Did you know that it is not just paper work but also computer work and the Internet which have a strong environmental impact? How? Mainly because of servers.
There are about 3 million data centers in the US alone and 8.4 million worldwide. Data centers and computers need huge amounts of power to send, filter, and read messages. The information communications and technology industry –internet and cloud services – produces more than 830 million tons of CO2 every year. That adds up to about 2% of all global CO2 emissions and about 7% of the world’s electricity.
These data centres also require huge amounts of water. In fact, most of the energy used is to keep processors cool as these heat up from being in use 24/7, and increase water usage indirectly from water being used in the same way at the power plants they get their electricity from. In the US alone where most of these data centres are, these were responsible for consumption of 626 billion liters of water in 2014, which includes both water consumed directly at data center sites and water used to generate the electricity that powered them that year. The researchers expect this number to reach 660 billion liters in 2020” (Data Center Knowledge).
But the problem is not just water or energy usage per se but also the type of energy being used which is mainly fossil-fuel based. A 2016 Greenpeace report says the following: “The transition to the cloud could in fact increase the demand for coal and other fossil fuels despite significant gains in energy efficiency and adoption of a commitment to 100% renewable energy because of the dramatic growth in new data center construction by cloud and colocation companies such as AWS and Digital Realty in Virginia and other hot spots that have some of the lowest percentages of renewable electricity in the U.S.”
Here is an interesting fact, ADEME (French environmental and energy management agency) cites that the average digital items (mail, download, video, web request) travels about 15,000 km before getting to your screen! Good grief!
WHAT’S THE CARBON FOOTPRINT OF EMAIL?
Spam e-mail: .3 grams of CO2
Regular e-mail: 4 grams of CO2
E-mail with large attachment: 50 grams of CO2
HOW TO REDUCE YOUR ONLINE CARBON FOOTPRINT
- Be proactive about maintaining a small inbox. Remember that those e-mails from last year aren’t just sitting in your inbox, they’re requiring energy to store them on servers. Delete, delete, delete! (And unsubscribe from unnecessary newsletters to lessen your work next time!)
- Stop sending unnecessary messages. When possible, avoid messaging and, communicate face-to-face. This avoids putting more strain on data centers as well as building up your work relationship.
- Support companies that use renewable energy to power their cloud. This is an article comparing Google, amazon and Microsoft re the greenest cloud. A rivetting read!
- Avoid vampire power. When your computer’s turned off but you’re still plugged in and charging, your device will draw .5 to 2 watts of energy per hour. Not a lot, but still… it all begins to add up. Make sure to unplug all electronic devices when not in use to conserve power.
- Can you try sending 5-10 less emails per day?