Alex Wissner-Gross, a physicist and owner of CO2stats.com, claims that every two Google searches uses as much energy as boiling a kettle of water. I have no idea if this is correct, but it seems very high to me.
Experts have also claimed that the Internet industry produces about as much carbon emissions as the aviation industry. Server farms produce huge amounts of carbon because they are running 24/7 and have to handle huge amounts of calculations at all times.
Wissner-Gross claims that Google is a big offender because of the way searches are handled. When you submit a search, Google sends the information to multiple servers competing against each other for speed. This procedure makes the site very fast, but wastes the server capacity for the requests that are not displayed to the searcher.
He has set up a website that allows companies to “make their sites carbon neutral.” Its a similar idea to a company that two UW students have started: Powered Green.
Powered Green sells stickers to put on laptops that advertise that the computer is “Powered Green.” The proceeds from the stickers fund alternative energy projects that offset the energy used over the life of the laptop.
I really like both of these ideas and it will be interesting to see if this type of personal environmentalism continues to catch even as the price of energy continues to crash.