If you are reading this, the chances are you are doing so while being connected to the internet and reading these words on a screen, whether it’s a smartphone, laptop, tablet or desktop computer.
Many of us spend hours in front of a screen and search all sorts of things every single day.
But what is the environmental impact of all this?
It seems so ethereal, intangible, and yet it’s all around us: invisible waves of nothing and everything, we are swimming in this imperceptible information that lands on our devices with a few clicks and taps.
With the internet, a person could potentially live their lives from a single room.
It’s possible to work from home, order food, manage your bank account, exercise with online videos, find a date, listen to music and watch films…pretty much anything.
I have only really read about technology-related sustainability once before. Time to do more research.
There are millions and millions of machines all over the world, running non-stop so that we can have access to all this information online, and all the electricity needed to keep them running has a carbon footprint. And a BIG one.
According to this article from the Guardian: What’s the carbon footprint of…the internet? it’s about 300m tonnes a year… considering this article was published 4 years ago, I expect that to be even higher now.
Every e-mail we send, every document or image we attach to e-mails, every single search we make…they all have a carbon footprint. Multiply that by the number of e-mails and searches made every day, by all of us, and you can see how it has a big effect on the environment.
I like to be practical about sustainability matters, so what I want to know is: what can I do to decrease my online carbon footprint?
SingleHop’s post How Green is Your Tech? is useful to turn good intentions into useful actions. My favourite tips are:
- Send less e-mails. If you work in an office, when possible, try to communicate with your colleagues instead of via e-mail. This is a frequent tip to ensure you move around more and sit down less too, and if you’re wearing groovy socks, it’s a great opportunity to show them off
- Avoid clicking “reply to all” unless it is actually necessary. (I find some reply all answers pretty annoying when they’re just there for the sake of being there… )
- Unsubscribe from newsletter you don’t actually read.
It’s easy to scroll down and click on the unsubscribe button, and after that you will also save a lot of time and won’t have to repeatedly go through unwanted e-mails. it makes such a difference, don’t just add them to “Junk”.
If you don’t read some newsletters but still want to hear about them, follow them on Twitter instead and read about them whenever something really catches your eye
- Delete unused accounts, use up less web space and protect your privacy
- Consider Cloud Storage options to save energy and limit the need for hardware
You may have heard of cloud storage before, it is “internet-based computing in which large groups of remote servers are networked to allow sharing of data-processing tasks, centralized data storage, and online access to computer services or resources”.
So how is the Cloud more sustainable?
“Relocating information and data systems to the cloud not only saves money but reduces wasted resources. Companies no longer need to purchase hardware and systems that need installation and maintenance.”
“A 2010 study from Microsoft, Accenture and WSP Environment and Energy found that moving business applications to the cloud could cut the associated per-user carbon footprint by 30 percent for large, already-efficient companies and as much as 90 percent for the smallest and least efficient businesses.”
And if the servers themselves are powered by sustainable, renewable energy sources, it looks like this could really be the best option.
So whether your business is small or large, you could benefit from cloud computing.
I sometimes wish I could have writing this blog as my main job, spending my days researching and visiting new places, looking for new sustainable options for every facet of life.
If I could, now I know a little more about it, I would definitely look up what the most carbon efficient way to do it, including using the Cloud.
Were you aware of the internet’s carbon footprint?
What do you think are the best ways to use the internet sustainably?