Everyday actions like driving cars and disposing of waste can impact our environment. But what about surfing the net? Or posting on social media? Or streaming your favourite content? Using the internet can indeed create carbon emissions that affect our climate.
One household searching online won’t make too much of an impact. But there are now an estimated 66 million internet users in the UK. So, it’s easy to see how carbon emissions can soon add up. Apply this to a global scale, and it’s clear that the internet accounts for high electricity demand.
But how exactly does the internet create carbon emissions?
The digital transformation in the UK has reshaped how we live and work. It’s helped improve many industry areas and has contributed to economic growth. It’s also helped many businesses go paperless and reduce their carbon footprint.
Now more people are working from home and enjoying advances in digital technology, which means that the internet is creating more carbon emissions each year.
The number of devices
The more devices you use, the bigger your carbon footprint. A lot of households own many devices. These include smartphones, laptops, tablets, and video gaming technology. Reducing the number of devices used will help reduce your carbon emissions.
Using your communication device
You might think your smartphones and tablets aren’t contributing to the current global footprint, but you have to consider the communication networks and data centres needed to operate your devices. According to data, the combined footprint for them is currently 764 megatons of Co2.
For every text message you send or every video you watch online, there is energy consumption that we don’t even consider.
The manufacturing processes
Did you know smartphones, tablets, and other communication devices currently account for 3.5% of the global footprint? This is set to increase to 14% by the year 2040. This is because a large amount of energy is used during a device manufacturing process. Lack of recycling is also an issue with e-waste increasing worldwide. Both of these contribute to higher carbon footprints.
One way to reduce this impact is for manufacturers to ensure devices last longer. Consumers can also refrain from updating devices as often.
Streaming uses much more energy than downloading. This is due to many servers and the transmitting of data. According to a study by Carbon Trust, the European average is 55g of Co2e for every hour you stream a video. It’s equivalent to driving a car for 300 metres.
Device security measures such as firewalls, which analyse traffic, create carbon emissions. Using a VPN is important to ensure online security, but these also contribute to the carbon footprint. It’s difficult for them to be switched off or put into ‘sleep’ mode. This is because they use servers that are connected to the network.
How to reduce internet carbon emissions
Consumers can be more mindful of their internet behaviour and the number of devices they own and use. Businesses can off-set their carbon footprint. This can be done by using renewable energy, cleaning up cloud storage, and optimising digital workflows.
A simple way to reduce emissions is to switch off any devices which don’t need to be left on continuously.
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