Kayleigh Nicolaou is a director and co-founder of Kakadu Creative, a full-service sustainable design agency based in Stamford, Lincolnshire. We are delighted to welcome the company as ORB Members as Kayleigh and her fellow director Lee are totally committed to operating as ethically and responsibly as possible, This article, written by Kayleigh, provides important information about internet usage and associated carbon emissions, and how businesses can reduce their digital carbon footprint.
Are you someone who remembers a time when the internet didn’t exist? If so, let’s be honest, it wasn’t really all that long ago. But, it’s now a deeply rooted part of our day thanks to things like social media, online shopping, streaming services and articles on blogs like this.
It has become so deeply rooted, that in 2018 the Global Web Index found that globally we spend, on average, 6 hours and 42 minutes of our day online. Which equates to a staggering 100 days a year!
And all of that time online means we need a lot of power and resources, resulting in large amounts of greenhouse gases being emitted into the atmosphere.
In 2019 it was estimated that global internet usage generated the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as the world’s aviation industry. And while the pandemic has seen a huge decline in air travel it’s driven a 20% increase in internet usage.
Let’s look at some of the facts about internet usage and carbon emissions…
A single search on Google emits between 0.2 and 7 grams of carbon dioxide. Visiting one web page with images or video emits around 0.2grams a second and an email is estimated to emit 4grams of CO2. But, when you add a large attachment to an email it can jump up to 50 grams of carbon dioxide emitted for a single email.
Those figures may seem small in isolation. But there are 40,000 Google searches every second and 306.4 billion emails were sent daily in 2020. So you can see that it quickly adds up to a massive amount of CO2 released globally.
So, what can we do about our internet usage, associated carbon emissions, and generally reducing our carbon footprint?
Well there are quite a few options open to us and we’re going to dive into some of them now:
Delete your emails and clear your cloud
Emails, remote files, photos and videos are stored in data centres, which are huge industrial units full of servers. These massive servers use a lot of power to run. And with all of that power comes a lot of heat. Which in turn means that more power is needed to run climate control systems to keep everything cool.
So, give your emails and files a spring clean, clear what you don’t need and reduce the space and power you use.
Switch off your video
The pandemic has seen a huge shift towards video conferencing and business meetings. Which is fantastic, as a 2012 study found that a 5-hour video meeting generated just 7% of the emissions that an in-person meeting would have produced.
But, there’s still more that we can do. A recent study by Purdue University found that switching off your video in online meetings reduces carbon emissions by 96%. So, turn your camera off if you don’t have to be on screen.
Do you have to send that email?
If every adult in the UK sent one less email it could save 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year. Which is the equivalent to taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road. So before you hit send, think twice about whether it really needs to go.
Switch to Ecosia
As we’ve already mentioned, search engine usage is massive. If you’re a Google or Bing user, you’ll be pleased to hear that they’re both carbon neutral. However, why stop at carbon neutral? Why not add tree planting into the mix and be carbon negative too?
Ecosia, founded in 2009 is a clean, green alternative to ‘mainstream’ search engines. Their servers run on 200% renewable energy and every search request removes 1kg of CO2 from the atmosphere. Plus, they’re a certified B Corporation and they’ve planted over 199 million trees to date.
Switch your website to green hosting
As well as making your own internet usage greener, you can also have an impact on the footprint of visitors to your own website by using a green hosting provider.
Green hosting, or eco-friendly hosting, is achieved through a range of green technologies and activities to ensure carbon neutrality.
At Kakadu Creative, we are delighted to be able to offer website hosting which is actually carbon negative. Our secure data centres are run on 100% renewable energy and we plant trees every month through our partnership with Tree-Nation. This means that your website traffic is clean and green no matter how many people visit it.
And there you have it. The internet may be dirty but there are lots of things we can do to reduce its environmental impact and limit our digital carbon footprint.
Image provided by Kakadu Creative