Sustainability | Renewable Energy

5 Ways to Improve Election Sustainability

5 Ways to Improve Election Sustainability


Worldwide, election officials, volunteers, and campaign managers are responsible for being eco-conscious. They must expand sustainable practices and make the election season as pollutant- and trash-free as possible. Here are several ways to amplify climate awareness in every voting district.

1. Reduce Signage, Paper Ballots and Other Materials

Waste accumulates from the moment candidates start campaigning until voters hand in their ballots, representing millions of dollars heading to landfills instead of recyclers. Candidates need tons of materials quickly, requiring more materials (and thus more deforestation) than usual to pump out these timely advertisements. 

Digital campaigning is the future for politicians, eliminating tons of paper trash. Plus, there is more waste than ballots and signs. Posters, voting guides, and campaign mail only scratch the surface of how diverse election waste is.

In 2018, Malaysia generated 18,776 tons of trash in a single month after elections. The increased number of natural disasters makes this waste scarier. Asian-Pacific nations are prone to extreme weather, notably heavy storms. Torrential rain and wind cause runoff and trash to seep into other environments.

2. Advocate for Electronic Voting and Meetings

The first country to make internet-based voting legally binding was Estonia in 2005. In 2024, 153,269 of its eligible citizens cast ballots electronically. Other nations have followed suit, allowing people to participate regardless of location, disability, or transportation access. They can do this without supporting the fossil fuel industry or using excess resources.

However, digital voting options have their climate demands. Cloud storage, servers, and other computing peripherals are highly consumptive. Data centers could use 260 TWh of energy by 2036 because of advanced digitization. Cybersecurity equipment has its own carbon footprint.

Gaining the eco-benefits of online elections requires green software, energy-efficient hosts, and smart machinery. So, polls must choose their method before the season even starts to prepare accordingly, ensuring options abide by bylaws and are publicized clearly to citizens. If online voting is unavailable, the campaign could be the first to propose it to its region.

Additionally, staff and volunteers commute countless miles during election season to meet in-person with their teams. Online meetings prevent unnecessary carbon dioxide and fossil fuel use during planning. Virtual events should be remote, even for town hall meetings and voter interest.

3. Improve Energy Efficiency

The transport and use of voting stations must be mindful of their energy consumption if in-person voting continues. Unless the facility uses renewable power, buildings require harmful resources to maintain comfortable temperatures in voting months. Many related activities require even more electricity and fuel, including:

> Using security equipment to monitor election activities

> Storing ballots and other voting paraphernalia

> Requiring citizens to travel to polls

> Powering voting software and hardware

Finding ways to cut energy consumption and make it greener is critical for voting centers moving forward.

4. Deny Convenience

Campaign staffers and volunteers run around offices and voting sites. On long days, it’s not unusual for them to receive tons of to-go coffee orders, single-use plastic water bottles, and takeout food for on-site workers.

Offices and voting sites should invest in low- or zero-waste coffee makers and expand eating options. This would eliminate wasteful to-go containers coated in forever chemicals and plastic. The community should remind campaign workers to bring reusable water bottles, pack their food, and drink coffee with the planet in mind.

Though it may not be convenient to measure and report carbon emissions, polling places should do this to improve in subsequent years. A Tennessee initiative did this in order to determine how much they wanted to invest in carbon offsets, pledging to carbon neutrality. Putting time and labor into unveiling the metrics is invaluable for greener campaign cycles.

5. Rethink Merchandise

Political merchandise is on the rise. It’s becoming more than flags and bumper stickers — people want mugs, T-shirts, and more to support their candidates. Ideally, campaigns would drastically limit or discontinue all merchandising efforts, putting most of their money into reaching their constituents.

If teams still want merch, they must choose eco-friendly options. T-shirts and hats should be made with recycled, Earth-friendly fabrics. Printed products can be made of recycled paper with nontoxic ink. Teams must also avoid products people will likely throw away, such as cheap drawstring bags, disposable and koozies.

Greener Voting

Communities must rally for stringent policies to make elections more sustainable. Citizens may volunteer or be employed by people campaigning. Regardless of their positions, votes matter more if the campaign and voting process considers the climate crisis by reducing waste and electricity.



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