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I need a carbon footprint smartwatch

Should the ICT sector be doing more to drive climate action? In our latest post, we explore the latest Eco Me trend from the 2019 Consumer Trends report – including a look at how and why our sector can be a game-changer for climate action.

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Michael Björn 

Head of Research Agenda and Quality at Consumer & IndustryLab

Category, topic & hashtags

I have this watch on my wrist that tells me to do things, like take a breath, stand up and move around. And it asks me questions like: Are you taking a walk now? If I manage to do the activity within the set timeframe it congratulates me. I used to think that was fun because it made me feel good about myself.

But that was before I read that the earth's atmospheric CO2 levels reached a record high 415 parts per million (ppm) this year. For context, that is way above the 350 ppm of CO2 that long was considered the highest 'safe' level. Now, that watch doesn't do anything for me anymore.

I need a new watch. Problem is, that watch doesn't exist yet.

The watch that I want would let me know my CO2 footprint as I do different things during the day. It would also guide me when buying things, so that I can select items with lower climate impact, all other things being equal.

 

 

With the internet, I have all the information in the world at my fingertips, so why not this? And I am not alone. When we asked over 5000 advanced internet users across 10 major cities in the world, 39 percent of them wanted to measure their carbon footprint in this way, and as many as 68 percent think virtual assistants will help almost everyone avoid products with negative environmental impact within the next three years.

You may have heard of Greta Thunberg. She is a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who started striking at school to save the world from overheating. Recently she held a Fridays For Future rally in Rome, which attracted more than 10,000 like-minded activists. From there, she went on to talk to a committee of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and even met with the pope. And her message is very simple. She is asking us grown-ups to get our priorities straight, get out of our complacency and start acting on the climate crisis.

We grown-ups are the problem.

No-one puts that more succinctly than David Wallace-Wells in his new book The Uninhabitable Earth: "In fact, more than half of the carbon exhaled into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels has been emitted in just the three past decades. Which means we have done as much damage to the fate of the planet and its ability to sustain human life and civilization since Al Gore published his first book on climate than in all the centuries – all the millennia – that came before."

I am the problem. I have spent these last three decades as a fully grown-up individual on this planet. It is also we grown-ups who threaten one million animal species with extinction.

But our generation also made the internet into what it is today. So, the least we can do is to put all that information to good use for people.
To stay healthy, we no longer need wearables to quantify ourselves; we need to quantify our impact on the world and the generations that are yet to come. This is really the key insight behind the Eco Me trend in our annual consumer trend report.

We should stop counting footsteps and start counting carbon footprints.

Obviously, we need to do more than develop a watch. On April 22, millions of people around the globe celebrated the forty-ninth Earth Day. Back in 1970, the earth's level of carbon dioxide was at around 325 parts per million. From the geological record, we know the rate of increase since then is unparalleled in at least 800,000 years.

We have less than a year until Earth Day celebrates a landmark half-century. This coincides with the dawn of a new landmark mobile technology generation. Let us celebrate the next Earth Day by innovating new 5G services that use the internet to achieve sustainable change.

To start you off, here's an idea related to digital currencies: how about a digital eco-currency that lets you mine extra coins by shopping and commuting in environmentally friendly ways? As many as half of the respondents in our consumer trends survey wanted that!

We, the ICT industry, must act now if we want technology to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.

Read the 10 Hot Consumer Trends in full.

*2019 Consumer trends

 

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