With the recent shift to virtual school and telecommuting to work, many people feel that it’s benefiting the environment because we are reducing global carbon emissions used by vehicles; but a new study sheds light on how we aren’t off the hook. We could, however, help continue to reduce the impact of all of the internet data that is being stored and transferred by one simple move next time we log into a virtual meeting.
A study from Purdue University highlights that the world’s extra demand for internet since the pandemic hit the world in 2020 has not come without its costs to the environment. It’s the internet data being stored and transferred around the world that is still a cause for environmental concern. Easy to dismiss because it’s invisible and we don’t see evidence of it as we do with smoke or emissions from cars or accumulating trash, it has proven to be just as harmful to the earth.
Internet usage dramatically increased by at least 20% in most countries since March 2020, and the amount of electricity needed to keep up with a world constantly data streaming is beginning to take its toll.
Using the video camera for only 1 hour on a conference call or streaming causes an emission of its own. Video conferencing produces between 150-1,000 grams of carbon dioxide—still lower than a single gallon of gas used by a car which clocks in at 8,887 grams. The video conferencing also needs 2-12 liters of water and all of the internet data and transference needed to log you into that Zoom meeting actually requires land—around the same size as a small tablet.
If the world continues to require this level of data, the heavier demand for internet will emit so much carbon that it need a 71,600 square mile forest to handle the extra carbon. The extra water that is needed to continue to keep up with us will fill 300,000 Olympic swimming pools and leave a footprint on land equal to the size of the city of Los Angeles, California.
It’s shocking to discover that the use of video streaming actually requires physical energies and takes up physical space to operate, but we can reduce the load on the environment simply by turning off our cameras during a Zoom meeting when it’s not absolutely necessary. This simple habit can reduce the carbon footprints caused by the internet/video calling by 96%.
If this got you thinking about how much internet your work or family is going through during recreational time, another simple switch can reduce the carbon emissions by 86%: streaming in standard definition instead of HD.
Obringer, R., Rachunok, B., Maia-Silva, D., Arbabzadeh, M., Nateghi, R., & Madani, K. (2021, January 08). The overlooked environmental footprint of increasing internet use.