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How does the internet impact the environment? I am sitting in front of my laptop contemplating this very question. Naturally the energy used to power my laptop and router has a small impact on the environment but nothing substantial, but according to a study cited on CNN.com the internet will be producing 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases within a decade.
Twenty percent of the world’s greenhouse gases sounds unbelievable, how can surfing the net cause such a large carbon footprint. Then it all becomes clear when you factor in how the information is made available to you, and where your emails, Facebook and Twitter information is stored. The storage facilities that house such data as songs, movies that we download from iTunes uses a vast amount of energy. The fact of the matter is that every time we upload or download an image or a mp3 file, the greater the demand on the storage house, which results is more energy used. Plus, the number of people using the internet worldwide is estimated at 1,596,270,108, which account for a lot of carbon emissions.
Different functions we use online attribute differently to the green house gases emitted. Email is a low carbon producers but anything that involves large file transfer (YouTube) or storage is extremely harmful to the environment.
In today’s technology based world, not using the web is a lot like not breathing, which poses the question how do we continue to ride the technology train whilst being eco-friendly. The answer lies with the technology companies, who are responsible for the data centers, which are massive buildings housing hundreds of power hungry servers storing everything from Facebook photos and YouTube videos to company web sites and personal emails.
Internet based companies need to switch to renewable energy sources like solar or wind power, and in the interim at the minimum start purchasing renewable energy certificates based on their sites’ monthly carbon footprint.
In summery internet companies need to get on board and take energy efficient measures to reduce harmful greenhouse gases, making the future internet a green place to work, play and surf.