Tips for Sustainable Internet Habits

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How Sustainable Are Your Internet Habits?


Most people follow up on work emails, download music, and upload photos to their cloud storage by mid-morning — all with the click of a computer mouse. Naturally, they might take for granted how the internet has made their lives easier.

As an invisible stream of information, people overlook broadband’s environmental footprint. Although they may have turned to plant-based eating, using reusable supermarket bags, and taking public transportation, their internet habits also count toward their carbon footprint.

Let’s look more closely at the internet’s impact on the planet and how users can make their computer habits more sustainable.

What Is the Internet’s Environmental Impact?


Computers and other electronic devices are hard-working machines. A 2022 Deloitte survey uncovered an average of 22 connected devices across U.S. households. Although down from 25 in 2021, the results still indicate heavy reliance on technology for work, school, entertainment, and communications. 

Of course, with so many devices comes a more significant environmental impact. Here are just four ways the internet is unsustainable –

  • Data Centers

The increasing demand for network connectivity has global data centers working overtime. In fact, internet traffic has increased 25-fold worldwide as there are now twice the amount of online users than in 2010.

In the U.S., data centers consume 10–50 times the energy per the average commercial building’s square footage. Data centers account for approximately 2% of the total U.S. electricity use.

  • Websites

Websites are the biggest culprits of data center energy consumption due to media and poor design. For instance, images, video content, and certain fonts can increase the energy needed to load a website. 

According to, websites typically generate 0.5 grams of carbon dioxide emissions per visit. For perspective, if a website receives 12,000 monthly visitors, it will have created 72 kilograms of CO2 by the end of the year.

  • Video Streaming

Streaming culture is alive and well, from gaming to video. A recent Carbon Trust study indicated an hour of video streaming generated about 55 g of CO2 per hour in Europe. 

A 2021 press release from Netflix noted the company’s streaming emissions were under 100 g of CO2 per hour — equal to driving a gas-powered car for a quarter mile.

Although individual streaming has a minimal emissions impact on the planet, peak internet usage and different streaming devices significantly increase the amount of CO2.

  • E-Waste

While e-waste has more of a tangible impact on the environment, it is nonetheless a serious concern. Consumers typically upgrade their smartphones every 2.65 years — relative to manufacturer replacements. Meanwhile, users tend to hold onto their laptops for three to five years before seeking a new model. 

The world generates nearly 50 tons of electronic waste annually — surpassing the weight of all commercial airliners. Yet, only 20% get recycled, as the rest ends up in landfills and the environment. Unfortunately, the toxic chemicals used in manufacturing these devices affect people and the planet.

Tips for Adopting Sustainable Internet Habits


The world’s internet use shows no sign of slowing down. Therefore, it is crucial to tweak internet habits for greater sustainability.

For instance, today’s beamforming technology meets 802.11ac standards to strengthen router signal and device performance throughout a home or business. Manufacturers use special equipment to test for radiated emissions and other harmful pollutants.

Other ways to increase internet sustainability include the following:

  • Edge computing: The latest 5G network prevents internet lags, while governments have begun implementing it in creating smart cities.
  • Cloud computing: Although not perfect, storing data in the cloud can reduce CO2 emissions by using less wattage and lowering temperatures at data centers.
  • Renewable energy: Rooftop solar panels have a maximum efficiency of 22.8%, relieving energy consumption from at-home internet use.
  • Limited streaming: Reducing streaming times for videos and games can significantly lower individual CO2 emissions.
  • Smart plugs: Installing smart plugs, power adapters and power strips can reduce phantom energy outputs for devices on standby.
  • Low-carbon websites: Users should check a website’s emissions on before visiting. 
  • Close multiple tabs: Limiting oneself to a single tab can reduce processing and memory use.
  • Product longevity: Users should keep their devices for as long as possible and adequately recycle them once they reach end-of-life.
  • Cooling fan: Using a cooling fan can decrease the temperature of an overheated laptop to improve performance and prolong its life, reducing the need for additional devices.

Adopt Greener Internet Habits for Greater Sustainability


Some users may have figured out how to enhance network performance and ensure properly-working devices. Those who haven’t may want to improve their internet habits for sustainability. Overall, adopting greener devices and broadband usage benefits the planet.