19 Creative Ways To Decrease Your CO2 Footprint Online

Analysts state that the World Wide Web is the largest consumer of electricity in the world; it can be seen from the numerous data centers and servers, required to keep the Internet up and running, operating every single second of the day. But the web is not all bad, as it now also plays a large part in people’s battle to become more eco-friendly. If you want to know of twenty-two ways you can use the internet to decrease your carbon footprint, please indulge.

The actual estimate of power consumption by the many servers and home computers using the internet in America stands at a whopping 350 billion kWh per year, while the power consumption in the whole world by the internet stands at 868 billion kWh per year. True enough, the internet has been great for the sake of communication and data transfer, but viewing it as a coin with two sides, the internet is as much of a threat to the world’s non-renewable resources as the oil thirsty sheiks of Saudi Arabia.

So what can the common user can do anything about the massive power vent associated with the Internet? As the internet has made itself indispensable, fully integrated with the life of everyday people, simply turning it off isn’t a reasonable option.  Fortunately, various groups of environmentalists and eco-scientists have devised many web strategies for you to join the movement against climate change.  This article explores 19 ways in which your internet experience can become eco-friendlier.

#1. Do Not Print Your E-mails

Everything from web servers to search engines are incorporating eco-friendly techniques for their operation, therefore giving rise to greener email servers. There are a wide range of email servers that operate on renewable sources of energy – solar and wind energy.

“Printing this email is a murder; it kills a tree” is an example of a green email footer or a signature that demands attention and makes the recipient think about if they really want to print this email.

Further, if green emails are not to your specification, it is recommended that you use Gmail, which has been claimed to be the greenest e-mail as of date. Gmail has taken out GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) out of their servers and thus has a low PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness); the lower the PUE, the greener the e-mail server is.

Green e-mail signatures – “Think Before You Print This Email”

It is important to understand that though the Internet has taken a toll on the Earth’s resources, it has saved the staggering amount of trees that would have to be killed to print data on paper otherwise. On an everyday basis, huge chunks of data and reports are sent between organizations through e-mail, which brings us to a realization of the importance of electronic communication channels. The amount of trees that would have to be sacrificed to print that much data in the absence of the electronic mail system is beyond human contemplation.

It is important to emphasize on printing emails only if absolutely necessary. Eco-friendly organizations have recommended use of green e-mail signatures which make people contemplate printing specific material.

#2. Let Wind and Sun Power Your Server & Your Host Plant Trees in Your Name

Possibly, one of the best ways to reduce the amount of power that servers and data centers guzzle on a daily basis is opting for greener web hosting services that are designed to provide you with an equally fast and efficient Internet experience. In the recent months, a new generation of green web hosts has come up, thereby giving you a plethora of options to choose from.

While one group of hosting services buys Renewable Energy Certificates which are authenticated proofs that the energy used is generated in an eco-friendly manner, while the second group focuses on generating the power used for their servers themselves by incorporating harnessed natural energy sources like wind, solar, biogas and geothermal power sources. Virtualization, “speed stepping” and combined housing are some other techniques which focus on efficient use of the server resources.  A list of options can be found on the Internet from which the most efficient one for your business can be chosen.

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#3. Manually Windup Your Cellphone and Carry Around Your Papers in a Bamboo Briefcase

An array of innovative, sustainable and eco-friendly gadgets is on display at Envirogadget: The FitPC 2 1.1 GHz and 1.6 GHz low power processors, energy-efficient hard-drives, sustainable bamboo briefcases and Hand-powered Windup Mobile Phone Charger.

More items worth mentioning are carbon neutral flash drives made of hardwood and USB drives made of newspapers and solar-powered wireless keyboards. Also, a top selling item is the Eco Mouse with a specialized mouse design with a central “green planet” button which puts your computer in a special eco-mode enabling it to use the least possible energy while switched on.

