How can the internet become more sustainable?
Pupils go to demonstrations on Friday, office heroes drink their sustainable coffee from reusable to-go cups and even grandma and grandpa give up their annual Scandinavian cruise - sustainability is in vogue.
While in the analogue world we now check almost everything for climate and environmental compatibility, our second home - the internet - remains quite untouched by this. And this despite the fact that digital activities have a major impact on the environment:
Before my research on this topic, I honestly thought little about it. With the "Carbonanalyzer" plugin for Firefox I then tracked a normal working day. The result: I used about 0.5 kWh and 223 g CO2e. That's about the same amount of CO2e as it takes to make 35 cups of coffee - to stick with the office example. This does not even include the daily Spotify stream.
A similar result can be achieved with the online tool from Websitecarbon, which clearly calculates the impact of every website on the climate. To offset the CO2 emissions of www.namics.com, we would have to plant three trees every year.
Every single downloaded bit of a website, every Google search or even a simple email ends up in a large, energy-intensive data centre somewhere in the world - and thus causes a CO2 footprint.
So it's kind of ironic that I published an article on digital sustainability on a digital medium. Because this article too will probably end up in a data archive at some point and continue to consume energy unnecessarily. But I don't want to preach about digital sustainability here - it's more about creating awareness for this topic and giving you some food for thought.
Dear bamboo-strawed back-enders, bicycle-riding front-enders and Demeter-loving designers, I have to disappoint you: We will not achieve the Paris climate targets by turning all our buttons green. In fact, there are currently no development or design standards that take digital sustainability into account. Rather, it's small things that we take into account in the development of digital products, sometimes for other reasons:
What else? That's it? Is that all we can do? That's what I asked myself and I wouldn't be a child of Generation Y if I didn't throw some critical questions into the room at this point:
Now it's your turn: We can all start with small steps. For example, when was the last time you cleaned up your e-mail box? Please think about the next relaunch if you really need the big stage video teaser with Autoplay.