Can we make the web extra sustainable?
With the internet now emitting roughly the same amount of carbon dioxide as global air travel, let's see what designers can do to address our digital waste problem
The interest in the sustainable design movement has been enormous in recent years – whether it's about more environmentally conscious brand and packaging designs or rethinking the short shelf life of most of our tech products. However, one thing that you may not have considered when it comes to your individual impact on the planet is your digital footprint.
In a world in which we are more digitally connected than ever before, every email sent and every Google search carried out causes environmental costs. The statistics speak for themselves: the Internet currently causes 3.8% of global CO2 emissions – about as much as the global aviation industry. If the internet were a country, it would be the seventh largest polluter in the world, and this trend is expected to accelerate by 2030.
The idea of digital waste is not a completely new concept; Experts like Gerry McGovern have been researching the environmental impact of the Internet since the 1990s. McGovern has written eight books on the subject, most recently World Wide Waste. In the book, he writes: “Digital demands an increasing share of the earth's energy and resources and contributes significantly to the generation of toxic waste, a culture of throwaway, convenience and the most wasteful behavior ever in human history. ”