#4. Try Out Some Free Eco Friendly iPhone Apps

The iPhone has been accepted as one of the most sophisticated cell phones across the globe. Apple has manufactured the iPhone with a view to spread green awareness around the world – there are a lot of green applications that come with this cell phone that aim at doing the same. “A Real Tree” is one such application which simulates a real live tree on the phone screen; purchasing this software contributes a specific percentage of money to reforestation of different quantities.

Carbon Tracker is a free app that allows you to measure the size of your carbon footprint that you create every day by commuting, trips and vacations; further, it allows you to set goals which enable you to reduce the emissions you generate daily.

The Green Lemur gives you tips and trivia on how you can participate in the green revolution, occasionally reminding you to buy e-books instead of regular books. There are various other applications like CarCare which gives you technical advice on car maintenance and EcoCal which gives cool tips on flora, fauna, space and the world.

#5. Switch to Eco-Search Engines like Blackle & Ecocho!

We have reached a point of time where “searching” has been changed to “Googling” in the Internet lingo. Google, though not an econ-friendly search engine, was one of the first to introduce a green search engine called Blackle, an energy saving search engine, the background of which is made black, so that it can save monitor power at homes and offices. Green Maven is another green search engine that lists relevant eco-friendly sites upon keyword entry, while Ecocho, by Yahoo!, grows two trees on 1000 searches. Searchgreener incorporates the dark background based on the amount of power consumed to display white or lighter colors on the screen than black or dark screens; it also donates all of the profits to purchasing carbon offsets.

 #6. Make Your Internet Connection Sustainable with Eco-friendly Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

As they say, good things come in packages. Green ISPs not only provide you with solutions for your broadband and dial-up connection needs, but also offer web hosting services and e-mail services. Right from your basic home needs, 64 kbps to broadband connections for business corporations and multi-national companies 48 Mbps, most green ISPs are capable of handling necessary bandwidth at a reasonable price.

To add to this, their workplaces and back-offices also function in an eco-friendly manner, their servers powered by natural sources of energy as is their offices. Paperless techniques are also adopted in addition to a contribution of your subscription fees to an eco-friendly organization to plant trees and purchase carbon offsets. Green ISP is one such service provider in the United Kingdom, offering a wide range of broadband and dialup services to cater to your needs.

#7. Share Your Wi-Fi with Neighbors

The Dodo is extinct and so is the LAN cable in houses. LAN cables are used in offices and educational institutions to create networks in an intranet. Anybody with a laptop knows of Wireless Fidelity commonly known as the Wi-Fi; they are found everywhere from houses to hotels and airports. They provide an easier and effective way to connect to the Internet in a given area around the modem or the router, which can be increased to a relatively higher magnitude by a powerful router.

Since the Wi-Fi is easier and reliable with relatively wide area coverage, it can be shared by people living next to each other. It can be compared to carpooling with a string of advantages to it – lesser equipment and hardware, wireless and less space consuming, lesser cost and power consumption. Make it secure with a password and you can prevent unauthorized access.

#8. Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

As the eco-community has grown larger online, so has the development of some real cool tools. One great widget is the C02 footprint calculator available via a number of site. Using this tool you will be able to pin down your emission high habits, including your vehicle usage, household routines and travelling routines. The Carbon Footprint Calculator is a perfect example of how creative thinking can help engadge the lazy masses. Check out the calculator at CarbonFootprint.com.

#9. Do Not Download!

Typically, a movie works to around 700 MB, while higher quality demands up to twice this size. Watching movies online and downloading them from servers creates an unimaginable traffic jam at the server causing it to consume more power to serve its customers, since it’s a known fact that busy servers consume much more power than idle servers.

Therefore, watching movies the traditional way on the big screen munching on popcorn is the best way, both from a legal and an eco-friendly perspective. If you still feel the need to download movies, make sure to opt for a P2P file transfer method.

#10. YouTube Less!

