Is the Internet Eco-Friendly?

by Anne B. Robinson

Being online and too absorbed in our smart devices for a significant part of our days make it easy to forget its impact on the environment. Each page you open on your computer, video you watch, and song you download to affect the environment. We don’t see it happening, so obviously, that makes it hard to recognize the consequences that using the internet has for the environment. But it is still out there, and some of these impacts will be explored in this article.

That is not to say that internet services such as Xfinity, should be abolished. The internet in itself is a blessing. When you wake up in the morning, you first check your emails and any messages you might have missed. After breakfast, you turn on the computer and connect to Zoom to attend online meetings. Throughout the day, you turn to other online activities, such as looking up a recipe online for cooking dinner, scrolling through social media platforms, and then signing off for the night. It seems just inevitable that the internet doesn’t play a significant impact on our lives.

But it is also just as important to understand the impact of the internet on the environment, some of which are detailed below.

Data Storage

Every time you use the internet, everything you store in your email, cloud storage, etc., is kept in a server as data. It is not just one server, though. There are many independent servers all over the world. Running and maintaining these servers require electricity 24/7. Even while using electricity, these servers get heated. To keep these servers cooled, even more electricity is used.

There also comes the question of how this electricity is produced from a green source or generated through coal power plants. This will answer the impact of these servers on the environment.

Also, these servers must be manufactured before they can be used, which requires energy consumption, material extraction, and processing. Even the manufacture of electronics is demanding because you need energy-intensive clean room conditions to produce them. And when it comes to the servers’ end of life, they are often disposed of rather than reused, which could have lessened the environmental impact.

Data Center

These are buildings that facilitate and house the servers. Data centers are costly to set up. The materials needed in their construction and refurbishment, such as cement, pipes, cables, steel, vents, etc., have an environmental impact.

Moreover, once it is constructed, a large amount of energy is required to cool the space because the by-product of any running machine is heating. Additionally, more electricity is needed to keep these machines running in an intensive air conditioning system. Also, as already mentioned before, servers need to be run 24/7, which means there needs to be an uninterruptible power supply. And these are just a few things required to be done to keep data centers running, even though the environmental impact is significant.

Data Traffic & Service

The data stored on the servers do not have any effect. However, at some point, these data need to be transferred for some purpose. This data transference is managed by many equipments such as cables and land-based and wireless-based technologies.

When data is being transferred, there is a power consumption between 0.06 kWh per GB and 136 kWh per GB. Hence this process’s complexity shows that it is difficult to quantify the environmental impact.

Nevertheless, there is vast data traffic management involved in the system. Consider this scenario; you are online shopping, and you purchase five different sizes of shoes because you want to be sure that one of them fits your feet. When you find the right shoe size out of these five shoes, you send the rest of them back. This action of sending them back causes an unnecessary environmental impact. And this is just one example.

Concluding Thoughts

The internet may seem virtual, but the impact it has isn’t. As mentioned above, it is not eco-friendly. Because the equipment needed to run the internet consumes a large amount of electricity. There is also a lot of equipment and hardware involved in internet manufacturing. As a result, the internet is leaving behind a huge carbon footprint.

Hence, the time has come to change that and adopt the method and ways to lessen the environmental impact.

Related Posts