Sadly, it is estimated that without dramatic increases in efficiency, by 2025 the carbon footprint of the internet would nearly triple and reach 5.5% of global carbon emissions, further increasing up to alarming 14% levels by 2040.
What causes such huge amounts of internet related pollution?
It is fair to say that the internet, email and cloud-based services have cut down on tons of physical resources. However, it doesn't mean they aren't polluting in any way. On the contrary, all internet related activities are heavy consumers of energy, which makes them only as green as the source they are powered by. Unfortunately, for the most part, the use of green energy sources is not the case and the greening of the internet is therefore the next endeavor in our hyper-connected era. Luckily, there is plenty we can do to help reduce the burden on our planet.
Let's look at some tips and tricks!
Looking at the facts from another angle, it would take 91 billion trees to neutralise the emails yearly carbon footprint, which is no less than 23 trees per internet user.
It would thus take 2.3 billion trees to neutralise its yearly carbon footprint or 0.6 trees per internet user.
“For every text message, for every phone call, every video you upload or download, there is a data center making this happen. Telecommunications networks and data centers consume a lot of energy to serve you and most data centers continue to be powered by electricity generated by fossil fuels. It’s the energy consumption we don’t see”. (Lotfi Belkhir) It is a form of dormant pollution, driven by storage and backup needs of old emails kept in mailboxes, vacation pictures stored in the cloud or forgotten customer accounts that have never been deleted, which make servers run uninterruptedly in data centers. These homes to thousands of servers vary greatly in size, with the larger cloud computing and colocation facilities capable of consuming as much power as a European city with 30,000 inhabitants. And this is just the beginning, as the volume of stored data doubles every two years and according to estimates, by 2025, data centers alone could produce 3.2% of global carbon emissions.
According to electricity and energy experts, the electricity consumption of our everyday electronic gadgets such as TVs, computers, smartphones and tablets will double by 2022 and triple by 2030. All our devices need to be powered and even in sleep mode, they continue to burn energy. Yes, this is a smaller part of their energy requirements, but why not helping our planet with a few energy saving tricks that will keep our wallets fuller and our devices to last longer.
Did you know that the average life span of a smartphone is 2 years and only 1% of them are recycled? This drives further production of new models and an extraordinary amount of, but not only, e-waste. Smartphones, among all devices, are estimated to become the most damaging to the environment, as they are made up of precious metals mined at a high environmental cost which significantly adds to the large energy requirements for the manufacturing of their parts. Alarming, because the most significant impact on the environment of our devices is due to the amount of energy used for their production. And above all because that energy, once again, rarely comes from renewable sources.
Happy e-cleaning! And remember, every little counts.