Not only has the Internet changed the world of business, it has also revolutionized everyday life, the way we communicate with each other, sharing thoughts and moments through social media platforms. We stream music and movies over the internet and answer every last question with the help of search engines. But of course, digitization not only makes everything easier, faster and more transparent – this innovation also has its downsides. The power consumption generated by the Internet is immense and also affects the CO2 emissions. If the Internet were a country, it would now rank sixth in terms of CO2 emissions worldwide.
Every Google search consumes resources.
We ask Google "How green is the Internet?", while the kettle slowly heats up and the water begins to bubble. 5.270.000.000 search results in 0.41 seconds, releasing five to ten grams of carbon dioxide in as little time as it took us to hit the enter key. That is according to the formula of Harvard physicist Alex Wissner-Gross: Two searches, according to his calculations, release about the same amount of CO2 as is needed when using a kettle to prepare water for a pot of tea.
Source: Screenshot Google
Although this seven-gram thesis does not include all the factors and therefore the numbers have been corrected to about 0.2 grams of CO2 per query, Wissner-Gross's bill makes one thing clear: The enormous energy consumption caused by the Internet, but also through mundane daily activities such as boiling the water for a pot of tea, does not receive enough attention.
Ecological alternatives: Green searching
Sustainable search engines offer an alternative: they support environmental projects with their advertising revenues. For example, the social business website ecosia.org works like any other search engine, but donates part of the revenue to WeForest, an organization that plants trees in Burkina Faso. Ecosia also offers a decisive advantage for the searcher: data is not sold to advertising media and it does not use third-party trackers. The search engine EcoSearch even donates 100 percent of its profits to non-profit organizations such as Tree-People or the Rainforest Alliance.
How green are sustainable search engines really?
But the alternatives are not stand-alone search engines: The green search engines rely on the search results from Google, Bing or Yahoo. The search engines give themselves a new, greener look, but the energy required for the search remains the same. And the energy requirements are still not necessarily met by green sources.
Nevertheless, Ecosia is also setting a good example here: The social business is neutralizing these CO2 emissions with the purchase of emission certificates from the climate protection organization myclimate.
But not only Google searches consume electricity: emails also contribute to CO2 emissions. And here, too, consumers can help make the Internet a bit greener.
Ecological mailbox? Yes, it's possible!
As the teapot empties, the list of things that make the Internet greener has become longer – best to directly email it to your contact list. But beware: not every provider is equal. In terms of the eco-balance, it makes a huge difference which provider we use to send and receive emails.
Posteo.de for example is not only ad-free, but is also 100% supplied with green power from Greenpeace Energy and uses appropriately dimensioned, virtualized servers. The green mail provider does cost one euro per month, but registration and payment are anonymous, the servers work encrypted and the customer data is not traded to advertisers.
Digitization in the green cloud
Large IT companies are working on their environmental image as well: Since 2012, leading data center operators have taken decisive steps towards the establishment of a greener Internet, according to the environmental organization Greenpeace.
In 2015, Apple was the only company out of 17 to be 100% renewable in the United States. The Facebook data center is also completely powered by wind energy. The first European data center of the social media giant was built in the Swedish town of Luleå, near the Arctic Circle. Due to the climate, the huge servers there are automatically cooled, lowering the overall energy costs.
InterNetX generates 100% of the electricity needed for its infrastructure components through hydropower. Highest safety standards, a stable power supply and efficient air conditioning in the InterNetX data center ensure trouble-free operation – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you want to accommodate your infrastructure in a green environment, then InterNetX is the right address for you.
As a hosting provider based in Regensburg, Germany, we supply smaller IT companies as much as giant online services such as KIA.com and Universal-Music.de. InterNetX already contributes a part to the "green" Internet together with its customers and partners.
Our own technologies are also housed in the green environment of our data center.
How sustainable can the Internet be?
The last sip of tea is now cold and the answer to the question of how green the Internet really is, was not really satisfactory. All the more gratifying that everyone in their own actions and in dealing with digitization can contribute to making the Internet a little greener. And website operators too should not only pay attention to economic factors, but also to the environmental footprint of their hosting provider. So the prospects are not that bad, after all.
If you want to know more about the InterNetX data center and why it's greener than many others, download our Green Paper.