We're all familiar with this notification:
"iCloud Storage Is Full. Photos, videos, and iCloud drive are no longer updating."

Ah, yes, it's Apple once again finding clever ways to extract a few dollars from us each month, just so we can store 50 more screenshots in our camera roll that we'll probably never look at again.

But have you ever stopped to consider the true nature of this data? We often overlook the fact that these digital photos seldom make their way into physical albums gathering dust on a shelf. As a result, we don't think of them as occupying 'real' space beyond our phones.

However, the reality is quite different. Let's delve into the world of 'the cloud.'

The Cloud Isn't a Single Place; It's Everywhere!

Most of us store our data in the cloud, like Apple's iCloud. According to Cloudflare, "The cloud" refers to servers accessed over the Internet, along with the software and databases running on those servers. These cloud servers are spread across data centres worldwide.

In New Zealand, Google joined Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) last year to establish local cloud computing resources in Aotearoa.

Now, What's The Environmental Impact?

Anthropologist Steven Gonzalez Monserrate, in an intriguing article on The Staggering Ecological Impacts of Computation and the Cloud, portrays the cloud as a material, ecological force. He writes, "As it continues to expand, its environmental impact increases, even as the engineers, technicians, and executives behind its infrastructures strive to balance profitability with sustainability."

Surprisingly, "The Cloud now has a greater carbon footprint than the airline industry. A single data centre can consume the equivalent electricity of 50,000 homes."

Pledge for a Greener Future

The good news is that companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook are taking action. They've pledged to transition their sites to carbon-neutral through offsetting and investments in renewable wind and solar energy. However, smaller data centres may not have this option due to financial constraints, leading many to merge with data giants to save power and costs.

Sustainability in Digital Marketing

Even our digital marketing efforts are contributing to this footprint. Forbes estimates that the digital advertising industry could exceed 1 million tons per year of CO2 emissions.

As social media and digital marketers, we must be conscious of the amount of data we store, save, and hoard. Each post, like, and share has its environmental impact. Here are 5 quick tips to make your marketing greener:

  1. Use A Carbon Calculator: You can now measure your companies footprint with a carbon calculator. Check out Good-Loop and AdGreen.
  2. Avoid "greenwashing": Consumers can see through it, and it will backfire and do you more harm than good. Be honest about what you are actually doing for the environment, and genuinely embrace environmentally friendly practices.
  3. Don’t hoard data: You know those files and screenshots that are piling up on your desktops and downloads? It’s time to clear them out. Software like CleanMyMac is a great option for removing heavy backup files – this will help you feel more organised and less cluttered too.
  4. Quality over quantity: As social media marketers, you may be racing to publish a Reel on a deadline and avoid editing it well. Or posting 5 TikTok’s instead of 1 high-value one. Always choose quality over quality and ensure each post adds real value.
  5. Spread awareness: include sustainability as a topic in your marketing. Share information with your consumers that’s relevant to your brand. The more information we share about the environment, the better chance we have of making change.

Small Things Can Make a Difference

As we become more aware of the environmental impact of digital activities, businesses must be transparent about their efforts to help. Conscious posting, focusing on quality over quantity, and delivering high-value content can lead to more engagement and better results than spammy tactics.

If you need assistance with social media and digital marketing, Matter Agency is here to help. Contact us today. 

Written by Maggie Bochat, Social & Digital Marketer at Matter.