Environment, the hidden CO2 emissions of the Internet

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In today’s digitized world, there are few things that seem as intangible as the Internet. It’s our access to information instantly, our communication, and our endless entertainment. But there’s a dark aspect that often escapes attention: the environmental impact of our online activities. Behind our daily web browsing hides a world of CO2 equivalent emissions 1that contribute to climate change in ways that might surprise you.

The sources of CO2 emissions

When we think about sources of CO2 emissions, we often imagine cars, factories, or power plants. However, the technology industry, including the infrastructure that supports the Internet, has become one of the major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The increasing use of data, streaming videos, cloud computing, and connected devices has led to an exponential rise in energy consumption.

Some examples of emissions you might not know

Did you know that sending an email can release 17 grams or more of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? Or that, according to a study by Purdue University, a one-hour Zoom call produces between 150 and 1,000 grams of carbon dioxide? And using only audio in Zoom calls reduces emissions by up to 96%?

The major “polluters” are certainly Data Centers, which require enormous amounts of energy to cool the servers and keep them operational 24/7.

Data Center role

According to some estimates, the data center industry consumes about 2% of global electricity, with a constant growth driven by the high demand for computing power, especially for Artificial Intelligence. Currently, according to the Global Carbon Project, if the internet were a country, it would be the 4th largest emitter of CO2 in the world and the 3rd largest consumer of electricity.

La Necessità di Migliorare l’Efficienza

Fortunately, there are ongoing efforts to make the internet more sustainable. Large companies are investing in more energy-efficient technologies, such as using renewable energy to power data centers and optimizing network protocols to reduce broadband consumption.

Taking Google as an example, the search engine aims to be carbon-free by 2030 and already prioritizes green and fast sites in search results, eco-friendly routes in Google Maps, and flights with lower CO2 emissions in Google Flights.

Italian’s Energy Mix

But nations have also begun a journey to produce electricity in a more sustainable manner. Italy aims to bring the production of electricity from renewable sources to 30% by 2030.

The following graph shows how the energy mix has changed over the years, with the possibility of viewing that of every other country in the world as well.

In this context, we can all do our part, such as improving the efficiency of our website.

Karma Metrix

To help companies tackle this challenge, a project called Karma Metrix was born, which is a digital sustainability journey that measures, improves, and communicates the environmental impact of a website.

Measurement is carried out through an innovative patented algorithm that takes into account multiple “on-page” elements of the web page that impact energy efficiency.

To do our part, we verified our website with Karma Metrix and found that every page of our digital home is optimized to the highest standard, achieving an A+ rating. Our emissions are 0.36g CO2, significantly lower than the minimum required for certification and among the lowest for Italian web projects. However, given the nature of our work, reaching excellence was desirable. We have also decided to become partners of the project to help spread the culture of energy saving in a forward-thinking vision, which will be increasingly crucial in sustainability reporting: calculating the carbon footprint is now an integral part of Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG), whose reporting is already mandatory for many companies to compile annually.

Discuss it with Massimiliano!

Massimiliano BaldocchiBusiness Manager

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1 La CO₂ equivalente è una misura che esprime l’impatto sul riscaldamento globale di una certa quantità di gas serra rispetto alla stessa quantità di anidride carbonica. L’anidride carbonica (CO2) è stata scelta come gas di riferimento per misurare quanto ogni singola azione sia responsabile del surriscaldamento della Terra. Per fare un esempio: l’emissione di un kg di Metano equivale all’emissione di 25kg di CO2

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