Internet Usage: The Secret Polluter

The internet is dirty. And we’re not talking about the sites that your teenage boy swears he doesn’t look at. We’re talking about the energy that’s needed to power it and the resulting carbon emissions that are then released into our atmosphere.

But, there are lots of things we can do as individuals and businesses to reduce our impact. And we’re going to share some top tips to help you do just that.

The Facts.

A single search on Google emits between 0.2 and 7 grams of carbon dioxide, aka CO2. Viewing one web page with images or video emits around 0.2 grams a second and an email is estimated to emit 4 grams of CO2. But, add a large attachment to that email and we’re looking at 50 grams of carbon dioxide for ONE email. [Source:]

Those figures may seem small in isolation. But when you consider that there are 40,000 Google searches every second and that 306.4 billion emails were sent daily in 2020, it quickly adds up to a massive amount of carbon emissions.

Not that long ago the internet was confined to a small part of our working day. But social media, online shopping, streaming services, apps and more mean that the internet is now a deeply embedded part of our day.

How would you feel if we told you that, on average, you spend 6 hours and 42 minutes of your day online? And that, that equates to 100 days a year?!

In 2019, researchers estimated that global internet usage generated the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions as the world’s aviation industry. And that was before the pandemic, which has driven a 20% increase in global internet usage.

But, let’s be honest. Whilst we’ve just thrown some pretty scary figures at you you’re not going to unplug your router, turn off your phone’s data, and cancel your streaming services. So, what options do we have to clean up our digital carbon footprint?

Well, there are quite a few things we can do.

Delete your Emails and Clear Your Cloud

Sorry to burst your bubble but your remotely stored files aren’t floating above us in the clouds. And if you believed that they were, we might need to have a conversation about Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy…

All of your emails, and remotely stored files, photos and videos are in what is known as data centres. Which are essentially huge industrial units full of servers. These massive servers use a lot of power to run. And with all of that power comes a lot of heat. This in turn means that more power is needed to run climate control systems to keep everything cool.

A lot of leading data centres and internet companies have switched to renewable energy to run their data centres. Google, Apple, Facebook and Salesforce to name a few. But that doesn’t mean we have a free pass to store endless unnecessary rubbish. Your files still take up space on the servers, and the more space we use, the more servers are needed. In turn, more power is needed to run and cool them.

So, give your emails and files a spring clean, clear the chaff and reduce the space and power you use.

Switch Off Your Video

We’re all for the switch to video conferencing and online meetings. Having worked remotely for several years, we don’t agree that you have to be physically in front of someone to have a productive meeting.

Plus, a 2012 study found that a 5-hour video meeting generated just 7% of the emissions that an in-person meeting would have produced.

But, there’s still more that we can do. A recent study by Purdue University found that switching off your video in online meetings can reduce your carbon emissions by 96%!

So, turn your camera off if you don’t have to be on screen.

Be A Bit Rude

One piece of advice we’ve seen is to stop sending unnecessary niceties in emails such as “thank you”. If every adult in the UK sent one less “thank you” email, it could save 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year. Which is equivalent to taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road [Source: Energy Company, OVO].

However, we don’t agree with not saying thank you to someone. So our advice is to think twice about whether an email really needs to be sent.

Switch to Ecosia

As we’ve already mentioned, search engine usage is massive.

If you’re a Google or Bing user you’ll be pleased to hear that they’re both carbon neutral. However, why stop at carbon neutral? Why not add tree planting into the mix and be carbon negative too?

Here at Kakadu Creative, we’re big fans of Ecosia. Founded in 2009 it’s a clean, green alternative to ‘mainstream’ search engines.

Ecosia’s servers run on 200% renewable energy. And every search request removes 1kg of CO2 from the atmosphere. Plus, they’re a certified B Corporation and to date, they’ve planted over 199 million trees.

Looking to switch to Ecosia? This article will take you through the simple steps to set Ecosia as your homepage and default search engine.

Use Dark/Night Mode

As well as being kinder to your eyes, dark/night mode is kinder to the environment too.

White and bright colours use more power to display on a device. And you may be surprised to discover that blue uses roughly 25% more energy to display than red or green.

Black is the least energy-intensive colour, so switching to dark/night mode is one of the easiest and simplest things you can do to reduce your digital carbon footprint.

Green Your Website

Nope, we don’t mean change the colour of your site to green. We’re talking about ensuring it’s a sustainable site.

The process behind building a sustainable website easily fills another article, so we wrote one.

Switch Your Website to Green Hosting

As well as making your own internet usage greener, you can also have an impact on your site visitors’ internet usage by using a green hosting provider.

Green hosting, or eco-friendly hosting, is achieved through a range of green technologies and activities to ensure carbon neutrality.

For example, when your site is hosted with our sister company, The Green Hosting Co. your secure data centre is run on 100% renewable energy. We also plant trees every month through our partnership with Tree-Nation and we donate to charities that protect the trees and rainforests we already have. This means that your site traffic is clean, green AND carbon-negative, no matter how many people visit it.

One final tip, seeing as we mentioned your teenage son’s internet habits…

Go to Bed Early


It accounts for a third of video streaming traffic, and generates as much carbon dioxide as Belgium does in a year!!

Sheesh, it really is dirty. Our advice, why not switch off the computer and have an ‘early night’ instead?

Written by Kayleigh Nicolaou

Co-founder of Kakadu Creative, Kayleigh has worked in the media industry since 2007, managing projects and campaigns for clients ranging from independent high street stores, to music festivals and international brands.
February 12, 2021

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