Digital Cleanup Day: 73 percent delete unnecessary mails, data and apps for more climate protection

March 19, 2023

  • 30 percent of internet users reduce screen brightness to save electricity
  • For the environment, 4 out of 10 deactivate auto-play when streaming
  • Bitkom gives 5 tips for digital clean-up

The hundredth unread newsletter, the unused traffic app from the last holiday or the five almost identical photos in the cloud – there are sometimes many unused applications and files on smartphones, laptops or in online storage. Full inboxes, folders and the like not only occasionally cost time and nerves, but also electricity: because data centres and cloud services run around the clock to store the growing volumes of data and keep them accessible.

The “Digital Cleanup Day”, which takes place on 18 March and calls on consumers to specifically delete unused data, apps or mails, draws attention to this. Almost three quarters of internet users in Germany are aware of this problem: 73 percent have already cleaned up digitally and deleted superfluous mails, data and apps in order to reduce power consumption. Another 16 percent can imagine doing this in the future. These are the results of a representative survey of 1,003 people in Germany aged 16 and over, including 857 internet users.

“Digital technologies help to reduce CO2 emissions, but they also consume energy and resources. There is a growing awareness among the population of how the digital world can be made more sustainable,” says Bitkom Chief Executive Dr Bernhard Rohleder. “Climate protection also takes place online. Anyone who deletes superfluous data, checks and adapts their usage behaviour can make an important contribution.”

In the context of climate protection and sustainability, more than half (56 percent) of internet users avoid stand-by options and instead switch off electronic devices completely. Likewise, 56 percent activate the energy-saving function on laptops or PC monitors. In addition, 30 per cent already reduce the screen brightness to save electricity. But even when streaming, something can be done for the environment: 4 out of 10 (39 percent) internet users have deactivated the auto-play function so that videos are not streamed unnecessarily. However, people do not want to do without quality when it comes to videos: Only 9 per cent of internet users reduce the resolution to save energy when streaming. And so it is not uncommon to stream in a higher resolution than the end devices at home can even process.

The digital home should be tidied up every now and then. Bitkom gives five tips on where and how a digital spring clean can save electricity and thus emissions:

  • 1. tidy up your smartphone: delete unused apps; check saved files and delete what is no longer needed; remove unnecessary chat histories from messenger apps.
  • 2. tidy up laptop and PC: move outdated or duplicate documents to the recycle bin and empty it regularly.
  • Sort albums: Sort out photos and videos – especially if they are stored in the cloud.
  • 4. tidy up your mailbox: move old mail to the archive; delete irrelevant mail; unsubscribe from newsletters and mailing lists that are not read or used.
  • 5. check settings: Deactivate auto-play of videos and streams; stream videos e.g. in SD instead of HD; switch off devices instead of leaving them permanently in stand-by mode; reduce default screen brightness.

The Bitkom Digital Sustainability Summit, which will take place for the first time on 19 April 2023, will also address the question of what contribution digitalisation can make to climate protection. The summit brings together innovators from the digital industry, sustainability experts and political leaders to accelerate the transformation to a digitally sustainable economy.

Note on methodology: The data is based on a survey conducted by Bitkom Research on behalf of the digital association Bitkom. For this purpose, 1,003 people in Germany aged 16 and over, including 857 internet users, were interviewed by telephone. The overall survey is representative. The question was: “Which of the following measures in connection with climate protection and sustainability do you already implement (when using the internet), can you imagine implementing or cannot imagine implementing?

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