Carbon Footprint of a Laptop vs MacBook vs Desktop Computer vs iPhone

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Carbon Offsets Credits | March 27, 2024

Woman using a laptop sees a co2 cloud footprint of a macbook being emitted and wonders how much co2 does a computer emit and what is the carbon footprint of a laptop?

The amount of CO2e resulting from using digital devices is bigger than you might realize, and when trying to reduced the carbon footprint of a laptop, there are a number of things to consider.

For example, did you know that your email has a footprint too?

You can measure the carbon footprint of email right now:

However, there’s more to the emissions generated by a laptop than just email activity.

This complete guide explains everything you might want to know about digital and physical carbon footprints, how to calculate carbon footprint, and how to slash the carbon footprint of a laptop by erasing those emissions right now.

Laptop Footprint Meaning: Defining the Carbon Footprint of a Laptop

In computing, a laptop footprint is the number of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) (including nitrous oxide, methane, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, and fluorinated gasses) produced through laptop use.

But, it also includes the footprint of the production, and the emissions generated when the laptop’s service has ended in the trash.

Physical Footprint Meaning in Computer

A physical footprint is the total amount of GHGs produced to directly or indirectly support an individual’s lifestyle or activities.8 A physical footprint comes through producing and consuming food, fossil fuels, manufactured goods, and roads or transportation.

Laptop Carbon Footprint: What Is the Carbon Footprint of a Laptop?

A laptop that is on for eight hours (the average workday) a day dumps between 44 and 88 kgs of CO2e into the atmosphere each year. 20% of the carbon footprint of a laptop arises from its use, while 80% arises from factors such as:

  • The supply chain that delivers materials to the manufacturer
  • The types of materials used to manufacture the laptop
  • The techniques used during the manufacture
  • The life expectancy of the laptop
  • The recycling potential of the laptop once it comes to the end of its life

Carbon Footprint of Desktop: What Is the Carbon Footprint of a Desktop Computer?

A desktop used for eight hours daily emits 70g of CO2e daily, including emissions from the electricity consumed.

Photo of a desktop computer set up on a white computer table.

(Image: Sebastian Bednarek18)

A desktop used for eight hours daily emits 778 kgs of CO2e annually, 85% resulting from manufacturing and shipping and 15% from electricity consumption.

Apart from use, the carbon footprint of a desktop computer is largely attributed to factors such as:

  • Build: The majority of the carbon footprint of global computing comes from the production and materials used for the display, motherboard, and SSD (Solid-State Drive);9
  • Shipping: Transportation adds to the carbon footprint of desktop computers as the CO2 emissions caused by vehicles and airplanes go directly into the atmosphere.
  • End-of-Life: Many manufacturers ignore the desktop’s end-of-life agenda despite its environmental impact.

Dell Laptop Carbon Footprint

The carbon footprint of a Dell laptop, including raw materials consumption, manufacturing, product use, and end-of-life recycling potential, is between 300 and 400 kgs of CO2e. This is equivalent to drinking 2,401l of orange juice or driving 1,200km in an SUV.

HP Laptop Carbon Footprint

The carbon footprint of an industry-average HP laptop is 275 kgs of CO2e. The main contributors of GHGs in an HP laptop include:

  • Use
  • Display
  • Battery
  • Packaging
  • Hard Drive
  • Optical Drive
  • Power Supply
  • Transportation
  • Solid State Drive
  • Chassis and Assembly
  • Motherboard and Other Boards
  • End-Of-Life

Lenovo Product Carbon Footprint

Lenovo’s customers have emitted 500,000 metric tons of CO2e across their purchases of laptops, desktops, and workstations. That is comparable to the amount of GHGs released into the atmosphere from more than 100,000 personal vehicles driven over one year.10

Apple Product Carbon Footprint

The table below shows the carbon footprint of Apple products:

Bar graph showing the Apple products carbon footprint measured in kilograms of CO2e.

Product Carbon Footprint
iPhone 64 kgs of CO2e
iPad 113 kgs of CO2e
Apple TV 59 kgs of CO2e
MacBook 252 kgs of CO2e
Apple Watch 33 kgs of CO2e
AirPods and Chargers 2 Million Metric Tons of CO2e

IT Equipment Carbon Footprint

IT equipment accounts for 2% of global GHG emissions.

Photo of a laptop on a table with mouse and mobile phones.

