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Effects of the Internet on Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Surfing the Net, sending an email, downloading documents, sharing them: all these actions have a weight on the planet, all the more important as we are currently 1.5 billion of Internet users to browse the Web almost daily, both for Our professional and personal lives. We can talk all day about how sustainable practices like a tree service in Pasadena can rid poor performing trees and create a better world.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) Contribute 2% to European greenhouse gas emissions, according to a September 2008 report by the Environmental Assessment Agency BIO Intelligence Service for The European Commission. This figure is expected to double by 2020, if we do not change our lifestyles. In order to gain a better knowledge, understanding and control of the environmental impact of ICTs, the Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) publishes a Life cycle Analysis (LCA) of three of their emblematic uses, Thursday 7 July: Requests made on the Internet and media for transmitting documents such as USB sticks.

The emails. Every day, it is an inflation of messages that jostle in our boxes: professional e-mails, personal messages but also countless newsletters, chains of mails or advertisements. In the end, 247 billion of e-mails were sent daily worldwide in 2018, including spam, and this figure is expected to climb to 507 billion within three years, depending on the site at at sign.

In France, each employee, in a company of 100 people, receives an average of 58 e-mails per day and sends 33. Due to an average size of 1 MB — basic figure of calculations, probably excessive — Ademe has calculated that these mailings in the professional framework generate annual greenhouse gas emissions staggering: no less than 13.6 tonnes equivalent CO2 at the enterprise level of 100 people — about 13 return trips from Paris to New York — or 136 kg CO2 equivalent per employee.

In question, the use of energy generated by the operation of the computers of the transmitter and the recipient of the Mail, the production of this computer and in particular of its electronic components — since the LCA, unlike the carbon balance, studies The integral environmental impact of an element — as well as the functioning of data centers, which store and process data.

The aim of Ademe is of course not to encourage traditional mail to be preferred but to explain how to use it in a more environmentally friendly way. To reduce this pollution, LCA first points to the importance of the number of recipients. Thus, multiply their number multiplies by 4 the emissions of greenhouse gases while subtracting a recipient allows to earn 6 G CO2 equivalent, i.e. 44 kg per year and per employee. In the end, “reducing by 10% the sending of e-mails systematically including its manager and one of his colleagues within a company of 100 people allows a gain of approximately 1 ton CO2 equivalent over the year.” This gain obviously increases with the size of emails: for e-mails of 10 MB and not 1 mo, these are 8 tons of CO2 equivalent that are saved.

storing mails and attachments on a server is also an important issue: the longer the email is kept, the more the impact on climate change will be, the Ademe ensures. Finally, more expected, one of the major greenhouse gas emissions related to emails is their impression. Reducing the print rate by 10% saves 5 tonnes CO2 equivalent over one year in a company.

Web requests. It’s the Internet’s own: Wandering from page to page and link to endless link. A French Internet user performs an average of 2.66 searches per day, or 949 searches per year, according to the Médiamétrie Institute.

But surfing the Net is polluting for the environment in the sense that the servers consume electricity and emit heat. According to Ademe, the search for information via a search engine represents in the final 9.9 kg CO2 equivalent per year and per Internet user. How to reduce this impact? Use specific keywords when searching, enter the URL directly when you know it, save the sites often used in its “favorites”: so many actions that allow to earn 5 kg CO2e per year per person.

The flash drive. This last use, is far less studied, concerns both the impact of the production of a USB stick and the reading of the files it allows to store. In total, transmitting a 10 MB document to a person via a 512 MB USB key emits 11 g of CO2 equivalent.

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