Website Carbon Footprint Calculator: Carbon Footprint of the Internet (By Site)

Kim Williamson, Author 8 Billion TreesWritten by Kim Williamson

Carbon Offsets Credits | March 29, 2024

Person using the internet on the world wonders about the website carbon footprint and how to calculate website emissions and the carbon footprint of the internet by site, including ocean internet cables, infrastructure, data center emissions and everything else.

As more people begin to question the carbon footprint of the internet and even specific website carbon footprint amounts, researchers have rolled up their sleeves and begun to unravel this complex question.

The internet is a highly versatile, supremely functional technology that is omnipresent and utterly indispensable in today’s world. However, most of the inner workings of the internet are invisible to the average internet consumer, creating the impression that this worldwide technology is greener than it actually is.

This article explains the parameters of the internet’s carbon footprint, with a particular focus on the carbon emissions of various websites so that you can calculate a website carbon footprint quickly and easily.

Web Carbon Footprint Breakdown (Understanding Internet Impact on Global Carbon Footprint)

When considering the advantages and drawbacks of the internet, its impact on the environment is not one of the first things that come to mind. It is easy to imagine that the internet is carbon neutral with most of the energy consumption happening behind the scenes.

To understand the true impact the internet has on the environment and climate change, it is important to evaluate the many different contributors. The web carbon footprint is a composite of greenhouse gases emitted by each of the following domains:

  • Websites
  • Internet Infrastructure
  • Satellite
  • Cable and Fiber
  • Cellular
  • Cloud Storage
  • Internet Hardware
  • Streaming
  • Software Applications
  • Email

This article examines each of these spheres individually to estimate and determine their approximate impact on global CO2 emissions.

What Is a Website Carbon Footprint? (Website Carbon Calculator)

The carbon footprint of a website is the amount of greenhouse gases (CO2e – CO2 equivalent) released into the atmosphere due to the energy costs of creating the website, powering the website (electricity), transferring data to and from the website, and powering user devices.

The biggest players influencing a website’s carbon footprint are energy sources, website traffic, web design, and data transfer.

A graphic that shows the average website carbon footprint per year in terms of the number of page views per month and carbon dioxide per year.

According to, the average website tested by their calculator has a website carbon footprint equal to 0.5 g per page view. Thus, over the course of a year, a website could generate fairly significant CO2 emissions depending on its popularity and the other factors mentioned above.43

Average Website Carbon Footprint Per Year
# of Page Views Per Month CO2 Per Year
100 0.6 kg or 600 g
500 3.0 kg
1,000 6.0 kg
5,000 30.0 kg
10,000 60.0 kg
20,000 120.0 kg
100,000 600.0 kg

* Just for a reference point, has over 12 billion monthly visits with almost 6 pages per visit.

As helpful as it is to know the CO2 per page view for the average website, being able to test and measure specific sites is invaluable.

Use this website carbon calculator to estimate website carbon emissions for any site of interest or continue reading to learn how to calculate carbon footprint manually!

How Are CO2 Emissions By Website Measured? (Calculating Website Carbon Footprint)

It seems like it should be impossible to accurately measure CO2 emissions by website considering the astronomical number of websites and viewers as well as the strain of constant traffic and demand upon the entire system. A carbon emissions calculator can provide an individual with some indication of their personal impact on the environment, but what about website carbon footprints? Is there truly a way to measure a specific website’s carbon footprint with any kind of accuracy? As a matter of fact, there is! has developed a methodology for measuring website carbon emissions. By measuring/estimating 1) the amount of energy used for data transfer, 2) the amount of energy used at data centers, telecommunication networks, and personal devices, 3) the source of energy for data centers (verified clean energy data centers are listed on The Green Web Foundation [TGWF]), and 4) electric grid carbon impact (international average), it is possible to calculate the approximate carbon emissions generated by a single page view. Factor in website traffic and annual CO2 emissions by the website can be estimated.11, 21

Step 1:

Energy for data transfer (site specific)

+ Energy for data centers, networks, and devices (est. average)

+ Source energy for data centers (center specific)

+ Carbon factor of grid electricity (international average)


= Website CO2 Emissions Per Page View

Step 2:

Website CO2 emissions per page view

x Average annual page views


= Website CO2 Emissions Per Year

15 Most Popular U.S. Websites and Their Carbon Footprints

This section looks at the carbon footprint of the most popular U.S. websites. . . the ones that receive the highest rates of monthly traffic. Due to their extremely high rates of traffic, these websites generate a larger annual carbon footprint, even when the website is run on sustainable energy and emits little CO2 per page view (like Google).

15 Most Popular U.S. Websites and Their Carbon Footprints
Website Description Traffic/Year CO2 Per Page View CO2 Per Year (in metric tons) Search Engine 1.0 trillion .04g 40,000.0 Video Sharing Site 392.4 billion .70g 274,680.0 Social Media 201.6 billion .16g 322,560.0 Social Media 78 billion .57g 44,460.0 Online Encyclopedia 52.8 billion .02g 1,056.0 Web Service Provider 39.6 billion .35g 13,823.7 Instant Messaging 34.8 billion .55g 19,140.0 E-commerce 27.6 billion .93g 25,668.0 Video Sharing 25.2 billion .96g 24,192.0 Microsoft Email Service 24.0 billion .56 g 13,440.0 Professional Network 20.4 billion .12g 2,448.0 AI Research Lab 20.4 billion 2.59g 52,836.0 Social Media 20.4 billion 1.27g 25,908.0 Streaming Service 16.8 billion .47g 7,896.0 Microsoft Application Site 16.8 billion 2.03g 34,104.0

* Websites are listed by annual traffic, greatest to least.
** All traffic estimates are based on and calculated from a single month’s data from
*** CO2 per page view was calculated using
**** CO2 per year was calculated by multiplying CO2e per page view by annual traffic. A metric ton is equal to 1 million grams.

^Twitter ranked as the 5th most popular website in the U.S. but only websites accessible without a user account (no log-in required) are included here.

^^ Three adult content sites were excluded from this table. Those sites averaged about .37 grams of carbon emissions per page view.

A graphic that shows the popular US websites carbon emissions such as Google, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Whatsapp, Amazon, Tiktok, Live, LinkedIn, Openai, Reddit, Netflix, and Office.

Note that even though #1 ranked has 2.5 times as much web traffic as the next most visited site (, the company’s sustainable energy practices result in a very low CO2 per page view. The end effect is that’s annual carbon footprint is merely a fraction of what the next most popular sites produce.

Dirty Websites List: Websites Emitting Most CO2 Per Page View

The websites discussed in this section are highlighted because they have the highest carbon emissions per page view. In other words, they are the least efficient from an energy consumption standpoint and thus. Although these websites may not see the amount of web traffic that sees, they are included in the dirty websites list because they would have the largest carbon footprints if page views between sites were equal.

Dirtiest Websites List – Websites With the Largest CO2 Per Page View
Website Description Traffic/Year CO2 Per Page View Press Site 1.8 billion 9.21g Gaming 566.4 million 8.66g Video Streaming 636 million 3.04g Messaging 123.6 million 4.50g Fashion Retail 804 million 3.97g Photography 618 million 3.40g Social Media 12 billion 3.32g Home Retail 1.3 billion 2.79g Cryptocurrency 3.1 million 2.69g Delivery Service Partner Program 30 million 3.23g AI Research 258.0K 2.87g Grocery Partner 86.4 million 2.63g AI Research Lab 20.4 billion 2.59g App Development 206.4 million 2.41g Productivity/ Organization 1.4 billion 2.37g Self Publishing Services 162.0 million 2.31g Gaming 2.2 billion 2.15g Gaming 352.8 million 2.11g Government 636 K 2.06g Microsoft Application Site 16.8 billion 2.03g

* Websites are listed by CO2 per page view, greatest to least.
** All traffic estimates are based on and calculated from a single month’s data from
*** CO2 per page view was calculated using
^ The websites included here are not comprehensive. These are the highest CO2/View emitting sites that were tested.

