Looking at a weather app, sending a photo by email, surfing on Facebook or watching a video on YouTube are all relatively innocent practices that consume a crazy amount of energy. Because all of the information produced on the web transits through millions of kilometers of cabling linked to enormous data centers that store, process and redirect our data 24 hours a day. To perform these tasks, these “Internet factories” need constant cooling. To give you an idea of what this really means, Google alone uses as much electricity as the city of Bordeaux (pop. 242,945) to run its servers. This is why the Internet is now considered the world’s sixth most polluting country.
This situation is by no means inevitable. Simple actions can be adopted to limit the extent of this pollution. Moreover, ADEME (French Environment and Energy Management Agency) has drawn up a short list of these, which we will now share with you, supplemented by the best tips on the web. And so, without further ado, here is a non-exhaustive list of five recommendations.
Pay attention to your hardware
Where the web is concerned, “greenhouse gas emissions are divided between the production of hardware (48%) and its use (52%),” says the website GreenIT.fr. So it is preferable to opt for a laptop, which consumes 50% to 80% less energy than a desktop computer, and to buy models with the European Ecolabel or with Energy Star certification. Ideally, you should have your computer repaired rather than buy new hardware every couple of years.
Reduce your email volume
To reduce your impact, you need to reduce your volume of email. How? For instance, by limiting mass emails, creating easy-to-read ocuments to reduce reading time, optimizing the size of the files you send (by compressing them or using low resolution), and deleting attachments that may be included in your messages (like logos).
Limit the online storage of digital data
You can also reduce the volume of emails stored by only keeping the most important messages. So sorting through your mailbox regularly, immediately deleting all spam and limiting back-ups to the cloud are the first steps toward shrinking your storage needs. “Storing emails, photos, videos, music and other documents online means endless to-ing and fro-ing between the user’s terminal and the servers,” reports GreenIT.fr. “However, carrying one piece of data over the Internet consumes twice as much energy as storing it for one year. So we should try to store and use data locally as much as possible.”
Stop those incessant web queries
It is better to type out a website’s URL (rather than systematically using a search engine), save the sites you visit the most as bookmarks, and target your queries, thus limiting traffic on search engine servers.
Turn off your Internet connection
Modems and computers are increasingly being left on 24/7 – but there is no need to be connected to the Internet while we’re sleeping! Another tip: use green electricity produced using renewable energies (like through the French utility company Enercoop). It’s a little more expensive, but the additional cost can be offset by more efficient use of the Internet.