Can digitalisation help solve environmental issues? A startup founder, a university professor, an entrepreneur, an activist and a wilderness guide have come together to answer this question.
A rainy Wednesday evening in Berlin turned out to be an inspiring and informative event on ‘Digitalisation and Environmental Impact’, which was hosted by Leetchi.
We come into contact with digitalisation every single day. It changes the way we work, communicate, gain information, collect data and process it. It helps grow our economies by increasing the production efficiency. Naturally, there are a few questions that come into mind: ‘Are there ways in which digitalisation can help make a positive impact on the environment?’ and ‘Can it help fix some of the damages done to our ecosystem and prevent the environment from further destruction?’.
Change needs to start within ourselves
Provided we change our behavior, the technology on its own cannot save us. Bastian Barucker, the founder of a wilderness school, decided to spend 1.5 years in the forest learning how to become self-sufficient. His experience has made him realise how disconnected people are from the nature, as well as how materialistic and consumption-focused they have become. The world revolves around making profit at all cost, even if it means compromising on personal values and polluting the environment. Bastian Barucker’s message is clear, people need to to reconnect with the nature and change the way they live their lives, by becoming smarter consumers.
Dr. Tilman Santarius, a professor at TU Berlin, sees data protection as another important element influencing consumer’s choices. People leave personal information and online behaviour traces while browsing the net. This data is carefully collected, analysed and then used by companies to target consumers more accurately with online advertising, influencing their purchase decisions. People often end up buying products and services that in fact are not really needed.
To put a stop to this behaviour manipulation, consumers must demand that enterprises build devices, platforms and services that protect their personal data. This will not only help with security and privacy concerns, but also help consumers regain power over their real needs and buying decisions. The primary responsibility of protesting people lies in the hands of the state and law makers, who are in charge of creating a legal framework for companies to act on.
Is digitalisation a threat or an opportunity for the environment?
We know that today, the way we use digitalisation often causes harm, as we use rare and non-renewable resources to produce hardware, we create technotrash and need an ever increasing amount of energy to run our digital world. However, the discussion panelists disagreed on taking sides in commenting on this statement, instead they emphasised that people have the power to guide the digitalisation in the right direction, and they should exert it!
If we can make unsustainable practices more sustainable, digitalisation will be a zero sum game, according to Dr. Tillman. This can be done, for example, by using sharing economy services such as car sharing, and well as phones and car e-readers that have been produced under strict ethical and environmental standards. But if we use digitalisation for social innovation or to change people’s behavior, i.e. bring them from cars to public transportation, this can an even better impact on the environment.
With the examples of the crowdfunding platforms, such as: Leetchi, Mealsavor, Ecosia, openPetition and others, aiming at enabling people to make a positive change, we see how powerful technology can be.
Potential for businesses & leading the digitalisation
Jacey Bingler, the COO of Ecosia, believes that companies should not only be concerned with making profits but also their strategy to reinvest them. Her message to the business owners is: “Use the profits generated by your customers to tackle global issues or build your product around a certain issue. The hard part is to make this an integral part of your company’s business model because it means finding the right balance between profits and socially responsible investment strategy. The technology is one of the fastest growing and most profitable industries in the world; however, not all players are aware of the responsibility that comes with this prestigious position.“
Mai Goth Olsesen, the founder of Mealsavor, would like to see more GreenTech solutions in the water and energy sector. For instance, tackling the personal usage of these resources could incentivise people to reduce their consumption.
On the other hand, Dr. Tilman Santarius would like to see a mobile application in the transport industry that would combine all the sharing economy and public transport services in a city into one place, so that users can book intermodal trips in one click. A platform, that would also take data security seriously.
Although we don’t have all the solutions available at had now, we are certainly the ones in the driver’s seat to shape the future of digitalisation and its imprint on the environment.
If you want to make a change and raise money for a “green” project, start your crowdfunding campaign on Leetchi!