Fossil fuels account for 80% of global energy consumption (1) and are the major anthropogenic source of greenhouse gases. Any increase in global energy consumption hinders climate change mitigation.
Digital technologies are essential for sustainable development and appear to be critical for reducing emissions from business travel.
However, the environmental impacts of the growing use of digital technology are usually underestimated and represent a risk if not properly addressed in climate roadmaps
The energy intensity of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector is growing by 4% per year (2)
#1 Data centres
Although often invisible, data centre emissions are significant and must be taken into account to reduce the environmental footprint of digital activities.
#2 User data storage
A significant proportion of data exchanged and stored can be reduced without impacting functionalities or performance, but simply by changing usage patterns.
#3 User level
There is often a lack of knowledge and awareness of the environmental impacts of digital activities, along with best practices.
#4 Eco-search browsers
Search engines are not equivalent when it comes to the environment. Some consume more energy, some donate part of their profits to environmental projects without impacting search performance or data safety.
#5 Eco-web & documents design
Eco-friendly websites require less energy to run, lighter documents require less energy to save and share.
Infomaniak green services
Infomaniak Switzerland works with web design and solutions and have implemented several green solutions across the company. Their services and offices are powered 100% by certified renewable energy. Their data centres are not airconditioned, they are cooled only using filtered outside air. Manufacture of the servers they buy represents their biggest CO2 emissions, therefore they are used for 15 years. Finally, they are certified with ISO 14001 and ISO 50001.
The University of St Andrews ecofriendly browser
The University of St Andrews will implement the eco-friendly search engine Ecosia (6) across its computer network as part of an ambitious strategy to reach net zero carbon by 2035. The University’s switched to the eco-friendly search engine, which plants trees for internet searches in a bid to tackle the climate emergency. Ecosia will be the default search engine on all classroom computers across campus and students will be advised how they can make the optional switch to Ecosia on their personal devices.
BNP HPC programme
In 2018, BNP Paribas embarked on a program to refresh and expand its high-performance computing (HPC) server farm – a vital hub for applications used to calculate positions and associated risks in the financial markets – at a new site that would account for almost 30% of total capacity. A solution was found with server technology company 2CRSi, which enabled BNP Paribas to recycle the heat produced by the processor cores of the French-based servers to keep the building warm. The bank also looked for solutions for home-based teleworking and relocated several of its data centres to Iceland.
An alliance of US and European companies and non-governmental organisations has formed around the environmental impact of the internet. It includes organisations such as the Green Web Foundation, which aims for a fossil-free internet by 2030 (7), and businesses like EcoPing (8), which offers a series of tools to reduce website carbon emissions. The result of this collaboration includes a platform, SustainableWebDesign.org (9) where creators of web technology can find methods, recommendations and tools to help them create sustainable products and services. They are based on the Sustainable Web Manifesto, which comprises six principles (10) addressing environmental impact, but also extending to social impact. Among those principles are clean energy use and resource efficiency, as well as accessibility to all users and non-exploitative design.
Tools and good practices
- Website carbon calculator
- Track the impact of the world’s largest company websites
- Electricity generation and source world map
- Ecograder, How green is your website?
- Beacon, Calculate the environmental impact of a web page
- Cabin, Carbon conscious web analytics
- The Green Web Foundation, Is your website hosted green?
Green eco-search browsers
To go further
Online meetings & trainings
(1) LEAN ICT – Pour une société numerique, 2018. Read here
(2) WWF – Apprendre à réduire son empreinte numérique. Read here
(3) Cleanfox – Clean your mailbox. Read here
(4) Direction interministérielle de la transformation publique – Le Guide écoresponsable au bureau de la DITP, 2018. Read here
(5) ABB – Climatisation des centres de données, 2020. Read here
(6) Ecosia. Check here
(7) The Green Web Foundation – Towards a Fossil-Free Internet: The Fog of Enactment, 2022. Read here
(8) EcoPing – Making your website more eco-friendly: Tools to reduce your company’s website carbon emissions & boost performance, 2022. Check here
(9) Sustainable Web Design – What is sustainable web design? 2021. Check here
(10) Sustainable Web Manifesto. Read here
Cover photo © Domenico Loia/Unsplash.