What Does It Mean for the Internet to Be Green?


Did you know that there was an active movement to make the Internet a greener space to be in? We’re all familiar with how to be more eco-friendly at home and in our places of work, but a great, sustainable browsing experience is now the next step and we’re all invited. 

Let’s take a look at what it means for the internet to be green. 

Does being online really affect the environment?

A simple answer is ‘yes’. Not many people realize that just a year or two ago 4% of the world’s entire greenhouse gas emissions were created by the digital world. OK, you might not think that’s much – but to put it in context, that’s actually more than air traffic emissions! This pollution is made up of all data centers, all devices we might have that are connected to the internet, and both wired and wireless networks used to transfer data – and can cause issues with the way things run, like slow VPN connections and sluggish downloading and uploading of data. 

We’re not so green when it comes to electronics

Smartphone technology means we’re more connected than ever, but this also means that their production has risen – and with it the pollution they create. It has more to do with their manufacture than their use, but they deplete the world’s natural resources considerably and for the online world to be greener, the race is on to find sustainable alternatives to build these commodities with. 

E-mail – one of the biggest polluters…

Surprisingly, after technology one of the biggest internet polluters is email. We all thought we were doing great things by going paperless in favour of using email for communications. However, if you send one email it is equivalent to burning a 25W light bulb for an hour. If you then multiply this by the number of emails sent worldwide by users every single day, we come to realise that emails are much more polluting than we think. It perhaps wouldn’t matter so much if every single email sent was purposeful – but in actuality, a whopping 75% of emails are spam and are therefore often junked or remain unopened. A good example is all the newsletters you receive in your inbox every day, and imagine how much that could represent worldwide. 

What is a truly green internet?

What does it mean to be truly green online? It represents taking a sustainable approach and ecological strategy for the web. One which aims to stop overconsumption and reliance on electricals by putting forward solutions and strategies that promote responsibility and sustainability at the source. Globally we must employ techniques and tools that reduce the social, economic, and environmental footprint of digital technology. 

This has been of interest to scientists and environmentalists for many years now, but the subject has only really captured the imagination of the public in the last four or five years. Over in France, the Institut du Numérique Responsable has been set up and back in 2021, a law aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of digital technology was passed in the country. Little steps like this can ultimately make a big difference, but what more can you do?

Tips for individuals to contribute to a greener internet

As an internet user, you might feel like your actions don’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. But believe it or not, every little step counts when it comes to creating a greener online environment. Here are some simple ways you can contribute to a more sustainable internet:

Unsubscribe from unnecessary emails

We’ve all been there – signing up for a newsletter to get a one-time discount, only to be bombarded with emails we never read. It’s time to take a stand against cluttered inboxes! Go through your subscriptions and unsubscribe from any mailing lists you don’t find valuable. Fewer emails mean less energy consumed by data centers and a happier, more organized you.

Delete old files and emails

Speaking of email, did you know that your old messages and attachments are secretly hogging server space and energy? It’s like they’re the digital equivalent of that box of junk in your attic. Take some time to go through your email archives and delete anything you don’t need anymore. The same goes for old files and documents stored in the cloud – if you no longer need them, set them free and let them go.

Use energy-efficient devices and settings

When it’s time to upgrade your gadgets, look for devices with energy-saving features and good sustainability ratings. Opt for laptops over desktop computers, as they typically consume less power. When you’re using your devices, enable power-saving settings like automatic sleep mode and adjust screen brightness to conserve energy. Every little bit helps!

Stream smarter

We all love a good binge-watch session, but did you know that video streaming accounts for a significant portion of internet energy consumption? (It’s not just your productivity that takes a hit!) When possible, reduce video quality to save energy – do you really need to see every pore on your favorite actor’s face? Additionally, consider downloading content instead of streaming it repeatedly, especially if you know you’ll want to watch it more than once.

Support eco-friendly companies and websites

Vote with your clicks! Support companies and websites that prioritize sustainability by using renewable energy, optimizing their platforms for efficiency, and promoting green initiatives. Look for certifications like the Green Web Foundation’s “Green Hosting” label, or check if your favorite sites run on eco-friendly servers. By giving your attention (and your business) to environmentally conscious platforms, you encourage others to follow suit.

Spread the word

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of your voice! Share your knowledge about green internet practices with friends, family, and colleagues. Encourage them to adopt sustainable online habits and support eco-friendly initiatives. The more people are aware of the issue, the more likely we are to see meaningful change in the digital world. Remember, creating a greener internet is a team effort. By making small changes in your online habits and supporting sustainable initiatives, you become part of the solution. So go ahead, be a green internet superhero – the planet (and your future self) will thank you!

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