Sweden is the most Internet connected country in the world, I recently read in a report. Watching people on Stockholm’s public transports, sitting with their noses buried in their smartphones and mini laptops, e-mailing and Facebooking on their way to work, I’m ready to believe it’s true.
Being connected to people who are not at the same physical spot as yourself can have enormous impacts, as we have seen lately in North Africa, or why not when it comes to spreading the word about a new farmer’s market? Working with a magazine where the contributors are sometimes in cities far apart or even in different countries, I myself have had a great use of services where you can share documents in “the cloud”.
But all these activities on the Internet also have impacts on the global climate, through the electricity used for running all the machines.
Jorge Zapico calls himself a “computer ecologist” and is a researcher at the Centre for Sustainable Communications at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm. He wants to make these impacts more visible both to internet users and developers. Therefore he has constructed Greenalytics, a site which mashes up data from Google Analytics and environmental research and estimates the carbon footprint of websites, including server, infrastructure and final user.
KTH’s own website, for example, caused about 7,1 tons of CO2 emissions during last year, equivalent to driving a car 41 266 kilometers or 72 hours of traveling in an airplane. Sweden’s Green Party, also featured on the site, emitted about 424 kilos during the same period of time.
Jorge Zapico’s own best tip on how to reduce a site’s carbon footprint is to check how the electricity that runs the server for the site is produced.
– Choose a server in a country with a good mix of energy, like Sweden. If the server is run by environmentally certified energy it’s even better. It’s also important to construct websites that don’t have to load heavy content, he says.