Ah, the internet, this great, invisible thing. I guess I am a bit naive, so I was utterly shocked the first time I read emails have a carbon footprint. How could that be, since they are immaterial? Well, it turns out they need to be sent and saved somewhere, and those servers are certainly not impact-free. That somewhere is ‘the Cloud’.
Cloud computing refers to the data and programs stored on servers, as opposed to on personal computers. Today, cloud computing is in full expansion, especially because of the boom of streaming services. The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to the Cloud accounted for 2% of all global carbon emissions in 2014, roughly as much as emissions due to flights. As ‘the Cloud’ grows, its potential negative impact increases as well.
Many cloud computing companies have expressed their goal to be powered at 100% by renewable energies, yet some seem to be taking this a bit too lightly. For instance, Amazon Web Services (AWS), the biggest cloud computing company, does not share information on its energy mix or when and how it intends to reach its announced goal of 100% renewable energies.
In my humble opinion, being aware of this is already a first step towards more consumption mindfulness. For me, it’s also an added incentive to cut down my internet usage to less than 40 hours a week (I know, it’s still a lot!)
I have to say, I am pretty impressed by Apple’s attitude on this matter, as they seem to be pioneers in that regard. For someone who has uttered many an anti-Apple rant (both the company and the fruit), that’s kind of hard to swallow. I might even research their Apple Music service a bit more and subscribe, if it proves to be better than Spotify.
I’ll share more companies that help you reduce your very real e-footprint in an upcoming post. I am also open to any suggestions!
Greenpeace report, Clicking Clean: A Guide to Building the Green Internet, May 2015.