2 weeks ago, I shared with the class this data and they were in shock! No one had thought about the impact of internet on the environment. Let’s have a look at this data.
Data centers today consume more than 3% of the global electricity supply and account for about 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent to the carbon footprint of the airline industry. And worse…the amount of energy consumed by the world’s data centers will be multiplied by 3 in the next decade. And this is only the tip of the iceberg because you must add to that your mobile, tablet, computer chargers, your ADSL/WIFI router…etc. In total, it is believed that the digital economy uses a tenth of the world’s electricity.
How does this happen?
Well, every day hundreds of millions of people take photos, make videos and send emails and texts. This deluge of data is growing fast and most of it is stored somewhere. Let’s have a look at some numbers. “Every two days now we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003”, says Schmidt, CEO of Google in 2010. According to a new report from IBM Marketing Cloud, “10 Key Marketing Trends For 2017,” 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.
Are we doing anything?
It seems that there is the beginning of awareness. For instance, last year Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s CEO, was at Disneyland when he decided the internet was a cesspool that he had to clean up. There is also www.webneutralproject.com, a startup to design and create carbon neutral websites. Green Peace has issued its 2017 report called “Click Clean” which identify web sites which are the cleanest. Companies like Google are running projects to use less energy in their data centers but I question their intentions. Is it to reduce their carbon footprint as they claim or simply to reduce their energy bills?
Besides the companies and environmental groups initiatives I would argue that it comes to our own behavior to reduce the Internet footprint. Do you really need to keep all those emails, texts, photos and videos in a data centers? Do you leave your chargers connected to the plug? Although government regulations have asked manufacturers to reduce standby consumption or vampire consumption as some experts would call it, this is still significant worldwide.
What to do?
The first step would be to delete your unnecessary mails, photos, videos stored on Google Drive or other cloud storages. Make sure they are effectively deleted! Try not to download files which jam the network and consume energy, stream instead.
But there are other more creative ways such as switching to eco-search engines such as Ecosia; making your Internet connection sustainable with eco-friendly Internet Service Providers, sharing your Wi-Fi with neighbors, etc.…
It starts with you!
Author: Philippe Vedel, Professor of Digital Marketing and Social Media at BSL