Does Using The Internet Increase Your Carbon Footprint?

24 Sept 2023

Using the internet emits more CO2 than the aviation industry. 

That’s according to research by The Sustainable Business Guide which found that digital technology now accounts for 3.7% of global greenhouse gases (GHG) - a figure that’s set to double by 2025. 

Shockingly, the report added that 65% of businesses in the North East of England are either unsure of how to reduce their carbon emissions, or don’t plan to make any changes to reduce their environmental impact.

With the threat to our planet ever-present, each of us need to do our bit if we are to reduce emissions by the target of 43% by 2030. Our use of the internet is no exception, with simple measures able to generate huge CO2 savings. 

So here is what you need to know about the environmental impact of the internet.

What Is The Carbon Footprint Of The Internet? 

39.9 billion tons of CO2 are emitted around the world every year. 

Based on the above stat showing 3.47% is directly attributed to internet use - this equates to 1.47 billion tons of CO2 generated by the internet.

Since much of the way we communicate, do business and even shop is increasingly online, all of our internet activity has a carbon footprint. The huge problem is the lack of awareness, since carbon emissions are normally associated with physical acts such as flying, driving, purchasing goods and even food miles - but not clicking and scrolling.

However, the simple fact is that it takes energy to create, store and share online content of all kinds, from instant messages to social media posts as well as video content. 

In addition, energy is also needed to manufacture, transport and also use our devices such as mobiles, tablets, laptops and desktop computers. 

While the internet is here to stay, making some simple changes can greatly reduce our digital carbon footprints both as businesses as well as individuals.

But first, a closer look at how CO2 is being generated by our online habits. 

Email Marketing

There are over 4 billion users of email. Some 300 billion emails are sent every day, and a single email can emit up to 26g of CO2 depending on its weight. 

One of the reasons we created the EcoSend Email Campaign Carbon Calculator is to help businesses understand their email carbon impact. That’s because, like most emissions created digitally, emails aren’t being considered part of the problem when in fact they are.

Some of the aspects which increase the CO2 generated by email campaigns include:

  • Image attachments

  • Multiple recipients

  • Long email threads

  • Images in email signatures 

  • Send-to-all email blasts

  • Use of non-renewable energy providers 

EcoSend is the world’s first sustainable email marketing platform. Running on renewable energy sources, businesses can lower their email carbon emissions when they switch from providers such as Mailchimp or HubSpot.

Furthermore, businesses can also reduce their email emissions through techniques such as segmentation, which ensures more effective messaging sending over wasteful marketing practices. 

Instant Messaging

Mike Berners-Lee calculated that 0.014 g is generated for every SMS sent. 

While the carbon footprint of SMS and other plain-text messages may be lower than email, 23 billion text messages are sent worldwide on a daily basis. Therefore, this number is far higher than email.

Similar to email, long message threads, attachments, or embedded media all push up the size of the message, and therefore the amount of CO2 generated. 

Social Media

Above are some stats from 8 Billion Trees about the carbon footprint of social media. Their research shows that Tik Tok, Reddit, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat are some of the worst social media platforms based on CO2 generated per minute of use.

As of 2022, Statista reports that the average person spends 151 minutes per day on social media - this figure continues to increase each year. This clearly highlights the hidden problem of internet-based CO2 emissions, since user awareness is also lacking.

Not only are we spending more of our lives glued to a screen, but we’re also generating CO2 in the process. This is especially the case when we consume lots of video or image-based content online.

Streaming Platforms

An article by The Guardian found that our collective watching of Netflix’s top 10 generates the carbon equivalent of driving a car further than Earth to Saturn. 

The figures were based on 6 billion hours streamed at the time that the ‘top 10’ included shows such as Bridgeton, Stranger Things, Squid Game and Money Heist. The total amount of CO2 generated was equivalent to driving 1.13bn miles in a car, according to The Guardian report.

Since streaming platforms contain video content, it takes far more energy to stream than other forms of media. Depending on the device used, the carbon emissions will also vary.

Furthermore, streaming platforms encourage us to watch multiple episodes at once, while suggesting similar titles we may enjoy. All of which comes at a cost to the planet.

YouTube 

8 Billion Trees found that the carbon footprint of YouTube is equivalent to travelling to the moon 62 times.

According to Website Carbon, 0.82g of CO2 is produced every time someone visits YouTube. Though, the actual total CO2 generated from hours of streaming Shorts or long form video is likely much, much higher than this. 


While the report does show YouTube is now using a sustainable hosting provider, more definitely needs to be done to increase user awareness. Plus, prevent aspects such as autoplaying videos on websites which also increases CO2 emissions. 

EcoSend - Switch To Our Sustainable Email Platform And Lower Your CO2 Emissions 

In answer to the question, ‘Does using the internet increase your carbon footprint? - it is clear that yes it does and in several ways.

However, some simple steps can reduce the amount of CO2 generated online whether as an individual or as a business.

While you're here, if you do any kind of email marketing as a business, then we’d like to offer you a free trial of EcoSend.

EcoSend allows you to send incredible email campaigns, but without the cost to the climate. As well as running on renewable energy, we also plant trees on your behalf just for using us.

Want to find out more before you switch? Drop us a message and we’ll be right with you. 

About the author

Rachael O'Flaherty

Content Writer

About the author

Rachael O'Flaherty

Content Writer

Grow your business sustainably

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Grow your business sustainably

Get the EcoSend Weekly newsletter — inspiration, helpful tips, and a good giggle, every Friday.

Grow your business sustainably

Get the EcoSend Weekly newsletter — inspiration, helpful tips, and a good giggle, every Friday.

The email marketing platform for better business

Win new customers, send better email, and make the planet better with every campaign.

  • Free Email Templates

  • Smart Segmentation

  • Lead Forms

  • Automated Campaigns

  • Automatic Offsetting

  • Team Sharing

  • HTML Email Editor

  • Multi-channel Campaigns

  • Drip Campaigns

  • MailChimp Import

  • Zapier Integration

  • Powerful API

The email marketing platform for better business

Win new customers, send better email, and make the planet better with every campaign.

  • Free Email Templates

  • Smart Segmentation

  • Lead Forms

  • Automated Campaigns

  • Automatic Offsetting

  • Team Sharing

  • HTML Email Editor

  • Multi-channel Campaigns

  • Drip Campaigns

  • MailChimp Import

  • Zapier Integration

  • Powerful API