The hidden power usage of the internet
Have you seen BBC Three’s latest documentary, “Dirty streaming: The internet’s big secret” yet? It reveals some stark statistics about the hidden power usage of the internet. Film and TV writer Beth Webb states in the short documentary, released on 5th March, that the internet is “as polluting as flying”. Although the programme concentrates on streaming video, it highlights some important facts about the amount of energy the internet uses, and it begs the question, what’s the environmental impact of a website?
Key statistics from Dirty streaming: The internet’s big secret
The documentary demonstrates the energy usage of the internet by using ‘Despacito’ by Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee as an example. The most watched YouTube video worldwide has been viewed a staggering five billion times. These views, according to BBC Three, used the same amount of energy as five African countries put together over a whole year! By its own admission, even watching the 25 minutes documentary itself produces 40g of carbon, enough to drive a car 225 metres.
And we’re using more internet than ever before. In the documentary, presenter Webb states that our usage has “exploded” from 50 exabytes 2007 to 1.1 zettabytes 2017, which in turn requires more and more energy.
“The internet is doing some serious polluting”
Did you know that streaming Despacito has produced the same volume of carbon emissions as five African countries combined over an entire year?
— BBC News Press Team (@BBCNewsPR) March 5, 2020
How does the internet use so much power?
Everything we do, view or send online is stored on a server somewhere. Servers are housed in buildings called data centres. Servers need to run 24/7 and use a massive amount of power to work and keep cool. The BBC Three documentary claims that each server within a data centre can use as much power as a whole city. People think of the internet as this cloud-like, intangible force, but actually it’s a worldwide network of thousands of data centres that are connected by miles of undersea cables.
And it all needs power.
Sadly, many data centres are run on fossil fuels, which we know contributes to climate change.
What’s the environmental impact of a website?
Just like the videos we stream, every website needs to be stored on a server in one of these data centres too, so your website uses energy every minute of every day. And with each new click or new view, it uses a little more. According to a recent article in Forbes Magazine, the average website can produce as much as 4,700 pounds of CO2 a year – the same as driving a car for more than 5,000 miles.
How can you reduce the environmental impact of your website?
Using an eco-friendly web host, like Solve, is one way you can cut the carbon emissions of your website. We fuel our web servers with renewable energy, ensuring that while our clients’ are making a big impact online, they’re not having a big impact on the environment.
Our office is also solar-powered and we plant 100 trees a month to offset emissions too, further reducing the environmental impact of the websites we design, optimise and host. For more information, read our article on the impact of the internet.
Our eco-friendly web design and SEO isn’t just a fleeting strategy either. We are a certified B Corp™ that’s committed to balancing our purpose and our profit, tackling some of the major economic, environmental and social problems of our time. And this force for good filters through to the clients we work with.