Ricci Bryson

It’s obvious that as we go about our daily routine, we contribute to carbon emission in hundreds of different ways. From driving to work in our ‘gas guzzling’ cars, watching TV for a few hours, or taking a couple of long showers a week, we use lots of energy and emit plenty of carbon.

But what about our PC use?  We’re obviously using energy when the actual equipment is on, but what about something as simple as a Google search? Surely my harmless little search for the latest bargains or just to prove a friend wrong about a certain fact –a personally favoured use of Google – isn’t producing emissions as my PC is already in use?

However, it is!

A study a couple of years ago by a leading Harvard physicist , also reported in The Times, found that by simply searching online using the Google search engine, you could be using between 1g – 10g of CO2.

Of course you are probably thinking that this small amount doesn’t seem very much, but if you take into consideration that boiling a kettle uses around 15g of CO2, it starts to add up.  As you can see, using Google to search for something perhaps on 10 separate occasions will use around the same amount of CO2 as boiling a kettle 2-3 times.

It may seem like that there is very little that can be done to reduce your Google CO2, but that’s not entirely the case.

Google itself has already invested millions of pounds into making their organisation more efficient to counteract this problem.  Google’s data centers – large, specialised buildings that house dozens of computers—keep its products and services up and running. These centers use a lot of energy and produce even more CO2, so it’s certainly encouraging to see that Google has been working with the renewable energy sector and securing ways to power their data centers with renewable energy.

But it doesn’t stop there – Blackle and darkoogle both aim to reduce the amount of carbon being used while searching online by casting a shadow over Google. Not a metaphor for plans for expansion in the search engine market, but rather, quite literally.

The search engines, which use Google search technology, were developed a while back and claim to use less energy because their search engine’s screen is predominantly black, whereas Google that is mostly white. Some research – although it would be fair to say, not undisputed by some – suggests that it requires more energy to display a white screen than a black one.

The saving may not be massive and others have also questioned how carbon savings can be calculated on this basis, but one thing that is clear is that with hundreds of millions of Google searched every day, small changes can eventually make a big difference. The fact that there are people out there trying out innovations to cut the carbon of the epic amount of web traffic starting its journey at any given time is a promising step in itself, so we’re certainly waiting in hope for the next wave of pioneering search engineering.