Amazon Carbon Footprint

Amazon dominates the e-commerce world, and the company has changed the way people shop. Their sustainability website states that the total carbon emissions from Amazon operations in 2021 were an estimated 71.5 million metric tons of CO2e. That is 18% larger than their overall impact from 2019.45

However, these numbers do not directly account for the carbon footprint of the Amazon website, a frequently visited virtual shopping destination.

A graphic that shows the dirty websites list in carbon emissions.

Although the United States online marketplace,, receives the heaviest web traffic, Amazon’s international marketplaces have gained plenty of traction, as well, not to mention that Amazon has even partnered with the International Trade Administration to help U.S. sellers expand their e-commerce businesses abroad.

The following table looks at the Amazon carbon footprint for each country’s Amazon online marketplace.

Carbon Footprint of Amazon’s International Websites
Website Country Traffic/Year CO2 Per Page View CO2 Per Year (in metric tons) United States 27.6 billion .93g 25,668.0 Japan 6.7 billion .62g 4,154.0 Germany 4.9 billion .44g 2,156.0 UK 4.1 billion .78g 3,198.0 India 3.5 billion 1.11g 3,885.0 Brazil 2.0 billion 1.01g 2,020.0 Canada 2.0 billion 1.05 g 2,100.0 France 1.9 billion .68g 1,292.0 Italy 1.9 billion .60g 1,140.0 Spain 1.5 billion .80g 1,200.0 Mexico 1.1 billion 1.06g 1,166.0 Australia 654 million .84g 549.4 Turkey 450 million .89g 400.5 Netherlands 291.6 million .87g 253.7 United Arab Emirates 288 million .81g 233.2 Saudi Arabia 194.4 million .86g 167.2 Sweden 170.4 million .78g 132.9 Poland 168 million .81g 136.1 Singapore 80.4 million .51g 41.0

* Marketplaces are listed by market size, largest to smallest.
** All traffic estimates are based on and calculated from a single month’s data from
*** CO2 per page view was calculated using
**** CO2 per year was calculated by multiplying CO2e per page view by annual traffic. A metric ton is equal to 1 million grams.

Note how India’s online marketplace, powered by standard electric grid energy, emits more than twice as much CO2e per page view as Germany’s sustainably powered marketplace.

A graphic that shows the dirty websites list carbon emissions using carbon dioxide per page view.

Aside from Amazon’s global marketplace, Amazon has over 40 subsidiaries, most with websites of their own.

The following table features the carbon breakdown of some of the most prominent of these.

Carbon Footprint of Amazon’s Subsidiary Websites
Website Description Traffic/Year CO2 Per Page View CO2 Per Year (in metric tons)
Livestream Gaming Platform 13.2 billion 1.10g 14,520.0
Amazon Studios
Press Site 1.8 billion 9.21g 16,578.0
Book Community 1.3 billion .61g 793.0
Amazon Freight
Shipping and Logistics 790.8 million .36g 284.7
Amazon Web Services
Cloud Computing 789.6 million 1.56g 1,231.8
Audiobook Service 322.8 million .49g 158.2
Home Security 312 million .70g 218.4
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
Self Publishing Services 162.0 million 2.31g 374.2
Whole Foods Market
Grocery Partner 86.4 million 2.63g 227.2
Amazon Advertising
Online Advertising 76.8 million .62g 47.6
Amazon Logistics
Delivery Service Partner Program 30 million 3.23g 96.9
Amazon Pharmacy
Online Pharmacy 26.4 million 1.41g 37.2
Amazon Luna
Cloud Gaming 18.0 million .59g 10.6
Audio Narration 15.6 million .75g 11.7
Amazon Alexa
Alexa Device Setup 15.6 million .06g .9 (936 kg)
Amazon Flex
Job Recruitment 12.0 million .30g 3.6
Amazon Business
Business Purchasing 8.7 million .39g 3.4
Amazon Science
Research Pages 2.9 million .22g .6 (638 kg)
Amazon Publishing
Publishing Service 370.8 K 1.29g .5 (478 kg)

* Websites are listed by web traffic, greatest to least.
** All traffic estimates are based on and calculated from a single month’s data from
*** CO2 per page view was calculated using
**** CO2 per year was calculated by multiplying CO2e per page view by annual traffic. A metric ton is equal to 1 million grams.

A graphic that shows the carbon footprint of Amazon's subsidiary websites such as Twitch, Amazon Studions, Goodreads, Amazon Freight, Amazon web services, Audible, Ring, etc.

So while the carbon emissions from a single website page view may seem minuscule, consider that alone had 2.3 billion visitors last month (June 2023) along with approximately 9 page views per visit.4

Add the impact of Amazon’s international and subsidiary websites, and it becomes apparent how all of those emissions can pile up over time.

Carbon Footprint of ECommerce Sites is by far the most popular online marketplace, both in the United States and beyond it. Although the site does not have the highest carbon emissions per page view, its carbon footprint far surpasses that of all other Ecommerce sites, nearly matching the combined carbon footprints of the next 4 most visited sites.

This is mostly on account of the sheer volume of web traffic sees.

Carbon Footprint of Top ECommerce Websites
Rank Website Traffic/Year CO2 Per Page View CO2 Per Year (in metric tons)
1 27.6 billion .93g 25,668.0
2 8.3 billion .70g 5,810.0
3 6.7 billion .62g 4,154.0
4 6.2 billion 1.75g 10,850.0
5 5.4 billion .35g 1,890.0
6 5.1 billion .62g 3,162.0
7 4.9 billion .44g 2,156.0
8 4.7 billion .27g 1,269.0
9 4.5 billion 1.00g 4,500.0
10 4.4 billion .98g 4,312.0
11 4.4 billion .30g 1,320.0
12 4.1 billion .78g 3,198.0
13 3.8 billion .44g 1,672.0
14 3.6 billion 1.43g 5,148.0
15 3.5 billion 1.11g 3,885.0
17 2.8 billion .46g 1,288.0
19 2.5 billion .26g 650.0
28 1.8 billion .97g 1,746.0
29 1.8 billion .69g 1,242.0
34 1.6 billion 1.25g 2,000.0
41 1.3 billion 1.58g 2,054.0
42 1.3 billion 2.79g 3,627.0

* Websites are listed by web traffic, greatest to least. The top 15 are listed, followed by a few other well-known names.
** All traffic estimates are based on and calculated from a single month’s data from
*** CO2 per page view was calculated using
**** CO2 per year was calculated by multiplying CO2e per page view by annual traffic. A metric ton is equal to 1 million grams.

A graphic that shows the carbon footprint of top e-commerce websites such a Amazon, eBay, Rakuten, AliExpress, etc. and are both notable for their low CO2e per page view., on the other hand, creates more carbon emissions per visit than any other eCommerce site tested.

Carbon Footprint of News Websites

A Pew Research Center study from 2020 reported that 86% of adults in the United States receive their news through digital sources, and 52% reported that they prefer a digital medium for news. This is not surprising, with the accessibility of digital news at an all-time high.

As the trend toward digital news is unlikely to change in the near future, a look at the carbon footprint of news websites is warranted.

