer to this problem. We are the reason these centres are running and emitting carbon dioxide into our atmosphere.

We conclude that the digital world is a substantial contributor to our environmental problem having more carbon emissions than the aviation industry. However, we are completely responsible for them and even though we can’t see or smell these emissions like we might from a car – they are there!  If we each reduced these unnecessary social interactions by even three a day, the amount of work to be done in processing and storing would be greatly reduced thus using less energy and saving the environment. So, the next time you plan on sending a smiley face or a thumbs up as a superfluous answer, ask yourself the question, do I need to!


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