The use of smartphones in the United States and Europe is helping to save more than 180 million tons of carbon emissions a year — an amount greater than the total annual emissions of the Netherlands — according to a new report released by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), authored by The Carbon Trust.
The report was based on an international study of 4,000 smartphone users across the U.S., United Kingdom, Spain, South Korea and Mexico, which found that many people are already using their smartphone in a way that helps cut their personal carbon emissions. Of the most common uses of mobile that are contributing to the overall carbon-abatement impact:
- Some 84 percent of smartphone users with cars use satnav apps to plan travel routes more efficiently or avoid traffic.
- In addition, 80 percent of respondents use mobile to work or study from home, avoiding the need to travel.
- Nearly half (49 percent) of those surveyed stated that they purchase digital instead of physical products, such as newspapers, music and books.
Overall, respondents expressed high levels of willingness to adopt new behaviors that could result in even more substantial future reductions.
The Mobile Carbon Impact report also highlighted potential areas for future carbon-emissions reduction from transport. More than half of the car drivers surveyed (55 percent) would consider having a device fitted that would reduce car insurance if they drove in a safer, more environmentally friendly way. 40 percent would consider using a self-driving car in future. And just under half (48 percent) would be more likely to use public transport if they had a mobile app to see precisely when the next service would arrive.
But some of the greatest future potential savings exist in other areas such as agriculture, where mobile communications can help with everything from promoting the use of sustainable farming techniques to using sensors to avoid the excessive application of fertilizer. Mobile communications technology is also helping to unlock a number of the technological advances projected to have a significant future impact on sustainable development that do not exist at scale today, such as smart grids and driverless cars.