There are a number of websites that have been branded heavy by Internet users; YouTube, DailyMotion and other tube sites are some of them. Websites featuring online movies and media are considered heavy websites. Frequent access of these sites take a toll on the server power, in its efforts to cope up with the network traffic and cater to every user’s needs by sending huge chunks of data to each individual computer in order for the media to run. Media – audio and video, tend to take up more of the server power than plain text. Fortunately, there are several alternatives to tube sites; Green Tube and GoGreenTube are websites that host user-submitted videos and generate one carbon credit for each video watched – this means that these sites aim at offsetting one pound of carbon for every video.

#11. Pay your bills online

The internet, with most banks offering account access online, has made the everyday bill payment routine virtually paper free. And if you still receive your invoices in paper format, you can contact your back or sender to ask to switch to electronic billing. Statistics say that if 20% of household in the world switched to online payment techniques, an estimated 1.8 million trees equaling 100 million pounds of paper would be saved.

#12. Read Your Morning News Online

Lately, the necessity of newspapers has been a question in play. And while opinions differ whether online news are eco-friendlier , the lifecycle of a newspaper is however long and complicated, forming the backbone of a multimillion dollar industry that cuts down trees for a living.

Further metrics to be added to the calculation is the power consumed to print and recycle papers and the method of producing ink and blocks. Sharing newspapers in apartments, offices and public places is a good feasible idea. But flicking on your laptop in the morning and checking daily news online is still the best tree-saving alternative.  And if not regular news sites, there are numerous green sites like Treehugger and the DailyGreen, which give you a daily account of news from around the world.

#13. Shop Online

The internet is home to several online shopping marts and forums, enabling you to have a calculated approach to personal consumption. Featured sites like iTunes and eMusic enable you to get music without having to buy disposable and non-recyclable discs and cassettes. Energystar is an information portal which gives you details on electronics – appliances and gadgets which can be eco-friendly, cutting down on money and resources.  

Another website, Freecycle is aimed at creating a worldwide movement that focuses on reducing waste, recycling products and saving the world’s resources. With members and related communities all over the world, it has succeeded in saving usable and recyclable products and keeping them out of landfills.

#14. Educate the next generation

Kids, particularly when they are introduced to the concept of the Internet, tend to be awestruck with its expanse. It can be a pretty addictive experience for them and parents, unless they are part of an eco-group, generally do not find it mandatory to educate their kids on the effect that a lengthened period of time has on the household power consumption.

Introducing them to concepts of green internet browsing and signing up for accounts with green web and email hosting services paves way for a better future for the Internet. Earth 911 has a separate kids section which is designed to educate kids on the need for a greener world through games, cartoons and Earth-day activities. National Geographic Kids features a kids section along with a Green-O-Meter which calculates the environmental awareness of kids by asking them simple questions as to disposal of soda cans and paper bags.

#15. Engadge in the Online Eco-Community

Green forums and social-networking sites are a reminder to people who feel that going green is not just a spectator sport and it requires active participation from people around the world. While forums are not as bright and flashy as social networking sites and blogs, they pass the message across and set the stage for an active discussion while creating other modules for associated media. Some great examples of engadging sites are CarbonRally.com and MakeMeSustainable.com. Here you can take direct action in the battle against climate change.

Pays to Live Green is a website that gives tips on how to live green with a promise of reduction in household expenditure if you abide by it. In the creator’s words, “Pays to Live Green will focus on all of my interests including: finance and finding bargains, the environment, alternative sources of energy, organic and sustainable products, nutrition and technology.” This website focuses on delivering an alternative energy consuming or a natural response to everyday queries. While this site does not lay down ground rules or instructions to follow or implore you to give up all luxuries in life, it features a relatively good range of environmentally friendly products and energy-consumption meters which can keep track of monthly power consumption. 

Blogs and social news sites are more effective of spreading the message and letting a larger percentage of people know. For example, Hugg (Green Digg) was launched in 2006, and the number of members have grown to 6000 in less than a year with prominent members like Treehugger being one of the main posters. This is one of the most active green blogs and links to several green sites and green blogs. Another eco-targeted social media platform is Care2.com, with over 12 million members and a community base which allows you to submit your own stories and note(digg!) others.

