Calliope’s interpreters seek to reduce their digital carbon footprint

 | Interpretation best practices

Conference interpreters are increasingly working online as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. So how can they reduce their digital carbon footprint? Here are a few suggestions from the Calliope global network as part of its commitment to social and environmental responsibility.

Just as the European Commission recently unveiled the European Green Deal with the aim of greening the European economy, so the Calliope network is keen to limit the environmental impact of its activities. Three years ago we evaluated our social and environmental responsibility, and drew up recommendations for interpreters, clients and suppliers. The new coronavirus pandemic has led to an almost wholesale switch to remote interpretation and a significant increase in Internet use. New measures are therefore required to reduce our digital carbon footprint. 

This is because digital tools, which are essential for remote working, also consume energy and cause pollution. Digital technologies are currently responsible for 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions and their energy consumption is increasing by 9% every year. Digital devices themselves are responsible for around 30% of the electricity consumed by new technologies, while data centres account for 30% and the remaining 40% is consumed by networks. What can we do as conference interpreters and organisers of interpreting teams?

To reduce our digital carbon footprint, we need to take stock of how we use digital tools and consider making adjustments. Here are a few examples:

Devices: keep them for longer

  • Extend the lives of computers, tablets and telephones by at least a year. The raw materials used to manufacture them are non-renewable, often rare and a source of pollution

  • If they break try to get them repaired rather than buying a replacement 

  • Recycle them, give them away, or sell them second hand

Energy: to reduce energy consumption get into the habit of turning your devices off

  • Don’t leave devices switched on all the time 

  • Don’t leave devices charging when they are already fully charged 

  • Turn televisions and set-top boxes off at the plug at night 

  • Turn off the tracking function, WiFi and Bluetooth when you’re not using them, or put your device in flight mode

  • Use a switched multi-socket extension lead for your devices and turn it off at the end of the day

  • Set your device to low-power mode to automatically send your device to sleep

  • Unplug your set-top box if you are away

Smartphones: use WiFi rather than 4G or 5G whenever possible

Emails: send better and fewer to reduce data traffic

  • Clean up your mailbox regularly

  • Unsubscribe from newsletters that you don’t read

  • Use temporary storage sites or compress large data files

  • Reduce the number of emails you send (and avoid copying people in unnecessarily).

Internet: use search engines wisely 

  • Choose search engines that respect the environment (by using renewable sources of energy or by planting trees to offset their carbon footprint, etc.) 

  • Type the site url straight into the address field 

  • Clear your cookies and browsing history frequently

  • Create favourites

  • Be precise when formulating searches

Data: Avoid transferring data

  • Store and use data locally to avoid data being sent back and forth between users and data centres

  • Only store what you really need in the Cloud

  • Turn off automatic transfers to the Cloud

Digital carbon footprint: Internet and telephone service providers around the world are increasingly being required to publish data on the greenhouse gas emissions of their digital and mobile services. It will be possible to request that information from them and offset this new source of pollution. 

This list is not exhaustive. It is a starting point, intended to raise awareness of this issue and get us thinking.

We undertake to do as much as we can. Because every little change helps. Let’s be responsible!


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