Although interest in sustainability is expanding to include a wide range of areas, an analysis of 40 leading “green” websites indicates that digital footprints are often overlooked. At the end of April, the World Wide Web celebrated its 20th anniversary, and while the Internet is often considered to be more environmentally friendly than traditional communications channels, this supposition is subject to a number of caveats.
Most people think the web is a green medium, but the average website has a carbon footprint that is similar to a book or a newspaper. Some web pages have a carbon footprint which exceeds that of a printed page, especially if the web page is left open for long periods of time.
According to a recent report in the New York Times, data centers use 30 billion watts of electricity per year globally, and the U.S. is responsible for one-third of that amount (10 billion watts). Most of that energy comes from sources that are neither renewable nor clean.
A 2011 analysis titled Carbon Footprinting the Internet, suggests that global IT is responsible for two to four percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.