What can you do about climate change? Part 2

Published on November 29, 2021 by Alex Eade

(Read Part One Here)

The internet’s role in climate change

How does this fit into a Digital Marketing Manager’s role?

Some of us may feel bad for taking a flight or driving a petrol car because of the impact we know this has on the environment.

Few of us consider any of our digital activities as harmful!

You might be shocked to discover that the internet is responsible for approximately 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions. That is a similar share to the entire aviation industry. With the ever-increasing number of internet-connected devices, this percentage continues to grow every year.

Digital carbon footprint

All the information that we exchange online requires electricity to travel between data centres, networking infrastructure, and end-user devices.

The problem is that about 80% of electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels.

Therefore, all of our digital actions contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Every video we watch, every song or podcast we listen to, every article we read, every search, every ‘like’, every tweet… all of this has a carbon footprint. To illustrate why this matters, let’s discuss two specific examples: page views and emails…

What’s the carbon footprint of a page view?

According to Wholegrain Digital, the average web page currently emits 1.79 grams of CO2 per page view, roughly the weight of an almond.

If you think about it, an almond is equivalent to quite a sizeable volume of carbon emission every time someone loads a page on their devices.

By reducing the size of our websites and individual web pages, we can reduce the carbon emissions released into the atmosphere each time someone visits them. Every byte matters.

What’s the carbon footprint of an email?

The second example is email. OVO Energy published research about the environmental impact of sending unnecessary emails in collaboration with Mike Berners-Lee, an English researcher, author of several books about carbon footprints and climate change, and brother to Tim Berners-Lee, best known as inventor of the World Wide Web.

OVO Energy calculated that the average carbon footprint of an unnecessary email (an email with up to four words) is approximately 1g of CO2. Here are the top 10 unnecessary emails regularly sent:

OVO Energy. (2019) ‘Think Before You Thank’

  1. Thank you
  2. Thanks
  3. Have a good weekend
  4. Received
  5. Appreciated
  6. Have a good evening
  7. Did you get / see this?
  8. Cheers
  9. You too
  10. LOL

The research calculated how many tonnes of carbon emissions would be saved if every internet user living in the UK sent just one less unnecessary email a day for one whole year.

The results were astonishing.

One less email a day would save 16,433 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

That is an equivalent to halting 81,152 flights from Heathrow to Madrid or taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road.

Whilst the carbon footprint of a single email isn’t huge, the example above illustrates the impact of our digital interactions on the environment.

Technology as a driver for a more sustainable world

“The first step in solving a problem is recognising there is one.” Will McAvoy

The digital world plays a big role in climate change, but it can also be a part of the solution.

As Digital Marketing Managers, we need to acknowledge that the digital space in which we operate and communicate with our customers has a carbon footprint. However, recognising the environmental impact of our digital interactions shouldn’t stop us from using the technology that is available to us. We just need to learn how to use it in a more efficient way.

Technology has always been the leader in innovation.

If we all help to make the internet more sustainable, we can accelerate the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Therefore, a sustainable internet can be a part of the global mission to solve the climate crisis.

That is one of the reasons why we are so proud to work in this industry!

Read Part 3 Here