Carbon Footprint of Popular News Websites
Website Traffic/Year CO2 Per Page View CO2 Per Year (in metric tons) 8.8 billion .97g 8,536.0 7.5 billion 1.43g 10,725.0 7.0 billion 1.58g 11,060.0 6.6 billion 1.02g 6,732.0 4.9 billion 1.09g 5,341.0 4.7 billion .08g 376.0 4.2 billion 1.06g 4,452.0 3.6 billion 1.38g 4,968.0 3.0 billion .45g 1,350.0 1.8 billion .69g 1,242.0

* Popular news websites are listed by web traffic, greatest to least.
** All traffic estimates are based on and calculated from a single month’s data from
*** CO2 per page view was calculated using
**** CO2 per year was calculated by multiplying CO2e per page view by annual traffic. A metric ton is equal to 1 million grams.

A graphic that shows the carbon footprint of top e-commerce websites.

The most prominent digital news sites in the U.S. were tested using’s website carbon footprint calculator. Of the 10 popular sites tested, the New York Times website and produce the highest CO2 per page view, followed closely by Fox News.

Google News is the most eco-friendly online news source, by far, with only .08g of carbon emissions per page view.

Carbon Footprint of Social Media Websites

Internet data use from 2023 indicates that there are 4.8 billion unique social media accounts, suggesting that more than half of the world population is active on social media platforms. Furthermore, of the 6 hours and 35 minutes the average internet user is online daily, 2 hours and 24 minutes are dedicated to social media.

That means that approximately 36% of online time is used on social media platforms.35

A graphic that shows the carbon footprint of popular news websites such as MSN, CNN, NYTimes, BBC, Dailymail, etc.

With that knowledge, the logical next step is to take a look at which platforms in the U.S. are the most environmentally conscious.

Carbon Footprint of Social Media Websites
Website Traffic/Year CO2 Per Page View CO2 Per Year (in metric tons) 201.6 billion .16g 322,560.0 78.0 billion .57g 44,460.0 78.0 billion .47g 36,660.0 34.8 billion .55g 19,140.0 25.2 billion .96g 24,192.0 20.4 billion .12g 2,448.0 20.4 billion 1.27g 25,908.0 13.2 billion .63g 8,316.0 12 billion 3.32g 39,840.0 4.0 billion .57g 2,280.0

* Social media websites are listed by web traffic, greatest to least.
** All traffic estimates are based on and calculated from a single month’s data from
*** CO2 per page view was calculated using
**** CO2 per year was calculated by multiplying CO2e per page view by annual traffic. A metric ton is equal to 1 million grams.

A graphic that shows the carbon footprint of social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

Of all social media websites in the United States, was by far the most popular, with over 201 billion visitors each year. Fortunately, Facebook also has one of the most environment-friendly websites, emitting only 0.16g of CO2 per page view. The only website to top that number is the professional networking site,, with 0.12g CO2 per page view. produces the most emissions per page view with 3.32g. Due to lesser web traffic, their overall carbon footprint (39,840 metric tons of CO2) is still less than that of and

Carbon Footprint of Gaming Websites

Gaming websites have grown their popularity with the diversity of gaming access (PC, Mobile, Console), and the never-ending supply of games.

The Steam Greenlight community alone has 50,000+ distinct games available.12 The growing interest in playing video games has also created a market for gamer streaming through websites such as

Here are some statistics on popular gaming websites and their carbon output.

Carbon Footprint of Gaming Websites
Website Traffic/Year CO2 Per Page View CO2 Per Year (in metric tons) 13.2 billion 1.10g 14,520.0 9.7 billion .55g 5,335.0 2.5 billion .25g 625.0 2.2 billion 2.15g 4,730.0 1.5 billion 1.40g 2,100.0 916.8 million .41g 375.9 890.4 million 1.01g 899.3 825.6 million 1.01g 833.9 615.6 million .82g 504.8 598.8 million 1.32g 790.4

* Gaming websites are listed by web traffic, greatest to least. This list is not inclusive of all top gaming sites.
** All traffic estimates are based on and calculated from a single month’s data from
*** CO2 per page view was calculated using
**** CO2 per year was calculated by multiplying CO2e per page view by annual traffic. A metric ton is equal to 1 million grams.

A graphic that shows the carbon footprint of gawing websites such as Twitch, Roblox, Chess, etc.

Gaming websites produce a fairly wide range of CO2e per view, from at .25 g all the way up to at 2.15g. The highest overall carbon footprint was from the gaming livestream giant, Twitch.

Carbon Footprint of Video Streaming Websites

The only thing that people use the internet for more than social media is video streaming. Approximately 91% of people reportedly stream movies and television over the internet.57 Netflix alone has 231 million subscribers, and Americans stream video content for 3.1 hours each day on average.3

Most global video streaming is app-based and viewed on smart devices, game consoles, or streaming devices, but some streaming services still get significant website traffic.47

A graphic that shows the carbon footprint of video streaming websites such as Youtube, Tiktok, Netflix, and many more.

The following table shows which streaming websites (not apps) receive the most web traffic and produce the most CO2.

Carbon Footprint of Video Streaming Websites
Website Traffic/Year CO2 Per Page View CO2 Per Year (in metric tons) 392.4 billion .70g 274,680.0 25.2 billion .96g 24,192.0 16.8 billion .47g 7,896.0 3.3 billion 1.06 3,498.0 2.3 billion .61g 1,403.0 2.1 billion 1.16g 2,436.0 1.5 billion .58g 870.0 1.2 billion 1.26g 1,512.0 840 million .30g 252.0 765.6 million .67g 512.9 636 million 3.04g 1,933.4

* Video streaming websites are listed by web traffic, greatest to least. The list is not inclusive of all top sites globally.
** All traffic estimates are based on and calculated from a single month’s data from
*** CO2 per page view was calculated using
**** CO2 per year was calculated by multiplying CO2e per page view by annual traffic. A metric ton is equal to 1 million grams. is the leading website for video streaming, by far, with 392.4 billion annual visitors.

Carbon Footprint of Blogs and Website Builders

Blogging, as an industry, really began to take off in the early 2000s. It started out essentially as an online diary and quickly expanded into much more. It is estimated that there are over 600 million blogs globally and 32.7 bloggers in the United States alone. Not only does it appear that blogging has become quite a popular pastime, it is also a major source of revenue for successful bloggers.

More than 75% of people polled reported that they read blogs regularly.15

The following table examines the carbon footprint of blog and website-building sites such as WordPress as well as personal blogs.

Carbon Footprint of Blogging Websites
Website Traffic/Year CO2 Per Page View CO2 Per Year (in metric tons) 3.2 billion .43g 1,376.0 2.6 billion .36g 936.0 1.6 billion .28g 448.0 566.4 million .41g 232.2 534.0 million .55g 293.7 505.2 million .42g 212.2 469.2 million .78g 366.0 432.0 million .75g 324.0 190.8 million .28g 53.4 45.6 million 1.31g 59.7
Personal Blogs 192.0 million .89g 170.9 164.4 million 1.02g 167.7 105.6 million .30g 31.7 13.2 million .41g 5.4 13.2 million .55g 7.3 7.0 million .49g 3.4 6.2 million .05g .3 (310 kg) 4.1 million 2.03g 8.3 3.2 million .18g .6 (576 kg) 736.8 K .18g .1 (133 kg)

* Blogging websites are listed by web traffic, greatest to least.
** All traffic estimates are based on and calculated from a single month’s data from
*** CO2 per page view was calculated using
**** CO2 per year was calculated by multiplying CO2e per page view by annual traffic. A metric ton is equal to 1 million grams.

