Every time users switch tabs, they’re looking for information, and the sites consume electricity to process the request and return the data.
Are YouTube, Netflix, Twitter, and Amazon among the most polluting sites?
Virtual commerce and streaming platforms are among the internet sites that pollute the most since their use implies the highest CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, according to a study by the WebsiteToolTester.
The analysis, which reviews more than 200 home pages among the world’s most visited websites, indicates that pollution is due to “the high demand for electricity from the servers the internet sites depend on.”
According to Josep García at WebsiteToolTester, every time users switch tabs “they’re looking for information on the server,” so electricity is consumed to process the request and return the necessary data that lets users browse the site.
Therefore, “the more resources the website has – including images, videos, or infographics – the heavier it is and the more polluting” by increasing its carbon footprint.
This is the case, for example, with Netflix which, due to the extent of its content and its high number of users, generates more than 24,000 tons of carbon annually “just from visits to its website,” without taking into account the interactions with its mobile application.
During lockdown worldwide, this amount multiplied and “was significantly higher than in other years.”
However, this video platform is not the site with the largest carbon footprint: this dubious honor belongs to YouTube since millions of videos, live broadcasts, and music playback shoot its contribution up to 702,000 tons per year.
Google, despite being one of the “cleanest” sites among those studied, generates 267,000 tons due to its huge number of daily users, although this amount doesn’t include the impact of services such as its Gmail mail server or Meet videoconferencing.
Even greater is the pollution generated by “adult content” sites due to the large amount of traffic they support, and so the XVideos website alone creates more than 2,000 tons of emissions.
As for social media, Twitter tops the list by releasing 58,000 tons of carbon annually, followed by Facebook with 49,000 tons.
Of the online shopping platforms, the most polluting by far is Amazon, which produces 93,000 tons per year, of which about a third, about 27,000 tons, are generated by its Spanish-language version.
Among the large Spanish distributors, research shows that the most polluting sites are El Corte Inglés – almost 3,000 tons – and Zara with 1,500 tons, although only its Spanish version. The international pages operating under the zara.com domain produce almost 50,000 tons due to the number of images and pages they contain and because they are the most visited websites.
Solving the problem of the carbon footprint produced by Internet use isn’t easy given that industry, commerce, leisure, and relationships today are increasingly based on the digital world, but as García indicated, its impact can be limited, for example, “by reducing the weight of images and optimizing them.”
By compressing their quality, their weight is also reduced, which in turn requires a “lower performance” from the servers and therefore lower energy consumption.
Another measure is to “simplify website code.” In fact, to create a site as close as possible to energy neutral it’s necessary to ensure that its content loads quickly and that the user experience is optimized since the easier it is for users to find what they’re looking for, the fewer pages that will need to load. (EFE)