Greening your Screen

Shoppin on eBay, tweeting the latest news, checking your email, updating your Facebook status. Ever wonder how much energy is consumed by online activity?

Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, industry, and consumer products are always up for discussion, but most of us don’t equate Internet surfing with high levels of (CO2).

Many users generally forget that behind their favorite websites are a variety of heavy power consumers. There’s your computer and router, your ISP’s computers and routers, the website hosts’ computers and routers, and not to mention all those other computers in between. The hundreds of millions of gossip, sports, games, and personal websites that make up the Internet require some type of web server to run off of.

A recent presentation by a Google engineer shows that the company is preparing to manage as many as 10 million servers in the future. Just imagine the amount of energy needed to run an operation of that size.

Everyday the Internet’s carbon footprint is growing drastically. It uses massive amounts of “brown” energy, meaning non-renewable sources of power like coal and natural gas. Pollution created by the demand for this type of electricity is a major concern. Some experts say the computer industry is surpassing other sectors such as the aviation industry that are known for their negative environmental footprint.

One solution to battle all this non-renewable energy use is to employ an increased supply of green energy through carbon offsetting.

Everything from air travel, hotel stays and electronic purchases are being offset these days. Carbon credits are a low-cost way to reduce emissions in the short run. It allows environmentally conscious individuals to offset things they do not have much control over, which allows them to play a larger role in the energy crisis.

But it is important to bear in mind that in order to truly reduce emissions in the long run, we must invest time, money and research to uncover solutions to our energy woes. Carbon offsetting should not be used as a “get out of jail free” card to mitigate the effects of our unsustainable habits. Instead it should be a catalyst for change.

In the meantime, energy consumption awareness is key.  And that’s where a company such as Greenscroll comes in.

Greenscroll is a non-profit organization based in Toronto that is helping to educate the public about the environmental impacts of something as widely used as the Internet.  Their mission is to fight greenhouse gas emissions in the real world by way of the virtual world.

The concept of Greenscroll began last January when web entrepreneurs Nikolai Bratkovski, Sasha Baksht, and John Carson decided to do something about their personal contribution to the Internet’s carbon footprint.

“I’m not a hippy, but I look at the world around us lately and I think things have gone badly wrong,” says John Carson co-founder and communications scroller for the organization.  “We wanted to create something that would spread the word about green energy to website owners.”

Then in the summer, greenscroll.org was launched to help web users make their websites a little more environmentally friendly.

The organization aggregates monthly pledges from individuals and companies who want to turn the carbon footprint created by their Web presence into green renewable energy sources. Four pledge tiers are available, ranging from donations of $5 per month to $100 per month depending on the page views a website generates.

Some of the recent pledges to the fund include r4fashion.com, a student organization at the University of Waterloo, and carpooltoschool.com, a school carpool network in California. These websites, along with other supports, bear the “greenscroll certified” logo on their homepage. Carson says with more websites pooling together, more green energy to power the Internet can be pumped into the grid.

Greenscroll invests the monthly pledges into Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), which are non-tangible energy commodities. They have partnered with Carbonfund.org based in the United States, which provides carbon offsetting and greenhouse gas reduction options to individuals, businesses, and organizations.

According to Carbon Fund’s website, 92.3 cents of every dollar go to renewable energy projects. The funds are going to projects such as the Hancock County Wind Energy Center, and the Iowa Lakes Wind Energy & Turbine Program in Iowa. Carson says in the future, Greenscroll hopes they will be able to develop their own green projects.

“The Internet has become such a large part of our everyday lives, but there doesn’t seem to be a connection to the amount of energy it consumes,” Carson says. “If people quickly think about how many hours a week they spend online, they would realize their contribution to the power drain.”

To date, more than 77,678 page views have been greenscrolled.

To reinforce their mission, Greenscroll is a completely virtual and paperless organization, relying on Skype, Google Talk, email, and other digital tools to carryout their tasks. They also utilize social media to connect with potential supports through Twitter, Linkedin, and Facebook.

Carson says Greenscroll believes renewable energy is a community effort. They encourage people to contact them with comments and ideas about which projects should be funded and how they can achieve the greatest growth and impact.

“The more people we can get thinking about this, the better,” he says.

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One thought on “Greening your Screen

  1. Morris says:

    Interesting thoughts.
    But what would be better for the environment, shoppin gonline from home, or driving to malls that have to be lit & heated or cooled?

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