Why Switch to Digital Delivery?

The recent "Carbon Reduction Through Digital Delivery" analysis of WSP/Microsoft data generated a comment about vendors passing on energy cost savings from the reduction to download customers. How much are those savings and how much motivation would they provide?

WSP says the electricity savings on 10 million downloads, the approximate unit annual sales of Microsoft Office, would be enough to power 7715 US households (HH) for a year.  Using ~11K kWH/HH/year, that's ~84.8 million kWh, or 8.5 kWh per download.  Using a US average of $0.10/kWh, a download might save ~$0.85.

Here we run into Green ICT's materiality problem, again.  $8.5 million may well be a material savings for Microsoft, but an $0.85 discount on digital delivery of a $400 product will be immaterial to most consumers. Neither "Save 85 cents!" nor "Save Microsoft $8.5 Million!" are compelling calls to action. Alex Bischoff of open4energy suggests that the instant gratification of a download and no shipping charges could be more powerful motivations to migrate to digital delivery.

Make it material, models exist

Why does one buy a lottery ticket? Milage on answers will vary but essentially it's because the prize is big enough to matter, a lot, and the ticket price is too small to matter, much.

So what could work in cases like this is to aggregate the materiality into a meaningful event, a lottery payout or prize, the construction of a school, planting several thousand trees somewhere, a scholarship fund for the children of single-parent postal worker families.

If it's a lottery, your choice to download enters you. If it's a set of possible projects you could gain votes to influence their direction. The key is that your choice to download has become something larger than a choice to save you 85 cents, and more motivating than increasing BigCo's profits on the software. It's a materially trivial altruistic gesture or a long shot bet on a huge prize. Either way the environment wins overall and buyers has some meaningful additional motive to go green.


Energy Saving Attitude

This appears to be one of the happy times where the users self motivated options, in particular instant gratification and saving of shipping charges, may persuade them to make the correct energy choice.

But, there are many other situations where the "correct" energy choice only offers a small saving, and is not acted on.

A good example of this is the Energy Saving for a Laptop Computer made when a user manually "puts" their laptop to sleep, as opposed to leaving the energy management settings to apply automatically. We found that this change in user behavior could save 24% of the energy used by the laptop, but the value of this is $1.70 and who wants to remember to "put" their laptop to sleep each time they step away from it for that.

But, multiply this by the number of laptop computers in use in the world, and you realize the amount of money that could be used for something much more productive than a "left laptop"

We have posted an article on Energy Saving Attitude in which we raise this issue. Many of us are overwhelmed by the current economy, and our daily living situation. As one person put it "we are slipping into a fear filled state of depressions"

But it does not need to be like this and each time we do something that is fundamentally good for our community, like saving energy, we make a stand against apathy and fear.

It is our hope that in time all energy consumers will change their attitudes. In the same way that littering is no longer an accepted behavior for most people, so leaving a light on or failing to act on any reasonable opportunity to reduce energy will be frowned upon.

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