29 December 2021

What is digital carbon?

The hugely energy intensive nature of digital operations means they now account for 4% of all global carbon emissions - read on to discover where and how this is produced.

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By William Tinney
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We hear a lot about how companies and individuals can go greener.

Everyone knows about carbon footprints - and what contributes to them; the cars we drive, the food we eat, the energy we consume… even the deodorant we use. For different reasons, all of this can release co2 into the atmosphere and most people and organisations are looking to reduce their emissions.

But what do we know about digital carbon?

Greenpixie defines digital carbon as ‘The equivalent carbon emissions of an individual or organisation which is produced by internet use or infrastructure.’

When you think about it, it’s no surprise that the internet is pollutive….

Over a billion websites, countless images and endless hours of video, not to mention virtual meetings, live streaming, gaming, applications, intranets, cryptomining and a whole lot more!

With over four billion of us estimated to have access to the internet, storing this data, running these processes and downloading it all onto electronic devices, all requires a huge amount of electricity and is responsible for as much carbon emission as the entire aviation industry.

The climate conversation no one is having

So why is it that even passionate environmentalists don’t seem to be speaking much about this?

It may be that we rarely consider what the internet really is.

We like to speak about information existing all around us, in the ‘cloud’, with no fixed location or tangible physicality - when the truth is a little grislier!

Enormous warehouses, packed full of energy intensive servers are running constantly all over the world - requiring an enormous amount of electricity.

Then there’s the transfer of that data from the server to the end user, which relies on a complex telecoms network, which might be beaming information off of a satellite one minute, or sending it across hundreds of miles of undersea cabling the next.

Once that information is with us, it must be displayed on our electronic devices, which - as we all know too well - require constant power, and regular charging!

All of this basically equates to a lot of coal in the furnace and a lot of environmentally UNfriendly fumes.

The internet is now responsible for 3.7% of all global carbon emissions. And this figure is on course to double to 8% by 2025.

Reaching digital sustainability

In order to reverse this trend - and to build a sustainable internet - Greenpixie are developing technologies and techniques which measure the carbon emissions of organisations’ digital activity.

We are also raising awareness, speaking across Europe and around the world at climate events and functions, to engage a wider audience in this overlooked aspect of the climate emergency.

Speak to us today about your digital processes and, together, we can stay at the forefront of the fight against climate change.