A graphic that shows the carbon footprint of blogging websites such as WordPress, Tumblr, Medium, Wix, and etc.

Personal blogs, as a group, create much smaller carbon footprints than most other websites examined in this article due primarily to lesser web traffic and subsequently, less data transfer.

Note, however, that the leading blog listed in this table has 192 million annual visitors and nets 170.9 metric tons of CO2e! Remember that is the equivalent of 170,900,000 grams or 170,900 kilograms!

Google Carbon Footprint (Google Footprint)

Google LLC is a leading technology company that was founded in 1998 in California. It is owned by the parent company, Alphabet. It has become an internet giant and probably the most widely recognized and used internet service. Google has a designated web browser, Google Chrome, as well as its eponymous search engine, Google. Recent data indicates that Google now processes over 93% of all internet searches, which explains why’s annual traffic is 1 trillion visits.58

But search queries aren’t the only thing contributing to the Google footprint. Like, Google also has a number of international web pages and subsidiaries.

The table below lists several of the most prominent of these.

Google International Websites and Subsidiaries
Website Traffic/Year CO2 Per Page View CO2 Per Year (in metric tons) 1.0 trillion .04g 40,000.0 392.4 billion .70g 274,680.0
Google Japan
3.5 billion .04g 140.0
Google Canada
1.9 billion .04g 76.0
Google China
1.4 billion .04g 56.0
Google Cloud
402.0 million .63g 253.3
Looker Studio
283.2 million .06g 17.0
262.8 million 1.16g 304.8
206.4 million 2.41g 497.4
Google AdMob
24.0 million .06g 1.4
Google Fiber
21.6 million .49g 10.6
Google DeepMind
10.5 million .22 g 2.3 4.9 million 1.30g 6.4
Google AI
258.0K 2.87g .7 (740 kg)
Google Blog
38.4K .38g .01 (14.6 kg)

* Google websites are listed by web traffic, greatest to least. The list is not comprehensive
** All traffic estimates are based on and calculated from a single month’s data from
*** CO2 per page view was calculated using

A graphic that shows the Google international websites and subsidiaries emissions in metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
**** CO2 per year was calculated by multiplying CO2e per page view by annual traffic. A metric ton is equal to 1 million grams.

Tips for Reducing Website Carbon Footprint

The carbon footprint of a website is influenced by a number of factors, but there are only certain aspects that website creators/owners can control. Because data center energy consumption is the biggest overall contributor to website carbon footprint, that is the first issue to address. Here are 5 quick tips to make a website more carbon-neutral:

  • Select a hosting provider that uses sustainable energy.63 The Green Web Foundation provides a directory of known green hosting providers around the world.35
  • Simplify the webpage. Compress images and remove redundant or unnecessary content.
  • Link videos rather than hosting on the site. Never set videos to autoplay.
  • Keep the website code simple and direct. Simpler code equals less data.
  • Stick to compressed web fonts. Custom fonts increase page weight which increases data transfer.16

What Is the Carbon Footprint of the Internet’s Infrastructure?

Knowing how to calculate website carbon footprint is essential to understanding the environmental impact of the internet, as well as the carbon footprint of a specific individual’s browsing habits.

However, websites are not the biggest contributors to the internet’s overall carbon footprint.

A graph that shows the Google websites and subsidiaries emissions per year.

Grasping the complexity of the Internet’s environmental impact begins with understanding the primary types of the Internet. There have been many internet connection routes through the years, but the most prominent types of home internet in 2023 are:22

  • Cable
  • Fiber
  • Satellite

And don’t forget that mobile internet use is responsible for nearly 60% of all internet traffic, and the average mobile internet user consumes 5.6 GB of data monthly.7, 21 Thus, a 5th internet service connection type is added:

  • Mobile Data

Most internet connection types rely upon data centers to store information. The next sections explore the carbon footprint of data centers around the world.

Carbon Footprint of Data Centers and Collocation Centers

Data centers are the brain of the internet, storing and processing information, and communicating with all the various parts of the internet infrastructure. Since all internet connection types rely on data centers to store and transmit data from one place to another, understanding the internet’s carbon footprint starts with recognizing the carbon footprint of data centers.

According to the United States International Trade Commission’s 2021 briefing, there were almost 8,000 data centers around the globe including hyperscale data centers, smaller edge data centers, and colocation centers.

  • Hyperscale data centers are critical for cloud computing and storage, and most of these are operated by big names such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.
  • Edge data centers are smaller facilities more proximal to customers to facilitate data transfer.
  • Collocation centers (and managed data centers) are third-party sites where businesses can house (or lease) the internet technology (IT) infrastructure necessary for operations.71

As of January 2021, The U.S. housed more than 2,600 (33%) data centers –  far more than any other country. The largest number of U.S. data centers are housed around major cities such as Dallas, San Francisco, and LA. Significant numbers of data centers are also housed in the following countries:16

  • United Kingdom (~450 data centers: 5.7%)
  • Germany (~440 data centers: 5.5%)
  • China (~415 data centers: 5.2%)
  • The Netherlands (~270 data centers: 3.4%)
  • Canada (~260 data centers: 3.3%)

* Image from the USITC 2021 briefing “Data Centers Around the World: A Quick Look.”

As demand for cloud computing and cloud storage continues to grow exponentially, the number of data centers around the world will likely burgeon. This is concerning because data centers are known to account for a large percentage of the internet’s overall carbon footprint.

CO2e From Data Center Manufacturing

The manufacturing of data centers includes many processes which are harmful to the environment. Mining raw materials such as heavy metals used in computing machinery has deleterious effects. The energy and equipment required for constructing the physical buildings, as well as the waste and byproducts of manufacturing computer technology and cooling technology, must all be considered.

These elements are all indirectly tied to a data center’s carbon footprint, but they are not usually included in GHG emission calculations.20

For some quick context, the manufacture of a single server can produce over 1,000 kg CO2e (estimates vary), and servers usually require replacement within 5 years, further adding to manufacturing CO2e.19, 39 A single hyperscale data center can house more than 5,000 servers.54

Electricity Consumption of Data Centers

An article in The MIT Press Reader describes the detrimental impact that cloud computing and data centers can have on the environment. Data centers are the mind of the internet, a vast engine continually cycling energy and power. The endless processing produces heat as a byproduct, and heat is dangerous to computing technology. This is why data centers are equipped with huge, computer room air conditioners (CRACs) to keep the temperature of the computers stable.57

Data centers require even more electricity to continually pump water into the facility for cooling and to treat the water before and after use.60 The process of cooling uses over 40% of a data center’s total electricity demand. Around 10% of electricity is used for active processing, and the remaining electricity is wrapped up in safeguarding against system failure.57
The electricity demand of all data centers in 2022 was estimated at about 300 terawatt hours (TWh), nearly 2% of global electricity consumption, resulting in 1% of GHG emissions.17 According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, data centers consume up to 50 times as much energy per square foot as other buildings, and electricity consumption could reach 3,000 TWh by 2030.75

The Center of Expertise for Energy Efficiency in Data Centers provides guidelines for data centers of all sizes to increase their efficiency metrics.

Carbon Footprint of Hyperscale Data Centers

Hyperscale data centers run by companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon are more likely to use newer technologies, making these behemoth data centers much more efficient than their smaller counterparts. In fact, while the demand for data transfer has increased by 2,500% in the last decade, more efficient technology has allowed electricity demand to remain fairly level. Hyperscale data centers’ carbon footprint/square meter is estimated to be only 20% of what is attributed to small data centers.9 Big-name data centers are also increasingly committing to clean energy, another huge win for internet sustainability.17, 46

A graphic that shows the water used by a single data center in terms of daily and annual consumption.

