Making the Internet more sustainable

BBC

Sep 23, 2021

Our internet habits have a surprisingly significant impact on the environment. The internet has enabled us to stay connected but at what environmental cost?

In a day we spend more time browsing online, uploading images, playing music and streaming videos. Every activity you perform online comes with a small cost, a few grams of carbon dioxide that is emitted due to the energy required to use your wireless devices and store the humongous data that is saved through cookies and cache.


Although the energy required for a single internet search or email is insignificant, imagine approximately 4.1 billion people, or 53.6% of the global population, using the internet constantly. The associated greenhouse gases emitted with each online activity, can add up to a significant portion. The data centers where they store the data from the cloud and the computer hardware are almost always connected to a local electricity grid, which means non- renewable sources of electricity are used in most places. As an individual we could start by changing the way we use the web.


One of the easiest ways is our messaging. Swapping email attachments for links to documents, avoiding multiple recipients in emails and unsubscribing from mailing lists we no longer read. If Each individual chooses to send one less email it will save - 16,433 tonnes of Carbon a year the equivalent to taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road according to energy company, OVO. But changes in our personal internet habits would only take us so far, there must be a change within the industry to ensure that emissions are reduced. “It’s more important to make sure the companies building the internet are switching to renewables and phasing out fossil fuels,” says Elizabeth Jardim, a senior corporate campaigner at Greenpeace.


As companies make the shift to renewables they need to also invest in energy efficient systems. The benefits of using technology that aims to make the web more sustainable like FORCE include not only reduced energy costs but enhanced business reputation, along with a better way to progress with the “Internet of Things”.