Entrepreneurs, remote workers, and digital nomads increasingly make up a growing labor market across the globe, but as this population embraces living their lives on the move in various locations around the world, there is an important ecological factor to consider — can opting for a fully digital lifestyle still manage to be environmentally friendly?
As technology advances with seemingly boundless potentials, how can we wade through its implications to create sustainable practices?
In this blog post we will explore both sides of the argument and provide tangible advice for staying eco-friendly while navigating our new digitally driven future.
Environmental Impact of Digital Nomads
The environmental impact of digital nomads depends largely on how they are choosing to live their lives. Generally speaking, people who are traveling as digital nomads tend to be more conscious of their environmental footprint than traditional travelers—simply because they have more time on their hands and can better assess their options when it comes to transportation, food, and lodging.
That being said, there are some potential impacts that need to be considered when evaluating the eco-friendliness of this lifestyle choice.
Technology When Traveling
First off, digital nomads often rely heavily on technology while they travel—which can have a significant environmental impact. Computers, phones, tablets, and other electronic devices require energy in order to operate properly; this energy often comes from non-renewable sources such as coal or natural gas.
Additionally, many electronics contain hazardous materials that can be harmful if not disposed of properly—which may not always be possible for digital nomads who are constantly on the move.
Car Emissions of Digital Nomads
While digitally nomadic people savor the freedom to experience new places, cultures and climates on their trips, their journeys also come with an unexpected downside: car emissions. All that traveling for work can be taxing on the environment as digital nomads often shift from one city to another, relying on cars to get around.
This adds up over time, contributing significantly more carbon emissions than when they were primarily working in a regular office space. In most cases, digitally nomadic people rely on public transportation or ride-sharing services to reduce their overall environmental impact while they travel; however this still has its limitations. Digital nomads can invest in electric vehicles with extended warranties in an effort to invest in the long term sustainability of their lifestyle.
Lesser Thought of Issues When Traveling
Another potential issue with living a digitally nomadic lifestyle is the increased consumption of resources such as water and electricity that come with frequent travel and location changes. Whenever someone moves from one place to another, they will likely use more energy (and therefore emit more carbon) than if they were stationary for an extended period of time. This can be especially true for those who choose to drive or fly instead of taking public transportation or opting for low-carbon alternatives like biking or walking whenever possible.
Impact on Affected Communities
Digitally nomadic people often have positive impact on local communities, whereby they bring new ideas, skills and capital to the area. They often spend money on rent, food and other basic amenities in their community, which can give a much-needed economic boost.
Furthermore, they can be wonderful ambassadors for the town or city in which they are visiting, as they generally communicate online with friends and family back home about the places they visit.
Local governments and businesses can also benefit from digital nomads as well; for example, digital nomads may influence local marketing campaigns by mentioning them within their social networks.
Overall, digital nomads provide blooming opportunities to stimulate growth due to their adventurous nature and enthusiasm towards engaging with different cultures around the world.
However, gentrification is an important aspect to keep in mind. Digital nomads have had a significant impact on gentrification, increasing costs of living in certain cities while creating a boon of economic growth.
By relocating to traditionally more affordable areas, rents and costs of living in these cities begin to increase as they become attractive places to live, tourist destinations and hubs for digital nomads doing business.
Being Digital Nomads
Though bringing some economic revitalization to impoverished neighborhoods, this can also push out locals who are no longer able to afford the cost of living and don’t have access to higher paying jobs that digital nomads typically enjoy.
So, while digital nomads bring their beneficial skillsets that foster new employment opportunities, there can be an unintended negative consequence for residents already established in these communities.
Living a digitally nomadic lifestyle certainly has its benefits—freedom and flexibility being two major ones—but it also has potential environmental impacts that must be taken into consideration before deciding whether or not it is an eco-friendly choice for you personally.
By doing your research beforehand and making every effort to reduce your carbon footprint wherever possible (i.e., opting for public transportation over driving/flying whenever possible), you can make sure your travels are as sustainable as possible!