The term carbon footprint is catching up fast and helps us understand the levels of emissions of gases that cause global warming and impact climate change.
The world is getting digitized, and more and more activities, tasks and functions are becoming dependent on digital content. The concept of digitization, over the last 40 years, has been an outcome of convenience, experience, the need for access to information, saving time and many more possibilities. The world without digitization is unimaginable in multiple dimensions.
The three main assets as part of any digitization setup are hosting centers, networks and devices. The data centers host the content, and transmit this information through the network connections, and finally push the information onto different devices (end-users). Now, it is interesting to note that ‘going digital’ is not carbon-free but more like using ‘very less carbon’. Various studies estimate the contribution of web technologies to the carbon footprint between 2.3 – 3.7 percent of global CO₂ emissions.
The term carbon footprint is catching up fast and helps us understand the levels of emissions of gases that cause global warming and impact climate change. To drive sustainability, it is imperative to understand the underlying contributors of carbon sources, no matter how small their contribution.
A carbon footprint is a measure of the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, place or product expressed as a carbon dioxide equivalent. Research from 2018 estimates the information technology sector’s carbon footprint to be 1.4% of overall global emissions, and the sector uses 3.6% of the global electricity for its operation. This sector’s carbon emission comes from user devices, such as phones, tablets, computers and modems, followed by communication networks for both fixed and mobile access, and data centers, including enterprise networks and operator activities.
In India (778 million) and China (988 million) alone there are about 1.76 billion internet users. Now, doing the math of 1 hour internet usage per day and 100 days in a year would lead to an astronomical figure of 200 billion hours of computer/mobile usage in a year. The digital chain for all digital content consumes energy, and has a direct impact on the global CO2 emissions.
As of January 2020, global statistics suggest that there are approximately 1.74 billion websites running on the internet with 4 billion+ estimated daily visitors. There are also 8.9M mobile apps as per a report, and all these add to carbon footprint scores.
There is an increased focus at the consumer as well as corporate level on green and sustainable operations. With organizations committing to net-zero emissions and sustainable development goals, decarbonizing digital assets is gaining significant traction across industries. Reducing the carbon emissions associated with a website boils down to reducing the amount of electricity being used to load, send, and view a web page, and then ensuring the resulting electricity required is from clean, renewable resources.
A study conducted in 2016, showed that data centers across the world consume more than 400 terawatts per year, which is about 3% of global consumption. In the future, internet transaction volumes are expected to continue to grow, partly because a larger share of the global population will be connected, and also due to the expansion of Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
This requires a process to study the information flow through web infrastructural components and benchmark the present level of carbon footprint to identify the improvement areas, which are then followed by taking definitive actions and validating the changes as part of continual improvement cycles.