#16. Stay Informed and Alert with Reminder Widgets

For those of you who are striving to become eco-friendlier citizens of planet Earth, there are a number of widgets to install on your computer to keep you on track with fighting climate change.

Widgetbox has an eco-calculator which assesses the environmental impact of printing out cards, brochures and documents.

EcoImpact is another widget that measures the extent and size of your carbon footprint on this planet by taking into consideration food, office and vehicle parameters. Further, there are several other widgets which aim at measuring your home’s carbon footprint, making your air travel and vehicle environment-friendly. Easily embeddable, these widgets can be sent to other people or shared on social-networking sites.

#17. Greenify Your Laptop

It is of experts’ opinion that a laptop is more environment-friendly than a desktop computer due to its ability to organize and effectively use the resources better. With a single small-size hard-drive and a mini-processor, it is efficient at resource handling and management. It is a lesser-known fact that the manufacturing process of laptops yields lesser emissions and waste products than desktops. It follows that laptops reduce your electricity bill considerably.

The question arises as to whether incorporation of greener techniques can reduce power consumption further. With a concrete positive answer, green laptops evolved – better battery management, better resource handling techniques and better power management. Though they lack in performance and features compared to conventional notepads, they are smaller, efficient and eco-friendlier than their larger siblings. Further, the definition of green laptops has been positively modified with the advent of Asus Bamboo Series.

#18. Check Out Power Saving Computer Screens

Statistics have it that the monitor contributes the maximum to a desktop computer’s power consumption. A regular CRT computer monitor consumes 50 – 70 watts, while on standby it consumes 8 – 10 watts. It is recommended that the computer monitor always be switched off and the computer be put in sleep mode when not in use.

Reducing the brightness of a monitor can save a lot of power. Other ways to reduce power consumption is to set a black screensaver within 5 minutes of inactivity of a computer. You may optionally choose to put the computer in sleep mode with 10 minutes of inactivity or even use the switch-off computer feature to minimize power consumption. For laptops, there are options for varied power usage in a gamble with computer performance which can be turned down to the power saver mode if the application you are using does not require a lot of memory.

#19. Try Eco-friendly Online Dating

The business of online dating is a multi-billion dollar industry, and has become modern society's most popular way to find love. You can thus imagine its impact on climate change, with billions of related Google searches every year, not to mention the server load caused by heavy sites such as Match and Lavalife. So if you are a friend of the environment yet for some strange readon still single, you might want to consider the eco-friendly online dating alternative of EcoDater.com.

Written (Updated 2016-10-10)
Share your thoughts

stevo,  15 June, 2010

climate change is the biggest lie!

ReL,  30 April, 2010

Sorry, this article lost all credibility when it claimed that a black background saves energy.

Kirsty ,  12 April, 2010

I think you's are all being a little drastic, i mean having a kid can't end the world, although I respect your opinion, it just seems a little odd that everyone is being prejudice to a topic that you clearly know little about. If you really want to save the world do it one step at a time and you can make a difference.

Ben Hurtisson,  4 January, 2010

I must say, great reviews and video!

Kerry,  29 December, 2009

"watching movies the traditional way on the big screen munching on popcorn is the best way, both from a legal and an eco-friendly perspective."

Really? I would expect that massive, always-lit movie theatres have an enormous carbon foot print in and of themselves--not to mention the cost of creating and distributing films and high-fructose concession stand items all across the country. I could be wrong, but it seems better to stream online (if not download) while eating a locally grown organic apple...

f,  9 December, 2009


Kitty Darst,  5 November, 2009

Jennifer, why do anything at all? The choice to avoid having a kids is personal but not one many people would likely make - nothing wrong with introducing the topic, though

Jennifer,  4 November, 2009

Even if follow all of these cute little bits of advice, it will only decrease our carbon footprint by a few percentage points. So what is the point of doing that if we continue to keep bringing more and more people into this world. If you REALLY want to help the Planet, DON'T HAVE ANY KIDS! Human Overpopulation is behind ALL of the woes facing us today. And until we can reduce our sheer numbers, nothing else is going to work.

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