Although they might seem ephemeral, websites have real-world environmental footprints. Their files are stored on servers, viewed by personal computers, and connected via networks. To operate these components, all of which are necessary to create a complete website experience, electricity must be consumed. And to generate much of that electricity, fossil fuels like coal and natural gas are usually being burned.
Since millions of people are surfing the web every hour of every day, that carbon footprint adds up to an astounding 2% of international emissions each year. According to the American research firm Gartner, the carbon footprint of information and communications technology exceeded that of the global aviation industry for the first time in 2007.
Websites now need to be put under pressure to clean up their environmental impacts too and demonstrate that their sites are as green as they can be.
While accurately calculating the carbon dioxide emissions of most activities is very difficult, it is estimated that the Internet releases around 300m tonnes of CO2 per year. That is equivalent to around half the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels in the UK.