Welcome to The Digital Environment! The Internet has changed our world dramatically, and not always for the better. Here you can learn about environmental issues related to computers and the Internet and what you can do to minimize your environmental impact.


Cyber Defender &
Message Center Supervisor

As an environmental activist, Trey believes that technology has the potential to improve our world, but only if it is used and created responsibly. He encourages people to become aware of their actions and to make simple changes in their lives that will have a big impact on the environment.

A recent graduate of the Academy (class of '07), Trey runs the Message Center in Cyberspace. He loves communicating via email because it is quick, easy, and reduces paper waste.

Favorite Quote:

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
- John Muir

Favorite Food:

Vegetable Curry


Ultimate frisbee, Gardening, Recycling trash into treasure

September 10, 2010

Environmental Issues: BP Oil Spill

Okay, so we’ve been gone for two months and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill still hasn’t completely stopped? I mean I know they’re trying to fix it, but seriously, innocent people and wildlife are suffering.

UGH. Sorry, this sort of thing really irks me. I know they’re working really hard to correct their mistakes and there are a lot of good people trying to make everything better, but I’m just so sad and angry about this whole situation. I guess I need to get past this, though. I mean, my being angry isn’t helping to solve the problem. I need to take all this angry energy and channel it into something productive. Maybe I’ll get a bunch of people to write letters to the other big oil companies in the world to beg them to make a thorough disaster plan. This way, we’ll be better prepared to deal with an event like this in the future. What do you think I should do, cadets?

posted by Trey
topic: Environmental Issues

August 26, 2010

Environmental Issues: Chernobyl

Four months ago today in 1986, the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Chernobyl suffered several massive explosions due to strange power shifts in the plant. The resulting cloud of nuclear fallout caused a massive evacuation of nearly 350,000 people! To give you some idea of the amount of fallout released, the Chernobyl disaster released over 400 times more radioactive material than the bombing of Hiroshima.

All nearby life, including animals, humans and plants suffered greatly from this release of radiation. Many died or were unable to reproduce. Even in 2010, plants and animals are still affected by the radioactive release, though to a much smaller degree. Still, despite big disasters like this, nuclear energy is one of the safest and cleanest forms of energy available to us. The question world leaders (and future world leaders like you) must ask themselves is this: is the risk worth the reward?

posted by Trey
topic: Environmental Issues

July 29, 2010

Environmental Issues: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Unfortunately for the world’s oceans (and for those of us who enjoy them), the Deepwater Horizon Disaster of 2010 isn’t the first major oil spill to hit the US. In 1989, an oil ship called the Exxon Valdez hit a reef off the coast of Alaska and dumped anywhere from 10.8 to 30 million US gallons of crude oil into the water. The reason for the disaster was that the ship’s radar had been broken for over a year and the company controlling the ship considered it too expensive to fix.

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill ended up costing the company far more to fix the disaster than it would have to just fix the radar! The saddest part of all, if you ask me, is that twenty years later we’re still using the same methods to clean up spilled oil even though it didn’t work all that well the first time around. I hope the next generation learns more from us than we did from our predecessors.

posted by Trey
topic: Environmental Issues

October 8 2009

Environmental Issues: Carbon Emissions

Carbon emissions, like many other environmental terms, have been in the news a lot lately. So what exactly are carbon emissions? Carbon emissions, mostly carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, are two of the most harmful greenhouse gasses. They get released into the atmosphere from things like cars, air planes, power plants, and factories. And you.

Yes, you. And me, too. How exactly? Well, the computer you're using to read this is using electricity, right? And your television at home? And your video game systems? We're all guilty of enjoying things that aren't exactly eco-friendly, if you think about it. Now, I'm not suggesting we all stop enjoying technology. I'm just saying that if we're smarter about how we use technology, we can make the world a better place.

Here's a really simple thing you can do to cut down on carbon emissions. When you're done with your computer, turn it off. I know it can be annoying to turn it back on and wait for everything to boot up, but it's worth it for cleaner air. It really doesn't seem like a big sacrifice when you consider that devices on standby use 10% of the energy in an average house (http://www.popgadget.net/2008/04/give_your_compu.php). Even better, unplug it! Even if it's off, the battery can suck up a surprising amount of energy. Remember, the greener you are, the happier polar bears will be!

posted by Trey
topic: Environmental Issues

April 15 2008

Environmental Issues: Toxic Materials and Heavy Metals

Ever wonder exactly why you shouldn't just throw that old computer in with the regular trash? What harm could it possibly do, you might ask.

Most electronics contain heavy metals and toxic materials like cadmium, lead, and mercury. We're only just now beginning to realize the effects of introducing these materials to our environment and health.

When you throw away a computer with the regular trash, it usually ends up in a landfill. Over time, the trash breaks down and these toxic materials can leak into the ground. Here they can contaminate the water we drink, the plants we eat and the animals that live in the water and soil.

In small amounts many of these metals help support life, but in larger amounts they become toxic and can have all kinds of bad effects including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and even cancer. If you keep eating and drinking contaminated food and water, these toxins can build up in your body. If you eat animals that have been contaminated, you're getting a double dose of toxins. What's even worse, your body can't properly process some of these metals and so they might take years and years to get out of your system.