The Green Web Foundation has a dataset that lists global data centers and their energy source sustainability. They also have a directory of green hosting providers around the world.34

What Is the Water Footprint of Data Centers? (Footprint Web Server)

Data centers also rely heavily on a  continual water supply to use for cooling equipment.

Their water footprints are significant, particularly at a time when water is increasingly scarce. As would be expected, hyper-scale data centers require more water than smaller data centers.76

Average Water Used by a Single Data Center
Data Center Daily Consumption (gallons) Annual Consumption (gallons)
Hyperscale* 450,000 164,000,000
Small-scale** 18,000 6,570,000

* Water consumption from the average Google data center in 2021 is used to approximate hyper-scale facilities in general.
** Small-scale consumption averages are from a sample size of 25 facilities in the Virginia area.76
The combined water consumption of all Google data centers in 2021 is approximated at 4.3 billion gallons.77

What Is the Carbon Footprint Web Servers Generate? (Carbon Footprint of the Internet)

The primary contributors to the carbon footprint web servers carry are manufacturing, transportation, lifetime use, and disposal. Transportation and disposal (end-of-life) account for less than 1% of GHG emissions in some theoretical models.19

Server manufacturing is estimated to generate CO2e emissions between 600kg and 1400kg, swaying toward the larger of the two numbers.19 Servers typically require replacement in 3 to 5 years, necessitating additional manufacturing costs. The energy consumption and GHG emissions of servers during their lifetime use are significantly more than the cost to manufacture. Some sources suggest that a server emits more than 6g of CO2e for every GB of data transferred. If this statistic is accurate, servers would account for over 50% of a data center’s overall carbon footprint.1\68

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Cloud Storage?

Cloud computing, first invented in the 1960s, became accessible to home internet users in the mid-1990s. However, the “Cloud” as it is known today truly took shape in the early 2000s when key companies such as Amazon and Microsoft released cloud computing services.48

The Cloud has become an indispensable component of Internet technology. The cloud’s vast network of servers located all around the globe houses the abundance of digital data necessary to run applications, stream video content, and browse social media. Cloud data centers now store most of the information that used to be kept on personal computers, jump drives, and external hard drives.74

Cloud data centers are known as hyper-scale data centers, and most of these are run by big-name service providers such as Google, Apple, Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft. Contrary to what the name may imply, the cloud is not some intangible, ambiguous collection of data floating around the atmosphere. Rather, the cloud is a decentralized system of interconnected data centers. These data centers are located in huge physical structures which consume a lot of electricity and water in the operations.72

Cloud storage has indisputably made life easier by allowing internet users a secure repository and quick access to necessary data. But what of the carbon footprint of cloud storage?

Studies have shown that the transfer/storage of one single gigabyte (GB) of data can use between 3 and 7 kWh of electricity. This means that storing 100 GB of data in the cloud would produce about .2 tons of CO2e. This is drastically more than the energy required to save data to a computer or external hard drive.

Websites such as and (using Etsy’s methodology) have developed experimental methods/formulas to calculate their cloud carbon footprint.55, 61

Carbon Footprint of Amazon Web Service

Amazon Web Service (AWS) is the largest cloud computing company out there, and they were also one of the first cloud services, developed in 2006.6 AWS claims to offer 200+ services to their customers through their global data centers and reportedly can reduce customers’ cloud footprints by almost 80%, thanks to renewable energy sources.62

AWS offers a carbon footprint calculator for customers to track and monitor the carbon emissions associated with their AWS workloads.9 The company states that it will run on 100% renewable energy by 2025 with goals for a zero-carbon infrastructure by 2040.

Additionally, AWS is addressing CO2e emissions associated with manufacturing and construction. The company states that its suppliers are using high percentages of recycled materials. AWS has also made the switch to concrete with 20% less embodied carbon for construction purposes.62

Carbon Footprint of Google Cloud

Google Cloud is a large network of cloud computing and storage services using the Google infrastructure.

Launched in 2008, Google Cloud has become one of the most used cloud computing services in the world and the most used cloud storage service. With 24 data centers located around the world, Google is able to provide efficient cloud services to customers from any country.13, 32

Google Cloud is one of the services that offers a tool for customers to calculate their individual cloud impact using billing statement information.69 Google reports that they are now carbon neutral as a company with enough carbon credits to offset user CO2e. Still better, they have committed to carbon-free energy for all of their data centers by the year 2030. Google’s extra level of transparency with regard to its sustainability goals is another positive.

Carbon Footprint of Dropbox

Dropbox is a “file hosting service” that allows customers to share files and sync content, making collaboration simpler.

Dropbox is one of several cloud storage services available to internet users, and they have data centers located across the United States with additional servers in other countries around the world.34

On their blog, Dropbox reports that the company’s data center “storage server power” is 100% supplied by renewable energy. Since they specify that renewable energy covers data center IT power several times, it seems probable that the energy required to power their cooling systems and water pumping and treatment systems is not currently sustainably sourced.50

Dropbox also uses a method known as “cold storage,” which saves on storage costs and disk space by fragmenting older files and storing them between data centers. Dropbox has committed to becoming 100% carbon neutral by the year 2030, and they have reportedly already reduced their carbon footprint by 15%.50

Dropbox’s 2021 ESG Impact Report reports that their energy use for data centers in 2021 was 126,447 megawatts (MWh) of electricity, down from 167,659 MWh in 2019. The company reported that they also reduced their CO2e emissions by 31% from 2020 to 2021.67

Carbon Footprint of Ocean Internet Cables

Approximately 750,000 miles of fiber-optic cables lie beneath the surface of the ocean, enabling high-speed international data transmission. Nearly all internet connection types rely on these cables for secure, reliable data transfer.14 But what is the environmental impact of these ocean internet cables?

The undersea infrastructure of the internet impacts the environment through:

  • Manufacturing
    • Raw material mining
    • Manufacturing emissions and byproducts
  • Installation
    • Marine biome disruption
    • Installation emissions
  • Maintenance
  • Energy Use

Experts are beginning to truly examine the carbon footprint of the internet’s underwater network, but that data is not yet available.14

Additional Internet Infrastructure

Although data centers are the most vital aspect of the internet infrastructure, there are so many additional components, from the satellites used to transmit signals for satellite internet to fiber cables to cell phone towers. The following sections will look at the carbon impact of each of these in turn.

Carbon Footprint of Satellites

Approximately 1% of the world’s internet users (43 million people) use a satellite broadband connection. While this number seems improbably small, satellite internet use is projected to grow substantially over the next 5 years as technologies improve and become more affordable.56

The satellite has long been considered a less efficient form of internet due to 1) the overhead costs of manufacturing, launching, and maintaining the satellites, 2) the inefficiency of energy transfer and subsequent energy loss, 3) the environmental impact of satellite debris, and 4) the consumer costs.

The carbon footprint of satellite internet is reportedly higher than other internet forms, as transmitting signals through space requires four times the amount of energy that a cable internet connection would, and satellite launches use vast amounts of fuel.19 As technologies improve through companies such as Starlink, this satellite internet may become a more competitive market.

Statistics show that the carbon cost of broadcasting one hour of satellite television is .11g CO2e for the broadcast and 21g CO2e for reception.17 There are no readily available data for CO2e emissions associated with satellite internet.