(Image: Saad mahmud19)

When used over six years, the carbon footprints of desktops and laptops are:

  • Desktop and Screen: 621 kgs of CO2e;
  • Laptop and Screen: 691 kgs of CO2e;
  • Desktop and Two Screens: 903 kgs of CO2e;
  • Laptop, Screen at Office, and Screen at Home: 928 kgs of CO2e; and
  • Desktop, Screen, and Laptop: 1,030 kgs of CO2e.

Desktops and laptops (the most typical working setups) are responsible for the majority of the IT carbon footprint. However, they are not the only culprits. Other key contributors include:

  • Printers: 474g of CO2e;
  • Office Phones: 63 kgs of CO2e;
  • Servers: 6 tons of CO2e; and
  • Internet Connection: 1.6 billion tons of CO2e.

You can determine the carbon footprint of other electrical devices using this simple carbon footprint calculator.

Carbon Footprint of Electronic Devices

The table below shows the carbon footprint of portable electronic devices and non-portable electronic devices used in daily life.11

Bar graph showing the carbon footprint of electronic devices measured in kilograms of CO2e.

Device Carbon Footprint Duration
Smartphones 10.7 kgs of CO2e Annually
Laptops 422.5 kgs of CO2e Annually
Desktops 778 kgs  of CO2e Annually
Televisions 0.888 kgs of CO2e Per Viewer Hour
Cameras 150-1,000g of CO2e Hourly
Tablets 170 kgs of CO2e Over Its Life Cycle
iPads 113 kgs of CO2e Over Its Life Cycle
Gaming Consoles 24 Million Tons Annually
Bluetooth Speaker 7.8 kgs of CO2e Annually

How To Reduce Carbon Emissions From Computers

To reduce carbon emissions from computers, you should:

Refrain From Using Screensavers

Screensavers are a great way to personalize your computer; however, when triggered, they can keep the monitor and computer active, burning more energy.2

To prevent this, avoid using screensavers and activate the power-saving settings on your computer to switch off the monitor if the computer remains inactive for a long period.

Turn Off Your Computer When Not Using It

Even though this may seem obvious, you should turn off your computer if you are not using it.5

The table below highlights electricity consumption among computers and laptops left on for an extended period:

Equipment (Operating Duration) 1 Day/kWh 31 Days/kWh
Desktop Computer with 17” CTR Monitor (8 Hours) 1.2 to 2.6 36 to 82
Desktop Computer with 17” CTR Monitor (24 Hours) 3.5 to 7.9 108 to 246
Desktop Computer with 17” LCD Monitor (8 Hours) 0.7 to 2.3 20 to 70
Desktop Computer with 17” LCD Monitor (24 Hours) 2.0 to 6.7 61 to 209
Laptop 8 Hours 0.1 to 0.4 3.7 to 11
Laptop 24 Hours 0.4 to 1.0 11 to 33

Use Greener Devices

As reflected in the table above, the device you use impacts the amount of power consumed. And the more power consumed, the higher the carbon footprint.

Therefore, it is better to use laptops as they are more energy efficient than desktops.

Digital Carbon Footprint Statistics

An hour of video conferencing releases between 150 and 1,000g of CO2e into the atmosphere.7 Turning your camera off and using audio instead can slash the carbon impact by 96%.

The production of electronic devices is responsible for 80% of their total CO2 emissions. Prolonging the lifetime of your electronic devices from four to six years can avoid 190 kgs of CO2 emissions. Suppress the urge to upgrade devices or recycle, repair, or re-sell usable devices to extend their lifetime.

Streaming online content produces 300 million tons of CO2e yearly and accounts for 60% of all internet traffic. For context, 1 ton of CO2 is comparable to the total emissions produced by a single passenger on a flight from Paris to New York. When streaming, turn auto-play features off and opt for lower resolution settings.1

How To Reduce Digital Carbon Footprint

You can reduce your digital carbon footprint by making the following changes:

Clear Your Email

A regular email dumps around 4g of CO2e into the atmosphere, while an email with an attachment emits about 50g of CO2e.

Clearing your email by unsubscribing from unnecessary email newsletters, deleting spam emails, and deleting your inbox are great ways to lower your digital carbon footprint.7

Reduce File Size

Try to reduce the size of an email before sending it. Emails with two or more attachments have a higher carbon footprint. As such, you should write straightforward emails and only attach necessary images.

Microsoft Office allows you to compress pictures, reducing the redundancy and irrelevance of the image data. This way, they consume less bandwidth and are easier to send.

