The Internet & Climate Change
Whether you are a heavy user of the Internet (like me) or someone who only uses the internet for a few minutes each day the impact of the internet on Climate Change should not be ignored. Everything we do online will have an impact. Even when we are not online, the servers that hold and maintain our online services, hosting platforms, Facebook, Ebay, Amazon & Google are all ‘live’ on servers that run 24/7.
According to a recent BBC article, “the carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet and the systems supporting them account for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions” That is significantly more than the annual UK total.
Many tech and internet companies claim to be carbon neutral, but many of these claims are based upon dubious carbon offsetting schemes whose efficacy is questionable. Running servers requires quite a lot of electricity, even when under light loads. Where the electricity needed to power these servers is generated though the burning of coal in power stations the carbon footprint of these servers is considerable.
In the UK over the past year 44% of the electricity generated was produced using fossil fuels (https://grid.iamkate.com/). So any interent servers and services based here are likely to have a significant proportion of their energy provided through the burning of fossil fuels. Some UK based internet companies claim to be green, but it is always worth digging a little deeper on these claims to make sure they are not just using cheap offsetting schemes that have little credibility.
As national power grids decarbonise the carbon impact of the internet and related services should become less of an issue over time. But if you don’t want to wait for governments or energy companies to ‘get their ducks in a row’ is there anything you can do?
What You Can Do
Choose a green energy tariff – currently there is little to no difference in price between ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ tariffs. Choosing a green tariff provides a very clear signal to energy companies what their customers want.
Recycle your old tech – a considerable amount of the carbon footprint associated with internet usage is made up of the manufacturing of the technology used to access it. Many companies, like Apple, now offer a return and recycle scheme for your old tech.
Avoid standby mode and turn off unused devices – if you are using a laptop, turn of the charging cable at the wall, use a smart plug or unplug it altogether when not in use. Even in standby mode your devices use about 10watts of electricity, not much, but that is almost 2kwh per week (c.70p). Your phone and table charger will also be drawing electricity even when not charging, so unplugging them or turning them off at the wall costs you only time and saves you money.
Use ‘greener’ search engines – Ecosia is a ‘greener’ search engine. It uses Google as its base but its profits are ploughed back into planting trees. Making https://www.ecosia.org your default search engine will have no impact upon your search and will do a little good!
Only send necessary emails – each email we send contributes about 4g of carbon. That can go up to 50g for an email with large attachments. If you send a lot of emails this can soon mount up!
Spend less time online – limiting your time on social media and turning off your tech to spend time in the real world with real people will help reduce your carbon footprint and improve your mental health.
What Is Helios Web Design doing?
Switched to a green energy tariff – Using a 100% green energy tariff. Although our energy provider went bump and we are now with British Gas :-(. We will be transferring to another green supplier as soon as the energy market starts working again.
Added solar panels – This was quite a big expense, but it now means that the solar panels generate a significantly larger amount of electricity than the office consumes each year.
Using smart plugs on all office devices – I can be forgetful! So I set my smart plugs to turn off the power at the end of the day. I also use Alexa to remind me 5 minuted before to save any current work!
Bought shares in a wind farm – Although solar panels generate the majority of my energy usage I still need to import some energy. I now have purchase a share in a wind farm being built by Ripple Energy https://rippleenergy.com/. This should more than cover the non-solar electricity usage at my home.
Spending less time on social media – This was pushing at an already open door!
Being more mindful of energy usage – I now think more carefully about how I conduct my business. If I can conduct a meeting via Zoom rather than travelling I will suggest that option. For new hosting plans I am choosing green options with companies that are actively trying to combat their negative carbon impacts.
Recycle old tech – As I use apple devices for the majority of my work I always recycle my old apple tech with Apple, they will even give you a little bit of money off any new purchases when ‘trading-in’ a piece of eligible tech.