Carbon Footprint of Mobile Data

Mobile data has grown significantly in recent years, and it is estimated that by 2025 there will be more than 1 billion 5G data connections globally. Nearly 57% of website traffic routes through mobile devices these days, a 75% increase from 8 years ago. While not all of this traffic uses mobile data, a significant portion of it does.30

Cellular data plans rely on data centers to store and transmit data, just like wired internet. In the case of cellular, a wireless signal from a mobile device must first be sent to the cell tower so that it can be transferred by cable or fiber to the data center. The data must travel back across the wire to the cell tower so that a wireless signal can be transmitted back to the user.

Mobile data’s unique contributors (not data centers) to greenhouse gas emissions include:

  • Radio Access Networks (RAN) to send and receive data signal
  • Infrastructure and Network Energy Consumption (cell towers, cooling systems, etc.)
  • Operations (Cellular providers, offices, retail, etc.)

Cell towers are a critical piece of this puzzle, and they have a hefty carbon footprint. A 2017 study by Kleinman Center for Energy Policy reported that the carbon footprint of cell phone towers approximated 230 million tons (~209 million metric tons) per year, but it is certainly a much larger number today.

According to, most energy consumption in mobile networks (87%) can be attributed to the radio access networks (RAN), with 12% to infrastructure (including data centers) and 1% for operations. The most recently available efficiency metric from 2022 indicates that .17 kWh of electricity is spent for every GB of data transferred.27

Remember that the average mobile internet user consumes 5.6 GB of data monthly, and there are 4.32 billion mobile internet users globally. The following equations provide rough estimates of the average users’ mobile data carbon footprint as well as the global impact of mobile data. Use the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator to Avoid Step 3.

Average Mobile Data User’s Carbon Footprint

Step 1:

Average Monthly Data Use 5.6 GB

x 12 Months x 12


= Average Annual Data Use Per User = 67.2 GB

Step 2:

Average Annual Data Use 67.2 GB

x Kilowatts of Electricity Per GB x .17 kWh


= Annual Energy Consumption Per Average User = 11.42 kWh

Step 3:

Annual Energy Consumption Per Average User 11.42 kWh

x CO2e Coefficient x .000114 metric tons


= Average Mobile Data User’s Carbon Footprint = .00114 metric tons

= 1.14 kilogram CO2e

Mobile Data’s Overall Carbon Footprint

Step 1:

Average Monthly Data Use 5.6 GB

x 12 Months x 12


= Average Annual Data Use Per User = 67.2 GB

Step 2:

Average Annual Data Use 67.2 GB

x Number of Mobile Internet Users x 4.32 billion


= Annual Data Consumption of Industry = 290.30 b GB

Step 3:

Annual Data Consumption of Industry 290.30 b GB

x Kilowatts of Electricity Per GB x .17 kWh


= Annual Energy Consumption of Industry = 49.35 b kWh

Step 4:

Annual Energy Consumption of Industry 49.35 b kWh

x CO2 Coefficient x .0001 metric tons


= Mobile Data’s Estimated Carbon Footprint = .0049 b metric tons

= 4.9 mil metric tons

Carbon Footprint of Cable Internet

According to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, 82 million Americans have broadband cable internet, equal to 84% of U.S. households. The carbon footprint of cable internet is equal to all of the direct and indirect emissions associated with:

  • Manufacture of Coaxial Cable
  • Manufacture of Hardware
  • Installation of Cable Network
  • Maintenance of Cable Network
  • Energy Transfer
  • Internet Service Providers

Due to the heat produced by coaxial cables, they require cooling, thus consuming more energy.29 A study from 2017 showed that coaxial cable networks operating at 50 Mbps generate about 2.7 tons of CO2e per year.6

Carbon Footprint of Fiber Internet

Fiber internet is a quickly growing industry to which nearly half of all U.S. households now have access.23 Fiber provides the fastest internet connections available, and incredibly, also seems to be more sustainable than other types of internet.

A European Commission study from 2017 found that fiber internet is the most efficient and eco-friendly option available. The report states that at 50 Mbps, fiber networks emit about 1.7 tons of CO2e annually, compared to 2.7 tons of CO2e for traditional cable internet services.6

Carbon Footprint of Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Internet service providers (ISPs) are companies that provide internet access (usually by monthly subscription) to customers’ homes and businesses. These companies oversee and troubleshoot internet connectivity issues inside and outside of the home. The organizations are often tied to other services such as cable TV, cellular service, or satellite TV.

Some well-known ISPs include Comcast, AT&T, and Spectrum Cable.73

When calculating the carbon footprint of the internet, it is very difficult to account for the indirect emissions produced by ISPs. Comcast’s 2023 Carbon Footprint Data Report shows that the company has reduced its annual carbon footprint (Scope 1 and 2 emissions) from 2.5 million metric tonnes in 2019 to 1.6 million metric tonnes in 2022.

It is nearly impossible at this point to determine the exact percentage of that number that contributes directly to providing internet service to customers, but this number provides a bit more context for how diffuse the internet’s support system and carbon impact are spread out.

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Internet Hardware?

The internet’s vast infrastructure and ISPs ensure that the data a customer requests is processed and delivered to their home. But once the signal reaches the home, it is up to the customer’s internet hardware to relay the data to the proper device. In most cases, the ISP provides the necessary equipment for a fee, with their service subscription.

Internet service relies upon modems and routers to reach an individual’s personal device.

Carbon Footprint of Modems

The modem is the device that provides internet service to a customer’s home by connecting the home to the ISP.10

An article published in 2021, reports that the average lifetime (5-year) CO2e emissions of a single modem approximates 5.84kg.72

Carbon Footprint of Routers

Routers are hardware devices that provide wired and wireless connections for the devices in the home, facilitating inter-device communication.10

A Swedish research study published in 2022 reported that most of a router’s carbon footprint is generated during usage rather than production due to the fact that routers are constantly operating to provide uninterrupted signals. The study analyzed a specific router’s energy consumption and determined that the 9-year lifetime carbon footprint was 425.3 kgCO2e.

Other routers for comparative analyses had slightly smaller emissions at approximately 387kg CO2e.51

Carbon Footprint of Personal Devices

Personal devices such as smartphones, computers, and tablets are increasingly necessary in modern society. While these devices have made life easier on so many levels, they do not come without a cost, both financial and environmental.


As of 2023, 6.92 billion smartphone users are scattered across the globe, more than 86% of the total population.

Meanwhile, the number of people with multiple devices has propelled the absolute number of mobile connections to more than 11.7 billion, far exceeding the world population.

The number of unique smartphone users represents a 50% increase from 2017 data, and some predictions suggest that more than 70% of internet users will exclusively use smartphones to access the internet by the year 2025.53, 65

A graphic that shows the lifetime carbon footprint of Apple personal devices on smartphones, laptops, displays, tablets, and desktops.

A 2016 study examining the carbon footprint of a Sony smartphone found that it had a lifetime carbon footprint of approximately 57kg of CO2e, assuming a 3-year lifespan and not accounting for the GHG emissions generated by networking and data center infrastructure. Manufacturing alone accounted for more than 80% of the overall carbon footprint and this proportion holds true today. Although these figures are fairly dated at this point, they are similar to more recent numbers reported by leading smartphone producers Apple and Samsung.40

Apple reports that the iPhone 14 Pro Max which was introduced in 2022 has a lifetime footprint of approximately 73kg CO2e, 79% of which is attributed to production.33 In comparison, Samsung’s 2023 environmental report on the Galaxy S23+ indicates a lifetime carbon footprint of 58.8 kg CO2e with over 83.7% attributed to production emissions.51

Note that smartphones with higher storage capacities have larger carbon footprints.5

These emissions can be mitigated by planting trees to offset the carbon footprint of smartphones.


