‎How does the use of technology affect the carbon footprint?‎


Technology is now everywhere in each person’s life. From morning to night, people depend on them to work, rest, stay in touch with their friends and family, organize trips and more. In the last two decades, but especially in the last three years as an effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, digitization has had a positive impact on the environment, as many services no longer require the printing of a bunch of documents. However, the Internet does not appear out of nowhere and the transition to digital products has its price.

‎Every click generates emissions

A person hardly ever thinks about digital carbon footprint from their daily activities online. Every action we take online has an impact on the environment – every time an email is sent, the Internet or social media is used, a small amount of carbon is released. According to data from 2019, there are 4.66 billion active Internet users in the world, the digital behavior of each of whom matters.

Digital technologies are responsible for 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, and energy consumption is growing at 9% per year. It is estimated that the Internet emits 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gases per year. These numbers show how every single click consumes energy and has an impact that remains unseen, but that we really should not be ignored anymore.

In an ordinary day, people receive and answer at least a few emails, send messages, search for information on the Internet, probably listen to music online or play games in their spare time. Each of these activities has a small carbon price, but all of this multiplied by Internet users adds up to a lot of value. The carbon footprint of our devices, the internet and the systems that support them account for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions, according to some estimates. This is similar to the amount produced by the airline industry worldwide.

Search Engines

The environmental impact of searching for information on the Internet depends on the time it takes for the person to find what they are looking for. Each search requires energy, but exactly how much depends on how complex the question is to answer. Emissions are generated both by the electricity needed to power the user’s computer and by sending the user’s request to servers around the world.

According to Google data, the average user of its services – someone who performs 25 searches every day, watches 60 minutes of YouTube, has a Gmail account and accesses some of their other services – produces less than 8 grams of CO2 per day. In the same report, they state that Google uses a combination of renewable energy and carbon offsets to reduce the carbon footprint of its operations. There are search engines that promise to take care of nature for every search, such as planting trees for every 45 searches. It’s good for people to know the options so they can make an informed choice.

Energy for Streaming

Streaming technologies have a bigger carbon footprint than people think. Online video viewing accounts for the largest share of global internet traffic at 60%. Digital technologies are responsible for 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions and this percentage is expected to double by 2025.

Many people probably still remember the song Despacito from 2017, a popular reggaeton hit by Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. It became the most streamed song of all time, having been listened to 7.9 billion times as of October 2022. A group of researchers from the European Commission, led by Dr. Rabih Bashroush, conducted a study on the environmental impact of using a remote server to listen to music online . At that time, the famous song had been listened to 4.6 billion times. To hear Despacito this many times used as much electricity as the combined annual electricity consumption of Chad, Guinea-Bissau, Somalia, Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic.

Online video streaming platforms are responsible for emitting nearly 306 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. Netflix says its total global energy use has reached 451,000 megawatt-hours per year, enough to power 37,000 homes, but insists it buys renewable energy certificates and carbon offsets to offset any energy coming from renewable sources. fossil fuels.

The Alternative

Studies analyzing people’s streaming habits prove that many of the hours spent streaming music and movies are actually generating emissions for nothing. Many of the participants listened to background music without realizing it was on, or fell asleep in front of the TV while streaming a movie. Reducing this way of using the technology or stopping unwanted video playback in an open browser when not watching can help reduce your carbon footprint.‎

Another way people can reduce their footprint is if they download the song, movie or book to their device instead of streaming from a remote server. They can read books from the library or borrow books from friends.


According to Statista, more than 306 billion emails were sent in 2021 and are expected to reach 376 billion in 2025. The carbon footprint of each email varies based on how long it is, how many people it’s sent to, and whether it contains an attachment. For example, 0.3g is the amount of CO2 for a spam email, up to 4g for a regular email and 50g for one with a photo or heavy attachment, according to Mike Berners-Lee, a fellow at Lancaster University who studies carbon footprints.

It is recommended to send links using a drive instead of a direct attachment, especially when it is to a larger number of recipients. It turns out that among other correspondence alternatives, SMS is the most environmentally friendly, as it generates only 0.014 g of CO2. According to Freitag, sending a message via an app like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger only has a slightly smaller carbon footprint than email, and this also depends on the content being sent – ​​gifs, emoticons and images have a larger footprint than plain text .




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