Does the internet have any impact on the environment?

Everybody knows about the typical contributors of carbon footprints are air travel, food, vehicles, and the energy providers that are being used in homes. Believe it or not, the internet is also having an impact on the environment and this will be explored further in this article. If you are all about saving your budget and buying things on a bundle, here is something that might interest you: Xfinity double play is offering internet, TV cable, home security, and home phone services in a bundle. Instead of paying for it separately which can get expensive, you get to have internet and TV services in a single package for an affordable rate. Head over to the link given to check out other amazing deals.

To get an idea about the environmental impact

The whole world adopted a digital lifestyle in 2020 when the COVID pandemic struck. People got heavily invested in streaming movies, attending Zoom meetings, sweating through online classes, and online shopping. Almost all of them cannot imagine the kind of impact these behaviors had on the environment. There was a study conducted by Yale University researchers on the hidden environmental footprint this surge in internet activity had, keeping in mind the carbon emission, water consumption, and land usage. The reports estimated that internet usage increased up to 40% worldwide since March 2020 when stay-at-home orders were issued. This increase in internet activity significantly demanded up to 42.6 million megawatt-hours of additional electricity to support the data transmission and data centers. These buildings house hardware and data of cloud services, and digital applications.

Bad impact

Data centers are buildings that store our emails, text, images or any kind of document in a cloud-type environment. It doesn’t seem realistic that data from the internet could be a physical thing, but it is. The same data is stored in huge centers that are full of servers to hold a large amount of data. These servers need a lot of energy to keep functioning 24/7 so that people can access their data whenever they want to. This, in turn, is sucking in a lot of electricity and generating a large amount of heat as well. Resultantly, this is leaving a huge carbon footprint.

Another example of the energy-intensive of the internet is video. Online videos comprised 80% of global data flow back in 2018, with the remaining 20% being web browsing, video games, etc. These video categories include Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and social networking sites. This increase in video consumption leads to having a massive amount of data being stored, resulting in an impact on the environment. Even such a simple Google search might seem small, but it doesn’t come without a cost. The average Google search each month is equivalent to at least 5 million loads of laundry.

What can you do?

Every time you use the internet for simple actions such as browsing a website, sending and receiving an email, using an app on your phones and devices, or even saving your files on the cloud drives, there is a process of data transference going on between the computers and servers. This data transference also takes up some amount of energy. The more data is stored, sent, or used, the more electrical energy is needed. It might seem small on an individual level, but when you take a whole neighbourhood or a region, or even a country, it mounts up to a large amount of energy being used. Keeping this in mind, there are some things individuals can do to be mindful of the energy being used:

  • They should delete unnecessary emails and spam to prevent them from being stored
  • They should unsubscribe to email newsletters and mailing lists that they are not interested in reading or exploring
  • They should also delete extra apps in phones or software on their computer that they don’t use
  • They should remove redundant photos, videos, and screenshots from cloud drives
  • This one might seem too obvious, but they should do quick Google searches from their phones, instead of laptops

Another perspective

In a way, increased digital activity during the pandemic has brought about some of the steepest drop-offs in carbon emissions throughout the world. Industries and vehicles which are the largest contributors to carbon footprints have experienced decreased activity, leading to a lesser impact on the environment.


The environmental impact that computers generate can be summarized here; there is electricity being used to power your computer or charge your laptops and devices. Then there is more electricity being used to host a separate system that will allow you to stream, download, and browse data from your devices. A high-definition video will use more energy and have a bigger carbon footprint than still images or texts. And finally, there is also carbon generated by the manufacture, shipping, and breakdown of the devices themselves.