How Does Your Online Activity Affect Your Carbon Footprint?

By now, everyone should be well aware of the factors that are fuelling the climate crisis, from our long-standing reliance on fossil fuels to mass deforestation. In order to tackle this issue at home, you may have already made adjustments to certain aspects of your life, whether that’s driving an electric car, or using renewable energy in your home. But did you know that your internet habits could also be having an effect on the environment by increasing your carbon footprint? 

Every action we make online can add to our digital footprint, which can ultimately result in more carbon emissions. Individually, catching up on your favorite series or video calling a friend won’t drastically change the world. But with such widespread access to the internet across the planet, it’s easy to see how the population’s digital footprint can quickly accumulate. 

How is your digital dependence affecting your carbon footprint, and how can you make more sustainable choices when it comes to surfing the net? 

Environmental costs of the net  

The main factor contributing to the internet’s ecological footprint is the amount of energy to keep it up and running. Every Google search, album you stream, or email you send uses energy from data centers around the world. In turn, it produces CO2. According to this guide on the environmental impacts of SMEs, the digital footprint of the internet is responsible for 3.7% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. 

But before you’ve even put your internet-hopping device to work, it has to be produced, which is another way our digital dependence is damaging the environment. For every smartphone or laptop made, raw materials will be stripped from the earth for use during the manufacturing process. Alarmingly, one recent study suggests that 70kg of natural resources are needed to produce just one smartphone

On top of that, both consumers and tech companies are constantly looking for the next best model. This means that devices are becoming obsolete faster, and more materials are being used to keep up with demand. 

How to clean up your carbon footprint

So, if you’re concerned about the impacts of your internet searching, how can you surf more sustainably? Here are three good habits to consider. 

Power down 

Relevant to any digital device, it’s salient advice to power it down when not in use. That way you can prevent extra energy wastage. Particularly now that so many people are working from home. Be sure to shut down your laptop at the end of the day, and delete tabs that you are not using. It’s estimated that almost a quarter of home energy consumption can be attributed to “phantom energy,” which refers to the use of power from devices that aren’t actively in use. 

Eco emails

Every email, whether outgoing or incoming produces a small amount of carbon. That means that your inbox may be acting as a digital landfill. This method of communication is a crucial part of modern professional life. Therefore, trying to cut back on any unnecessary emails and cleaning up your inbox can be helpful to the environment.

Mindful streaming

During the pandemic, millions of us turned to video streaming sites to break the monotony of stay-at-home mandates. However, these sites can be a major driver in producing digital emissions. The best way to reduce the environmental impact of your streaming habits is to reduce the use of these sites. Alternatively, downloading music or films onto your device instead of streaming them is another effective way to cut carbon emissions.