According to Apple, their 16” Macbook Pro laptop, introduced in 2023, emits 300kg of carbon emissions during its lifetime, 74% of which is generated during production. The carbon footprint of laptop computers is significantly less than that of desktops, which often require the production of a separate computer and display (except for the iMac).

The 2023 Mac Pro combined with the Pro Display XDR generate a total of 2,621kg CO2e over their lifetime, and unlike other personal devices, approximately half of the GHG emissions are generated from use.

Note that this is at least partially due to the fact that desktop computers generally have a longer lifespan (up to 10 years), far surpassing the 2-3 year lifespan of iPhones and the 5-7 year lifespan of Macbooks.55


Although tablets do not currently compete with smartphones for overall market share, the number of people worldwide using tablets is still a staggering 1.28 billion.42 According to Apple, the 9th generation iPad has a lifetime carbon footprint of 75kg CO2e, 78% of the production of the product.22 Whereas, the 2018 iPad Pro (11”) was calculated at 113kg CO2e.52

Apple is a leader in the market for personal devices and has been for many years. Apple has also been decently proactive in reducing its carbon output, with a commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2030. And although Apple is only a slice of the market, its transparency in reporting the carbon footprints of its products makes it easier to observe trends over time.

The following table explores the carbon footprint of Apple’s currently available personal devices, as well as older models.

Carbon Footprint of Apple Personal Devices
Product Release Year Lifetime CO2e Production (%) Usage (%)


iPhone 14 2022 61kg 79% 18%
iPhone 13 2021 64kg 81% 16%
iPhone 12 2020 70kg 83% 14%
iPhone 6 2014 95kg 85% 11%
iPhone 14 Pro 2022 65kg 81% 15%
iPhone 11 Pro 2019 80kg 83% 13%
iPhone 14 Pro Max 2022 73kg 79% 17%
iPhone 11 Pro Max 2019 86kg 76% 18%
iPhone SE (3rd gen) 2022 46kg 82% 13%
iPhone SE (2nd gen) 2020 57kg 84% 12%
iPhone 13 mini 2021 61kg 85% 12%
iPhone 12 mini 2020 64kg 85% 12%


MacBook Pro 16” 2023 300kg 74% 25%
MacBook Pro 14” 2023 243kg 79% 20%
MacBook Pro 13” 2022 167kg 71% 20%
MacBook Pro 13” (with Retina Display) 2014 710kg 84% 12%
MacBook Air 15” 2023 139kg 73% 22%
MacBook Air 13” 2022 147kg 69% 22%
MacBook Air 13” (M1 Chip) 2020 161kg 76% 15%
MacBook Air 13” 2015 480kg 83% 12%
MacBook 12” 2018 233kg 83% 12%
MacBook 12” 2015 470kg 84% 12%


iMac 24” 2021 481kg 45% 44%
iMac 21.5” 2012 640kg 52% 43%
iMac 27” 2012 1,010kg 45% 50%
Mac Mini 2023 112kg 63% 36%
Mac Mini 2011 280kg 55% 40%
Mac Pro 2023 1,647kg 38% 56%
Mac Pro 2009 2,110kg 37% 59%
Mac Studio 2023 290kg 50% 39%


Pro Display XDR 2019 974kg 51% 42%
Studio Display 2022 544kg 38% 56%
Thunderbolt Display 2011 1,040kg 29% 68%


iPad (10th gen) 2022 72kg 78% 14%
iPad (9th gen) 2021 75kg 78% 14%
iPad (5th gen) 2017 135kg 86% 10%
iPad Pro 12.9” (6th gen) 2022 135kg 85% 10%
iPad Pro 11” (4th gen) 2022 100kg 82% 12%
iPad Pro 9.7” 2016 210kg 88% 9%
iPad Mini (6th gen) 2021 68kg 83% 12%
iPad Mini 2012 95kg 70% 22%
iPad Air (5th gen) 2022 80kg 79% 14%
iPad Air 2 2014 190kg 80% 15%

* Older models are included in italics for the purpose of comparing emissions over time.16

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Video Streaming?

Statistics indicate that people are spending more time streaming video. Current estimates suggest that the average person streams 17 hours of videos each week!!3 That amounts to almost 900 hours each year.

A single hour of video streaming emits nearly 100g of CO2e, compared with 55g of CO2e for one hour of music streaming. Combining these statistics, the average person would generate 90,000g (90kg) of CO2e each year, streaming video alone.44

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Software Applications?

When people aren’t texting, streaming videos, or engaging on social media platforms, they are likely downloading and trying out new software applications. The average mobile user has 80 software apps installed on their phone!37

The carbon footprint of a software app is highly dependent upon the app in question. In 2021, Tik Tok’s app had one of the highest GHG outputs, generating 2.63g of CO2e each minute. Reddit followed closely behind at 2.45g/minute. The same source reported that YouTube’s app was responsible for only 0.46g/minute.14

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Emails?

For many years, electronic mail has been preferred over traditional “snail” mail. Email has introduced a level of ease, efficiency, and convenience to personal and business communication that was never a possibility with traditional mailings. With email, an individual can receive and respond to a message within minutes. . . even when communicating with a friend or colleague across the ocean.

The instant transmission of email is one of its biggest appeals, and from so many angles, email communication seems like an absolute win! Less paper waste, less fuel burned in mail delivery, and less time waiting for a message to be received! Yet, no technology is completely without its drawbacks, and the carbon footprint of emails warrants serious consideration.

Getting an idea of email carbon footprint means understanding the complexity of data transmission and data storage. Every email that is sent requires electricity to power its transmission.

Every email that is kept rather than deleted requires data center energy to maintain storage. Every email is viewed on an electronic device that was probably produced through carbon-heavy manufacturing. These are the factors that have the most influence on the carbon load of email:28

  • The size of the email. Larger emails with attachments require significantly more energy to transmit than small text emails.
  • The number of people receiving the email. Group emails use more energy.
  • The device used to send the email or read the email. Smartphones emit less CO2 than computers.
  • The amount of time spent drafting or reading emails. The longer the device is active, the more electricity it uses.
  • Whether emails are deleted or kept. Every email kept must be stored in the cloud, increasing data center load and energy use.
  • The email service used. Gmail by Google is more eco-friendly than many large competitors and most small-scale business email servers because their data storage centers are run on renewable energy sources.66

Analyses conducted in recent years indicate that the carbon footprint of the average email ranges from .03g to 26 g of CO2e, contributing as much as 150 million tons of CO2 annually, which was the equivalent of 0.3% of global emissions in 2019.70

What Is the Carbon Footprint of Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency appears to be a carbon guzzler. In 2022, the electricity consumption associated with cryptocurrency mining was estimated at approximately 110TWh (110 billion kWh) or .4% of global electricity consumption.17

Using the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator provides a carbon footprint estimate of 47,585,373 million metric tons of CO2e.

Infographic: Carbon Footprint of the Internet (Internet Carbon Footprint Calculator)

As this article has undoubtedly demonstrated, calculating the true carbon footprint of the internet is a labor-intensive, mind-bending process.

How can one quantify a technology system that is intertwined with nearly every aspect of an average person’s daily life?

A graphic that shows the different web carbon footprint components such as websites, could storage, internet hardware, email, software applications, streaming, and internet infrastracture.

