We organised our paperwork, cleaned all cupboards until they sparkled and Marie Kondoed our wardrobes... We should be patting ourselves on the back that we have achieved a rather decluttered, minimalist lifestyle; but there is a very critical area everyone always seems to forget: our digital environment.
With the average adult spending close to 11 hours looking at a screen each day and checking their phone every 10 minutes, it is safe to say that when it comes to decluttering, our digital world is just as important as our physical space. Let’s not forget how energy-consuming (in the literal, and metaphorical sense) all our technological devices are - especially since we never seem to go offline these days.
Data might seem invisible to us but every email we send or receive, Instagram photo we post or tweet we make remain on giant heated servers somewhere in the world, such as in Langfang, China or Nevada, USA, who are both carrying two of the biggest data centres globally. Given all the buzzing servers in those huge data centres, the giant buildings which they are in need to be cooled off, and the emissions generated from doing so are quite frankly staggering. Let’s give your digital life an e-clean so that you too can, from now on, start enjoying more productivity and less stressful distractions in life, while also cutting down on your (digital) carbon footprint. Here are our 5 helpful tips for a digital declutter:
1. Make Your Inbox Zero Waste
Each newsletter sent to your inbox generates approximately 10 grams of CO₂ and only 10% of newsletter emails are ever opened. In other words, cleaning your inbox regularly will not only make your digital experience more Zen-like but will also directly reduce your carbon footprint. Firstly, unsubscribe from all the email lists that don’t inspire or bring value to you (you will be surprised by how many there are!). Essentially, those are the ones accountable for your overflooded email inbox. Secondly, regularly delete old emails. There are lots of free online tools and even apps that can help you towards a cleaner inbox such as Cleanfox, they even estimate the carbon emissions you saved by doing so when using their service!
If you are on the journey of consuming less, a great way to make this happen is to unsubscribe from any brand that is day after day flooding your inbox with offers and discounts. It seems like a small effort, but it does make a huge difference because, without a 20% discount, things you do not need are simply just not that attractive.
2. Only Let The Good Stuff In
It is as important to unsubscribe from the newsletters that always seem to remain unread, as it is essential to subscribe to those that will make your inbox a joy, rather than a source of stress or pressure. At BLANC, we think that some newsletters are simply a must when it comes to letting the good vibes in:
1. For the eco-conscious: Pebble Magazine
2. For anyone needing some extra positivity: Positive news
3. For the professional fashionista: Business of Fashion
4. For the zero waste foodies: OLIO: Waste Weekly (to receive emails you need to have an account on OLIO, which is great since this could be a fabulous start to your zero waste journey!)
Simply pick and choose - there is a newsletter for everyone, often even more than one and hopefully, you found a new favourite here. But because it actually does have an environmental impact, you should only receive the ones that truly excite you. So that you can drink your morning coffee to an inbox synonymous with a flood of inspiration and positivity while reducing your carbon footprint!
3. Organise Your Desktop
Anyone’s desktop can, at times, look like a digital explosion with random documents, irrelevant screenshots and old pictures - it seems that you can find just about anything on there. This always makes it harder to spot the applications and files on your desktop that you actually do need to use on a regular basis. Here you need to be a bit relentless and drag as many of them as you possibly can to the bin, even the might-need-for-future-use ones!
For all the remaining files it is important to create your own little folder hierarchy. Make sub-folders for each set and make sure to name them clearly and concisely. To easily find your way through the hierarchy, use colours according to the level of importance: bold colours, like red, to express urgency, and a less bright colour, like grey, to signify the opposite. Digital clutter slows down your computer over time and leaves you with little space to store your files and personal data, which will inevitably lead you to buy more storage space - costly and often unnecessary! This is why a routine e-clean up can also improve your computer performance, as well as your carbon footprint.
4. Have a Social Media Clean-up
Somehow maniacally updating feeds and double-tapping our screens have become a normal everyday habit for most of us and we spend on average almost 16 hours of scrolling per week. All this while more and more studies confirm the negative mental health impacts of social media. Aesthetically perfect Instagram feeds and constantly updated relationship statuses on Facebook are doing little to help us overcome growing feelings of self-doubt, or combat the idea that everyone else’s life is perfect while ours is a right mess.
The good news is that you are in charge of your own feed and therefore can choose what should be on it. We often tend to forget that we have a choice about what we see, what we care about and also what we ignore. This is why our fourth tip is to take 15 minutes to unfollow anyone who turns your thoughts in a negative direction. Your feed should never fail to make you smile, and get you motivated and inspired. If you need some help to find the most inspiring influencers, we listed our favourites who will make scrolling more joyous (and your life a whole lot greener!).
5. Go Offline!
This year, sustainability queen Venetia Falconer - whose incredible podcast Talking Tastebuds will release a new season on Tuesday 20th of August - and vegan zero waste chef Max La Manna - you can now pre-order his new cookbook More Plants Less Waste on Amazon - started the social media challenge #Offline48. The rules are simple: turn your phone off on Friday night, do whatever you like (without your phone being physically attached to your hand), and then switch it on again on Monday morning. As easy as ABC. What started as a Christmas holiday escape to have more time to spend with their families and each other has now turned into a mindful social media community with lots of their followers jumping on the bandwagon!
Our shared ethos is ‘mindful consumption’ and not only is the practice of switching our phones off essential for our mental health and consciousness, but it’s also great for the planet because our phones take up so much energy” - Venetia
They both agreed that using their phones more mindfully is the right way forward so that they can be a force for community and connection rather than stress and dependence. Having time off your phone creates a new sense of presence and awareness of your surroundings. Venetia describes the feeling of screen-less time as utter bliss - maybe the next coming weekend it’s time that you go #Offline48! For more information on how to become a part of the lovely challenge, check out Venetia's Youtube video where she and Max answer all your possible questions.
If you can’t completely turn off your phone but want to reduce your screen-time or maybe feel like you need a warm-up before jumping on the 48-hour challenge, here are some useful tips:
1. Turn off your notifications
A little ping can seem harmless, but the cost of an interruption is more powerful than we realise. Suddenly our minds get intruded by a text, an email or a friend request on Facebook. Notifications are constantly reminding us to check our phones when we don’t need to. Instead, turn them off and check your apps when you feel like it, not when your phone says ping!
2. Download Forest App
Forest is an app that helps you stay away from your device and stay focused on work by planting one real tree at a time. Whenever you need to focus you plant a tree in the app, in the following time while you work, the tree grows. While the tree is growing you must stay on the app the entire time and if you decide to give up and open another app, the tree will die. These real trees are planted through Maryland nonprofit Trees for the Future - a great motivator if you ask us!
3. Get an alarm clock
At least once, we have all excused our bedtime scrolling sessions with the argument that we do not have a separate alarm clock from our phones. And so how on earth would we wake up without it? Believe it or not, before smartphones did (almost always) manage to wake up for their 8 am meetings! There is a very simple solution to your conundrum: buy an alarm clock. They weren’t left in the 2000s and work just as well now as they did back then. We love this one from Etsy which will definitely spice up your bedside table.