Carbon Footprint of the Internet, and Cutting Carbon by Fighting Spam
Is it hypocritical to blog about reigning in the carbon footprint of internet?
Treehugger posted recently about Google's comparison of the carbon emissions from google searches to that of other commmodities: apparently, a cheeseburger equals 15,000 searches:
The Telegraph UK concurs that the 'netification of daily life is coming at a cost to the planet:
The internet may be in need of some "true cost economics," because if there ever was something that seemed to have no visible effects on the environment, it's the web. Things that happen on the web are called "virtual" because they are something other than tangible, yet the web may turn out to be another last frontier, yielding returns at a cost instead of a limitless horizon of connectivity. The Christian Science Monitor asked, "Is the internet bad for the environment?
Yet flying a bunch of people to a conference can't have a lower carbon footprint than creating a video conference. Virtual technologies can reduce paper consumption, digital information is more searchable and malleable and thus more efficient. A shift in thinking will be required, however, as our insatiable appetite for the web begins to take a larger bite out of our finite energy capabilities.
As someone who works on more than one website for a living, it is a little sobering to think about. What cheered me up was learning about a scapegoat we all can agree to hate: spam! Spam emails are the very definition of waste: they are unasked for, unwanted, and since they are largely unread, can't bring much real benefit to anyone, even the senders. The CS Monitor says, reporting on “The Carbon Footprint of Email Spam Report” compiled by eco-consultants ICF and commissioned by computer-security firm McAfee:
So the message seems to be: fight spam when you're online and don't think of your internet time as a blank check, carbon-wise, when you are online. Overall, limiting internet usage is probably a good idea because it means limiting the amount of sedentary time usually spent alone, and it's a useful way to draw a limit between work availability and off-time.