Avoid Cloud Storage

Cloud storage contributes to 1 billion metric tons of CO2e.12 You can help reduce this figure by storing your data on your computer or an external hard drive.

Limit Your Screen Time

Limiting your screen time is a huge step toward reducing your digital carbon footprint. Watching a one-hour YouTube video produces 55g of CO2e. Even worse, watching 30 minutes of Netflix emits 1.6 kg of CO2 emissions.

To reduce your screen time, you can start eating your meals without a phone on hand, limit your computer socializing, stop charging your phone or laptop next to your bed, or take up another hobby instead of turning to Instagram or Facebook to stave boredom.

Delete Unimportant Files and Unused Apps

Digital preservation takes up a lot of server space and uses a lot of energy.13 Moreover, unused apps remain active even when closed.

By deleting unimportant files, you help save space in the server and preserve precious energy. Uninstalling unused apps frees up your phone’s memory, making it work faster.

In addition to these tips, you can completely erase your footprint by using an earth friendly web usage carbon offset program. These plans plant trees that sequester the emissions you generate, every time you’re online.

What Is the Biggest Culprit in Digital Usage Carbon Emissions?

The lion’s share of digital use carbon emissions is caused by video and music streaming.6

Photo of a child wearimg glasses while watching a video on a computer monitor.

(Image: Ralston Smith20)

At least 80% of all internet data is in the form of moving images. Moreover, online videos that are viewed on different platforms without being downloaded are responsible for 60% of global data transfer.

Streaming online videos emit more than 300 million tons of CO2e into the atmosphere each year. This is equivalent to the amount of CO2e produced by the whole of Spain in a year.

Music streaming services produce between 200 and 350 million kilograms of GHGs. This means that music streaming services, like Apple Music or Spotify, are more harmful to the environment than the production and disposal of records or CDs.3

Carbon Footprint Calculator for Students

A carbon footprint calculator for students is a great resource as it helps students understand how the choices they make today will impact the environment later and encourages them toward higher levels of sustainability and conservation.

If you are a student who is concerned with preserving the natural environment, the calculator will help you determine your carbon footprint. This way, you can identify and reduce GHG emissions.

Computer Power Consumption Calculator: How To Calculate Digital Carbon Footprint

The formula for calculating computer power consumption is as follows:

Total amps of all components x total volts of all components

The result is the total watts that your computer requires.

Desktop Computer Power Consumption

A desktop computer uses between 60 and 250Wh (Watt Hours) per hour, including the power consumption of the computer, the internet modem, the loudspeakers, and the printer.

The table below goes into greater detail:

Bar graph showing the desktop computer power consumption measured in watts.

Computer Type Power Consumption
Desktop Computer 60 to 250 Watts
Computer with Active Screen Saver 60 to 250 Watts
Computer on Standby or Sleep 1 to 6 Watts
Laptop 15 to 45 Watts

Dell Desktop Power Consumption

In idle mode, the power consumption is 34 times higher than in sleep mode and 116 times higher than in hibernate mode.

In sleep mode, the desktop consumes five times more power than in hibernate mode.

HP Sustainability Goals

HP’s sustainability goals include:

  • Achieve net-zero GHG emissions by 2040
  • Reduce HP GHG emissions by 50% by 2030
  • Reach zero waste in HP operations and carbon neutrality by 202516
  • Reach 75% circularity for packaging and products by 2030
  • Halt deforestation for HP paper

HP Initiative: HP Recycled Content

With HP Planet Partners, you can recycle HP ink and toner supplies. This way, they become new products and do not end up in landfills or oceans.

HP has used over 5.5 billion recycled plastic bottles to manufacture new HP ink cartridges. Also, HP customers have recycled over 962 million ink and toner cartridges with HP Planet Partners.

HP has used over 143 million plastic hangers to manufacture new HP ink and toner cartridges. Finally, with HP Planet Partners, you get free recycling. You can drop your HP ink and toner supplies off at a location of your choice for no cost.

HP Climate Change Strategy

In a commitment to address climate change, HP has doubled its efforts to reduce GHG emissions from global operations by 25% by 2025. It has also launched the HP Sustainable Forest Collaborative. This initiative works to support HP’s strategy to achieve a forest-positive future for printing.

At end-of-life, HP recovers and reuses all products. Moreover, HP uses 100% renewable energy, which helps it achieve zero waste during manufacturing.17

HP Environmental Policy

HP creates technology that makes the environment better.

The company’s commitment to environmental sustainability involves addressing climate change and pushing boundaries of alternative energy, energy efficiency, and responsible product life cycle management.

