While I recently was listening to a back issue of the radio show the Ongoing History of New Music podcast from Alan Cross, where during a discussion about the rise and fall of the CD, they asked which do you think is more environmentally friendlily, CDs or music Streaming?
Turns out its CDs! The original study from the University of Glasgow entitled "The economic cost of recorded music: findings, datasets, sources, and methods" breaks down most of the factors from data-centers, transmission and eventually the device playing the music and concludes that, it is actually more environmentally friendly, and less energy intensive, to manufacture and then use CDs than streaming services.
This got me thinking, music streaming is just one somewhat data-intensive internet feature that is part of this study, but what is carbon impact of your website alone? How often do you really think about the energy used to produce, deliver and show a web application?
Unsurprisingly I am not the first person to think about this and the folks at Wholegrain Digital built a tool that estimates the amount of carbon any particular website would generate per visit, the "Website Carbon Calculator". Their co-founder also wrote the "Sustainable Web Design" book from a book-apart!
Visiting the "Website Carbon Calculator", you can enter any web address, and their tool will estimate the CO2 each visit would emit. It does this by factoring in things like the data the website requests, how intense the data is and, if possible, the energy source of the data center. You can read more about their methodology on their website under "how does it work".
When we think of carbon emissions, we think of the consumption of fossil fuels in things like transportation and industrial processes. Do we ever think of the internet? Contributing to only 3.7% of the world’s global carbon emissions, the internet is not considered a major threat to the welfare of our planet, but with how much the internet is growing, we should remain aware of its effects.
Now while this is not an exact science it is important to recognise there is an impact on the environment by these websites and apps and performance goes further than just user experience, it has an impact on their energy bills (however small) and ultimately the carbon footprint of both your organisation and your customers.
So what is the impact of this website?
This website is estimated to produce 0.05g of CO2, everytime someone visits. Which is estimated to be cleaner than 96% of the internet, find out more with the Website Carbon Calculator.