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Posted by Sheryl on January 7, 2020

Do you use 'The Cloud’? Do you write content for a blog or website? What is your favourite Netflix, Amazon or Apple TV+ original show or movie? Do you have a go-to Spotify or Apple Music playlist?

As more and more devices become accessible to everyone from the age of 2 to 99, the expectation is that any request can be answered at any time just by ‘looking it up’. "Googling it" has become so natural that most of us have not even considered the environmental impact that this level of convenience is costing us. 

Google estimates one web search uses the same amount of energy as a 60-watt light bulb would over 17 seconds and will produce something like 0.2 grams of CO2. That might not sound like very much, but there are 3.8 million Google searches every minute. That’s a lot of lightbulbs. In total, the world’s data centres are thought to be responsible for around 2% of global electricity consumption and produce as much CO2 as the airline industry.

Yet, amongst all of the climate change chatter, this one rarely comes up. The data being requested on the other end of a web search, stream, or upload, has a home somewhere. The cloud is actually a network of massive data centres around the world. Data centres need and produce energy. More data means more energy. There was a time when the content of the internet was managed and produced by a few. As the internet evolved, social media outlets such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more, demanded to be fed. Smartphones became commonplace and people had more access than ever to publish content online. According to

“Just 8 years ago, in 2012, only 2M blogs were published. Today, WordPress-driven blogs account for 27% of all posts. The total number of WP blogs per day exceeds 10M.”

The growth of data, service, products on demand will increase as most of our day-to-day activities require some form of data requests (online shopping, smart cars, smart speakers) add to this the rise of AR and VR and the potential of this technology to be used by the masses further increases the load on data centres.

What can be done to reduce the rising environmental impact of the rising energy required to run our lives?3

  1. Consider terrestrial broadcast TV. 
    A lot more efficient than current streaming technologies for TV channels that are watched by a large number of people.

  2. Mobile phones tend to be the most energy-efficient. 
    More so than a TV or a laptop.

  3. WiFi is Better.
    A mobile using WiFi consumes less energy than one connected to 3G or 4G.

  4. Unplug.
    Even if you're not using your device, by having home WiFi active, you're still consuming energy

  5. Frequent companies that are actively offsetting their greenhouse emissions.
    For example, with so much content being published to Apple’s iCloud servers by individual users, Apple has committed to powering their data centres across the world with renewable energy. As of early 2018, Apple has been globally powered by 100% clean power. This includes their data centres, offices, and retail stores in 43 different countries. Manufacturing partners have also made the same commitment to clean energy, amounting to 23 different manufacturers who power Apple’s production with 100% clean energy.

  6. Having a new website developed?
    Ask your developer how they are building the site to be more energy efficient. The easier content is to find, the fewer pages a user has to load to locate information. This means fewer server requests are made and that unnecessary page elements — like photos and videos, which take up a lot of bandwidth — don’t load either. These small energy savings accumulate over time.

Interested in developing a socially responsible brand positioning? Looking for an energy-efficient digital solution? Get in touch with the Connectors at #TeamBTI to learn more.