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Sustainable IT: the BRIC is doing its bit

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During COP26 in Glasgow, a new climate agreement was signed. You can read the main points of the agreement here.

The Brussels-Capital Region is also taking measures. For everything related to sustainable IT, the Region works closely with the BRIC.

Changing people's consumption habits accounts for one fifth of the effort needed to meet the Belgian targets. Individual actions are therefore useful, but they must be part of a collective framework, supported by policy measures for the Brussels-Capital Region. This is what the BRIC is aiming to do with its “Sustainable IT” programme.

The digital sector is the second-largest polluter; it is responsible for 4% of CO2 emissions worldwide, compared to 2% for the aviation sector.

There are environmental impacts that are visible to all, such as electronic waste, increased power consumption and damage from rare metal mining.

But there are also some hidden effects. Did you know that manufacturing a single 2 kg computer requires 800 kg of raw materials (plastic, aluminium, copper, ferrous metals, etc.), 240 kg of fossil fuels, 22 kg of chemicals and 1.5 tons of water? 50% of the environmental impact of a computer is caused BEFORE it is used!

The Region's new IT governance includes a plan called “Sustainable IT” that will eventually apply to the entire Brussels-Capital Region.

“Sustainable IT” is an ongoing approach aimed at reducing the environmental and social footprint of digital technologies. The plan is located at the crossroads of digital and environmental transition.

The “Sustainable IT” programme is managed from within the BRIC. Initially, some 20 regional administrations will be involved in the programme. Among other things, this aims to:

  • raise the regional authorities' awareness of the environmental impact – hidden or otherwise – of the manufacture, use, transport, waste management, etc. of digital technologies;
  • build upon all the initiatives already launched;
  • roll out an operational action plan.

To this end, four working groups (made up of staff from Brussels Environment, the BRIC, hub.brussels, mic.brussels and STIB) began their thinking in early October 2021: Hardware, IT for Green, Ecodesign, Awareness, Use and Communication.

The “Sustainable IT” programme will first be implemented within the organisations that launched the project and will then be extended to all of the Region's administrations.

You will of course be kept informed of the progress and the concrete actions the working groups will take to make the Brussels-Capital Region a responsible digital region.

 

Some ideas on the table...

Initiatives with a large environmental impact, involving hardware manufacturers, require more time to be implemented. But we can already commit, each at our own level as employees of a government department and as citizens, to responsible digital technology.

How?

  • With the Regional Purchasing Bureau, the BRIC will be able to influence purchasing decisions depending on quantities ordered and impose environmental criteria on partners.
  • By extending the replacement period for equipment by at least one year, for example from 4 to 5 years for computers, the economic depreciation of a device is decoupled from its usage. It does not reduce the efficiency of the device, yet the amount of equipment that needs to be replaced is reduced.
  • Take part in our current actions, such as the collection of old smartphones, or in future actions. We will tell you more soon, but we are already announcing a competition between government agencies on World Digital Clean-up Day next March...
  • Read the article “10 ways to reduce your digital consumption” again, published on the BRIC website a few months ago, and apply it.
  • Consult all the available documentation on the website of the Institute for Sustainable IT or the Belgian Institute for Sustainable IT and familiarise yourself with the notions and concepts of digital responsibility.
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