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Greener comms – the challenge

Digital activity has a big impact on our planet

Every time you visit a website, send an email, use an app or browse social media, a small amount of carbon dioxide is released.

  • Since 2010, the number of internet users worldwide has more than doubled.
  • Global internet traffic has expanded 20-fold.
  • Data centres and data transmission networks each account for 1-1.5% of global electricity use.

[Source: IEA]

Saving our planet is now a communications challenge.

Sir David Attenborough

Heating up the planet

Everything we do online travels through data centres and their servers. As our data is processed, it generates a waste product: heat. This means that each data centre uses additional energy to cool the servers down.

A whopping 25% of the total power consumption of a data centre is caused by mechanical cooling. [Source: Action Net Zero]

The electricity consumed by data centres had grown moderately when we look at the big global picture. However, smaller countries with expanding data centre markets have seen rapid growth.

In Ireland, the electricity used by data centres has more than tripled since 2015, accounting for 14% of total electricity consumption in 2021. In Denmark, data centre energy use is predicted to treble by 2025. [Source: IEA]

According to the IEA: “Digital technologies have direct and indirect effects on energy use and emissions, and hold enormous potential to help (or hinder) global clean energy transitions.”

Collectively, the digital world accounts for approximately 3% of the global greenhouse emissions. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the global aviation industry.


The scale of the challenge

In one minute online

  • 231,400,000 emails sent
  • 16,000,000 texts sent
  • 5,900,000 Google searches
  • 2,430,000 images shared on Snapchat
  • 1,700,000 pieces of content shared on Facebook
  • 1,000,000 hours streamed
  • 347,200 Tweets
  • 104,600 hours spent in Zoom meetings
  • 66,000 photos shared on Instagram
  • 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube.

What you can do

Read through this guide to see how you can reduce your carbon footprint.

You may find that not all these suggestions are practical or do-able in your circumstances. But with this information you can evaluate your activities and get fresh ideas to make changes that work for you.

Start with emails and messages

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