Smart Internet Lab Seminar: Digital Technology: Environmental Saint or Sinner?

23 June 2021, 11.00 AM - 23 June 2021, 12.00 PM


Speaker: Dr Chris Preist

Talk Title: Digital Technology: Environmental Saint or Sinner?


Digital technology is responsible for substantial environmental impacts globally. It has roughly the same carbon footprint as aviation, and is one of the most widespread sources of hazardous substances in waste streams. Furthermore, its emissions are growing currently. However, it has also been argued that digital technology can play a key role in the transition to a low carbon society. Progressive IT companies are making significant efforts to reduce the environmental impact of their activities, and searching for new ways of supporting lower impact ways of living. 

 In this talk, I will look at the big picture and arguments from both sides. I will also present more detail on how to understand and mitigate the environmental impacts of a digital service such as a website, google search, facebook, youtube or BBC iPlayer. Where in the system are the ‘hotspots’ and what can we do to tackle them?

What are the longer term trends in such patterns? What can service designers - both architectural and interaction designers - do to mitigate these effects?

We will also have a discussion regarding the environmental impact of network technologies and approaches to mitigate this, particularly mobile technologies.


Dr Chris Preist is Professor in Sustainability and Computer Systems at the University of Bristol, and Academic Sustainability Lead. He leads a team of researchers who combine the disciplines of Industrial Ecology and Computer Science to understand the environmental impacts of digital services; the methodology and results of their research are now widely used – including by such organisations as the International Energy Agency, and by Netflix and Sky as part of their Net Zero strategies.

Contact information

Please contact Rebecca Layland, Smart Internet Lab Project Coordinator - for more information about this talk

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