We’ve all marveled at the power of the internet – how much it helps people and how much information it has made available to anyone with a connection. But few seem to be talking about how the internet is powered.
Pixels are powered by electricity
Last September, The New York Times reported that the data centers powering the internet use an estimated 30 billion watts of electricity, and that the U.S. is responsible for one-third of that. That’s the same amount of electricity it takes to power 30 nuclear power plants.
Another sobering stat: less than 20 percent of the world’s energy comes from renewable resources, and in the U.S. that number drops to 12.7. That means that over 80 percent of our energy comes from sources like fossil fuels like coal and natural gas that aren’t renewable or clean.
You have a choice
Our collective appetite for all things digital is only growing. Those of us who are exploring the digital frontier make up 85 percent of the U.S. population, and we have a choice to make about what tomorrow’s internet will look like.
Here are the tools you need to propel the internet into a more sustainable, energy efficient future.
1. Use your tablet
Tablets use far less energy than laptops or desktops, and they still offer your eyes a break from the concentration it takes to read a smartphone screen. If you’re using your device for a more passive activity like watching a TV show or listening to music, power down your computer and switch over to your tablet. Speaking of that…
2. Shut down during down time
We’re all in the habit of wanting to jump right back into work after taking a break, whether that means 20 minutes or eight hours away from your device. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends powering down your computer if you’ll be away for more than two hours. Automate the process so you can set it and forget it: Set your device to go to sleep when you’re not using it for more than two minutes, and get into the habit of turning it off and unplugging it at night.
3. Optimize images
Facebook sizes down our photos for us, but if you’re sharing photos anywhere else make sure to make the file size as small as possible without compromising the quality. Image Optimizer is a free web tool that optimizes your images for the web and makes them as data-savvy as possible.
4. Make your blog mobile-friendly
Do you have a blog? Give your mobile visitors a break and optimize your site for mobile devices. Popular blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger make it easy with plenty of free mobile-optimized options and themes available.
Bonus tip: Use EcoGrader to get a snapshot of your favorite site’s sustainability status
EcoGrader takes any URL you enter and crawls through the code to provide you with a general roadmap for making improvements and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s easy to forget about sustainability unless it’s Earth Day or your employer encourages you to participate in Bike to Work Week. My hope is that these tips help you realize how necessary and easy it is to incorporate sustainability into your daily life online. Together, I know, we can lead the way to a more energy efficient era.
Tim Frick is the author of books on digital media and marketing and owner of Mightybytes, a full-service creative firm and certified B Corporation that builds sustainable web solutions for conscious companies. A regular conference presenter, he is currently working on his third book. He is also a board member for Climate Ride, a long distance charity bike ride that raises funds for clean energy, bicycle advocacy and sustainability. He can be reached at the Mightybytes website http://www.mightybytes.com or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/timfrick.