HP Sustainable Laptop: Most Carbon Neutral Laptop

HP has a sustainable laptop, the HP Elite c1030 Chromebook Enterprise Laptop.

The HP Elite c1030 Chromebook Enterprise Laptop is the world’s first Chromebook made from ocean-bound plastic. Its keyboard is made from 50% recycled plastic, and its top lid contains 75% recycled aluminum.

Dell Net-Zero Goals

Dell’s net-zero goals include:

  • Reaching net-zero GHG emissions across scopes 1, 2, and 3 by mid-century
  • Slashing scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 50% by 2030
  • Reducing GHG emissions by 60% per unit by 2030
  • Purchasing 75% of its electricity from renewables by 2030

What Is the Most Sustainable Laptop in the Market?

The most sustainable laptops on the market are Lenovo TCO Certified laptops. Lenovo is a sustainable tech brand that has no problem publicizing its sustainability report yearly.

Currently, Lenovo’s catalog has 73 options listed as TCO Certified laptops, including their best sellers, i.e., ThinkPad L Series, ThinkPads, and X1 Carbon.

The ThinkPad L Series has been voted the best sustainable laptop of 2022. It boasts 30% post-consumer recycled materials and low energy consumption, and it is Greenguard and UL Environment certified.

Carbon Footprint Calculator for Kids

A carbon footprint calculator for kids can help kids learn how their day-to-day activities impact the environment.

It can also encourage them to change their daily activities to save the environment, including screen time.

The questions are straightforward and can easily be understood by a child; they only need to click on an answer that accurately depicts their situation. The system will generate their actual carbon footprint number and suggest ways to reduce their footprint.14

Carbon Footprint Calculator for Business

If you want to address your business’s impact on the environment, using a business carbon footprint calculator is the first course of action.

The calculator will help you identify the major CO2 emitters in your business. Then, you can implement strategies to reduce your business’s carbon footprint, including reducing waste and increasing sustainable operations.4

Carbon Footprint of a Laptop: Email Carbon Footprint Calculator Free

You do not have to spend a dime to figure out your carbon footprint.

With a free carbon footprint calculator for emails, you can find out your carbon footprint in just 60 seconds and receive suggestions that will help you offset your footprint.

Your digital footprint is more than the carbon footprint of a laptop. It involves your use of all digital devices and takes into account the GHG emissions generated from the production and use of the devices.

Do not stop at knowing the carbon footprint of a laptop; calculate the digital carbon footprint of all digital devices and take informed actions that will help reduce the digital carbon footprint and combat the impacts of CO2 emissions.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Carbon Footprint of a Laptop

What Is the Carbon Footprint of a Laptop?

The carbon footprint of a laptop is 422.5kgs of CO2e. This sum includes emissions during manufacture and shipping.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of a MacBook?

A MacBook Air emits 158 kgs of CO2e. On the other hand, a MacBook Pro emits 394 kgs of CO2e, which is equivalent to 2000 km of driving.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of a Computer?

A desktop computer emits 778 kgs of CO2e annually. Of this, 85% results from emissions during manufacture and shipping, and 15% results from electricity consumption when in use.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Laptop Manufacturing?

A new laptop emits 331 kgs of CO2e during manufacture. This means that three new laptops emit about 1000 kgs of CO2e, enough to fill a three-bedroom house with CO2 equivalent.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Using a Laptop?

A laptop dumps 334 kgs of CO2e into the atmosphere annually when used for eight hours a day.

What Is the ICT Carbon Footprint?

The ICT sector accounts for 730 megatons of CO2e or 2% of global CO2 emissions.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of the Internet?

The internet is responsible for 3.7% of global GHG emissions. This is the same percentage of GHGs emitted by all air traffic globally.

How Much CO2 Does a Laptop Produce?

A laptop produces between 44 and 88 kgs of CO2e annually when used for eight hours a day.

How Much CO2 Does a Computer Emit?

A computer emits 175 kgs of CO2e into the atmosphere annually when used for eight hours a day.

How Much Electricity Does a PC Use Per Month?

A PC will use 12.2kWh of electricity per month when it is on for eight hours a day.

What Is the Power Consumption of Desktop Computer Per Hour?

A desktop computer uses 200W per hour when it is being used (printer and loudspeakers included.

What Is FootPrints Software?

FootPrints software provides on-premises tools that help businesses manage service delivery and assets across all IT operations.


References

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