My Sustainability Challenge: Two Days Offline

Our guest author Gabriel Kombassere challenged himself and gave up digital media for two days as a sustainability challenge. For him, it was a positive experience, because he not only did something for the environment, but also noticed that he could work in a much more concentrated way. And the trip with friends to Sababurg Zoo in Kassel was also a wonderful offline exploit.

Sustainability has been a major issue for me for some time. I collaborate with friends, and we dedicate ourselves to environmental protection in our home country Burkina Faso. I consciously don’t use plastic bags when I’m in Germany. There was a discussion in our alumni network about going without digital media for a while, and after that I wanted to try it too. Because a period of digital abstinence not only helps our mental health, but also the environment. The time was right for this challenge: at the beginning of March I was travelling from Giessen to Kassel to visit relatives there. I undertook not to use any digital media on one of my weekends in Kassel.

Concentrated reading without distraction from messages

I was in the midst of preparing a presentation on German history for my studies when I decided to take part in the challenge. Rather than using the internet to conduct my research, I bought two books about German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck – in recyclable packaging, of course. I really did manage to read 211 pages in Kassel without distraction from digital media. This truly brought it home to me how disruptive it can be when Messenger notifications or WhatsApp messages constantly pop up on your smartphone. And how much they impair your concentration. That's why I sometimes find it difficult to read e-books.

Being a role model for children

The challenge was of course nevertheless demanding. It did help that I was spending my weekend without digital media living with relatives who generally try not to be constantly online. They have a one-year-old son, and don't want him to be on his mobile phone too much in later life. ‘That’s why we try to act as role models for him’, his mother told me. We took a totally ‘analogue’ stroll around Sababurg Zoo in Kassel. It was a very pleasant experience, because we saw lots of different animals and were able to feed the pigs and wild horses.

The challenge taught me that doing something together with others is simply much more fun than communicating with each other via digital media.

Real rather than digital: commitment in Burkina Faso

Together with friends, you can also initiate many meaningful campaigns. In Burkina Faso I’ve been involved for a few years in a community of young authors and other young people who volunteer for environmental protection. In 2018, for example, we removed rubbish from the largest park in the capital Ouagadougou, Bangreweogo Park. We did this to raise visitors' awareness of eco-friendly behaviour. Our group has its own social media presence, because we also want to start environmental projects in the future, even if we’re not all there together. We can do something no matter where we are.

I would like to continue to live as sustainably as possible in my free time, and also participate in sustainable projects. Although I was at first slowed down after my challenge: I tested positive for the coronavirus few days after my self-experiment without digital media, and had to self-isolate. I have to admit that in this situation I was happy to be able to communicate with my friends via social media.

Guest author: Gabriel Kombassere

Contributions by external authors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors.

How does Digital Detox help the environment?

Whether smartphone, laptop or tablet - we constantly have these devices in use. In the morning, we are woken up by our smartphone, we text and call friends, we check the weather, we look for the next bus or train connection, do online banking and listen to music or podcasts. We need a laptop to work and in the evening we stream films or series. Digitalisation has a lot of advantages, but we need a lot of electricity for it. This energy consumption has consequences for our environment. In particular, burning fossil fuels to generate energy releases harmful greenhouse gases. Through Digital Detox, we save energy and make a small contribution to the environment.


  • Gabriel Kombassere Gabriel Kombassere

Gabriel Kombassere, 24, is a Germanist. He successfully completed his bachelor's degree in his home country Burkina Faso and is now studying for a master's degree in Literature and Regional Studies. As a DAAD scholarship holder under the Master of Arts German Studies programme, Gabriel is spending the winter semester 2021/2022 at the University of Giessen. He is a freelance journalist and the author of short stories and dramas. Gabriel Kombassere writes for the Alumniportal Deutschland, and acts as a consultant to a student magazine in Ouagadougou.

How sustainable are you in your free time? Tell us in your comments.

May 2022

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