Since one computer monitor can contain up to four pounds of lead, just think how much damage all the technotrash getting thrown away could be causing! Let's all do our part to keep our planet a little healthier by properly disposing of these toxic materials. Hopefully, in the near future we won't even have to worry about it because they will no longer be using toxic materials to make electronics.

posted by Trey
topic: Environmental Issues, Trey's Green Tips

December 10 2008

Environmental Issues: How Technology can harm the Environment

Sometimes we get so lost in the excitement of developing and using new technologies that we don't thoroughly examine their effect on the world around us. In my last post I shared some of the positive effects technology has had on the environment. Here are a few of the ways that technology harms the environment:

  • Pollution - Air, water, heat, and noise pollution can all be caused by producing and using technology

  • Consuming resources - Non-renewable resources, including precious metals like gold, are used to make technology. Many others, such as coal, are consumed to generate the electricity to use technology. Even some renewable resources, like trees and water, are becoming contaminated or are used up faster than they can renew themselves because of technology.

  • Waste - Manufacturing technology creates large amounts of waste, and used computers and electronics get thrown out when they break or become outdated. Called "technotrash," these electronics contain all sorts of hazardous materials that are very unsafe for the environment. They need to be disposed of using special methods.

  • Disrupting ecology - Clearing land where animals used to live to build factories and allowing pollution to contaminate the food chain can greatly affect the environment's natural cycles.

  • Health hazards - Using materials that can harm our health can cause cancer, and technology addiction can lead to other health problems like obesity and carpal tunnel syndrome.

As computers become faster, their energy needs and the amount of heat they produce have increased. Many of the technologies we use every day consume a lot more resources and power than they need to, and manufacturers are working to develop new technologies that don't cause as much harm.

In 2007 the Environmental Protection Agency created new energy efficiency standards to help reduce the harm created by using electronics. Any product that earns the Energy Star label uses 30 to 75% less electricity than a standard product. If Americans only purchased Energy Star computers, we would save almost $2 billion in energy costs each year and prevent the same amount of pollution as about 2 million cars.

You can encourage manufacturers by choosing to buy more energy-efficient and less hazardous electronics and by supporting companies that make protecting the environment a priority. You can also do your own part to reduce environmental impact by not being wasteful, by turning off your electronics when you aren't using them, and disposing of them safely and properly.

posted by Trey
topic: Environmental Issues, Trey's Green Tips

November 5 2008

Environmental Issues: How Technology can help the Environment

There's no doubt that computers and the Internet have made an impact on our lives and our environment. While some of the impact on the environment has unfortunately been negative, like pollution caused during manufacturing, much of it has also been positive. Here's just a few of the ways that technology is helping to improve the environment:

  • It helps us develop and produce new materials and technologies that are sustainable and do not harm the environment so we can eventually stop using ones that do harm it

  • It allow us to monitor and study our environment to better understand how it works and the impact of our actions on it

  • It helps us create smarter technologies that respond to how we use them and adjust themselves to reduce their environmental impact, such as lights that can sense when no one is in the room and automatically turn off

  • It allows us to have a worldwide virtual "laboratory" so that experts from all fields can share their research, experience, and ideas to come up with better, smarter solutions. Not only does this allow people far away from each other to work together, but it also reduces the environmental impact people would normally cause from traveling to meet with each other

  • It allows for paperless communication like email and online bill paying to reduce the amount of trees cut down and save money on postage

  • It allows companies to reduce shipping and manufacturing impact and costs and to reach a broader audience

Sounds great, doesn't it? With all these benefits it can be tempting to overlook the negative impact on the environment, and sometimes people can get so excited about using a new technology that they do just that. But it's very important that we use technology in the smartest and most responsible manner, so that we are solving problems, not creating more in the future.

Next month I'll have a post on the negative impact of technology on the environment to give you a little perspective.

posted by Trey
topic: Environmental Issues

October 22 2008

Environmental Issues: Politics and the environment

I don't know about you, but this year's presidential election is especially exciting for me because, with rising fuel costs and the threat of climate change, the environment has become a major political issue.

Both candidates have taken a stand on the issues and outlined different plans to solve the problem. Even if you are too young to vote, it's important to understand what the issues are and consider your own opinion about how we should solve the problem.

Some of the environmental issues that are involved in this election are:

  • Global Warming/Climate Change - Scientists say our planet is getting warmer. Is it really happening? Is it man-made? Can it be stopped? Should we try to stop it? How should we try to stop it?

  • Carbon Emissions - Cars, construction and a number of other human activities produce pollution in the form of carbon emissions. Will reducing them help the environment? How can we reduce them? Should some countries be required to reduce them more than others?

  • Domestic Oil - Oil is the source of gasoline for cars and other commonly used fuels. We have oil underground in the United States. Will drilling for it lower the cost of fuel? Will it harm the environment? Where should we drill? Where shouldn't we drill?

  • Clean Coal, Natural Gas, Nuclear Energy - These resources are other options that we can use to make fuel. Can we use these instead of oil? In addition to oil? Will they cost less than oil? Will they harm the environment or future generations?

  • Renewable Energy (Solar, Wind, Geothermal) - These resources can also be used for fuel, plus they are readily available from nature, without having to drill for them. Can we develop these to use instead of oil? Will they cost less than oil? Will they work as well as oil? Will they harm the environment or future generations?

  • Fresh Water Supplies - Water is essential to life, but human activity can pollute it and our growing population puts it at risk. Is there enough fresh water for everyone on the planet? Will we run out? What can we do to keep that from happening?

  • Endangered Species - Many kinds of animals, such as the polar bear, are finding it hard to survive, due to climate change, the growing human population, pollution and other human factors. Will more animals become endangered if we don't make changes in the way we live? Should we try and save them? How?

Scientific American has a great non-partisan article where you can learn where the two candidates stand on these issues. I encourage you to read through it and think about the candidates' plans and what you think the solution should be.

Even if you can't vote, talk about it with everyone because this is your planet, too. How we deal with many of these issues may make a huge difference to your future, so make your voice heard!

posted by Trey
topic: Environmental Issues