Various numbers regarding the internet’s share in global emissions are circulating around the internet itself. Most sources suggest that the internet and its support systems are responsible for as much as 3-4% of annual emissions. Some sources place this number much higher at around 9 to 10%.

An internet carbon footprint calculator is a good way to get a ballpark estimate of the internet’s impact on the environment and also the impact of an individual’s personal internet use.

Internet Carbon Footprint vs. Digital Carbon Footprint

Internet carbon footprint is a vast and complex topic with so many unseen variables. A digital footprint is the data trail left behind by an individual’s online activities and habits, but what is a digital carbon footprint? Digital carbon footprint can be considered an even broader term, encompassing the internet’s carbon footprint as well as all other forms of digital technology around the world.

The carbon footprint of digital technologies was estimated at 3.7% of total emissions in 2019, double from four years prior, and this number is expected to have increased dramatically in the years since.11, 68

The leading contributor to the overall digital footprint is the internet, its vast infrastructure, and rapidly increasing web traffic worldwide, explored in depth through this article. Other contributors include:

  1. Personal Device Manufacturing, Shipping, Energy Consumption, and Disposal
  2. Digital Appliances and Accessories
  3. Digitized Machinery
  4. Media/Communication Companies

Personal Device Manufacturing, Shipping, Energy Consumption, And Disposal

Personal devices are the order of the day, and it would be difficult to find a person in the United States who does not rely on a personal device to some extent. A personal device is an electronic gadget used by an individual to store or transfer data.49 The most familiar and common of these are desktop computers, laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones.

Personal devices are integral to the operation of the modern workplace, particularly crucial for the burgeoning sphere of remote work. But more than that, personal devices now serve as a tether to the outside world, providing access to entertainment, news, shopping, food, and finances all in one place.

Understanding the carbon footprint of iPhone or personal computers means taking into account the energy costs of manufacturing the devices and shipping them around the world, the energy consumed by near-constant use of said devices, as well as the environmental impact of recycling and/or disposing of end-of-life devices.

According to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), there were 5.4 billion mobile subscribers alone in 2022, an incredible 68% of the global population using mobile devices.26

The vast majority of a device’s carbon footprint is formed during the manufacturing phase of its life, which accounts for as much as 80% of its total carbon footprint. The implication here is that an individual’s digital carbon footprint can be dramatically reduced by extending the lifespan of personal devices and recycling older devices to be refurbished.

Digital Appliances and Accessories

Digital appliances and accessories adorn many contemporary homes. Individual household members are increasingly reliant on digital accessories such as smartwatches and earbuds.

More homes than ever are now equipped with televisions, gaming consoles, Bluetooth speakers, printers, external hard drives, security systems, robotic vacuums, digital thermostats, etc., and often multiple of each (See the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Life Cycle Assessment Data for TV-LED).

Even some newer washing machines, microwaves, dishwashers, and refrigerators – coined “smart appliances” –  can be operated remotely through a wireless internet connection. These all rely on microchips to operate, something most people would take for granted and not even think to consider the energy and water expended in manufacturing all of those chips.

The carbon footprint of manufacturing microchips is a huge contributor to global emissions. Chip manufacturing plants owned by a single company – Samsung – were responsible for 12.9 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, and Samsung is not even leading the industry in chip production.159

Digital Machinery

Digitized machinery goes beyond the realm of digital appliances to consider how technology has become indispensable in the manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation industries.

Digital is synonymous with increased efficiency, propelling automation in industry settings, digital monitoring and management for farms, as well as increased digitization in personal vehicles and military operations.

Reliance on digital technology is at an all-time high, and the good news is that digital technologies appear to be decreasing industrial carbon output.44 Awareness of the energy costs associated with manufacturing and operating digital machinery can help pave the way for carbon-neutral manufacturing, farming, and transportation.

Media Companies and Digitized Content Producers

Media companies are really an entirely separate conversation that would require more space than what is allotted here. However, it is essential to recognize the architecture of the digital world and acknowledge the enormous amounts of energy that go into producing the digitized content that is consumed on a daily basis.

From individual producers crafting YouTube and TikTok videos to large networks broadcasting sporting events and breaking news reports to large studios producing films for the big screen and shows for home viewing, the constant demand for digitized media is met with an astounding supply of digital content.

What Is a Carbon Footprint?

In recent years, more individuals and businesses have set about the task of reducing their carbon footprints. To do that, a person must first have a clear understanding of what a carbon footprint actually is. So… what is a carbon footprint?

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a carbon footprint as ”the total amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere each year by a person, family, building, organization, or company.” Greenhouse gases are those that absorb infrared radiation from the atmosphere. The most well-known greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2), but there are many others, including:

  • Nitrous oxide
  • Methane
  • Ozone
  • Chlorofluorocarbons
  • Hydrochlorofluorocarbons
  • Hydrofluorocarbons
  • Perfluorocarbons
  • Sulfur hexafluoride

Excessive greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are problematic because in absorbing infrared radiation they trap in the sun’s heat, creating an insulating effect known as global warming which alters the planet over time.

The average individual’s carbon footprint is the composite of their daily activities, the items they use, the places they go, and the choices they make. The following list of obvious and less obvious examples is just a small sample of things that contribute to a person’s carbon footprint.

A person’s carbon footprint grows each time they:

  • Travel by fuel-powered vehicles such as cars and planes
  • Heat or cool their home
  • Order from Amazon
  • Mow their yard
  • Waste food
  • Floss their teeth
  • Buy plastic
  • Leave a light on
  • Feed their dog
  • Flush the toilet
  • Turn on the TV
  • Buy new clothes
  • Throw something away

Some of these activities create a larger impact than others, but all are contributing factors. Carbon footprint calculation is tricky with so many variables to consider and account for and the amount of guesswork that goes into estimating individual and household averages.

Yet, there are informative carbon footprint calculators available online (See the EPA Carbon Footprint Calculator) which allow individuals to answer a few questions or input some information to obtain a general idea of their carbon footprint. And for people who want to know how to calculate carbon footprint manually, there are ways to do that too!

The good news is that once a person calculates their carbon footprint, they can figure out what steps they can take to change it. There are a lot of ways for someone to lessen their negative impact on the environment. The following are examples of carbon offsets that can have a dramatic, positive effect:

  • Planting trees
  • Composting
  • Growing food
  • Investing in solar energy
  • Driving an electric vehicle
  • Reducing, reusing, and recycling

By making small lifestyle changes over time, people can get closer to the goal of becoming carbon neutral!

Does the Internet Have a Carbon Footprint? (Internet Carbon Footprint)

Anything that consumes energy has a carbon footprint, and the carbon footprint of the internet is directly correlated with the annual 416.2TWh of electricity required to sustain it.43

Digitalization has made the world cleaner and greener in so many ways, especially through reducing demand for fossil fuels and expendable resources such as trees, increasing the efficiency of communication and production, and providing access to information and products that promote a green society and economy.70

As much as digitalization has already paved the way for greening the environment, it can be cleaner still. An article by the United Nations University describes how digital technology can further revolutionize the way society understands and uses energy if governments around the world make this a primary goal.41

It begins with recognizing the internet’s carbon footprint. Digital technology is the present and the future, and its potential for positive environmental impact cannot be overstated. Understanding the true carbon emissions associated with the internet is critical to ensuring that digitalization continues to aid, rather than hinder, sustainability.

It can be difficult to conceptualize the Internet’s carbon footprint when the inner workings of the system are not visible to the average Internet user. The carbon footprint of the internet includes:

  • Production costs associated with internet infrastructure
  • Production costs associated with internet hardware
  • Energy costs associated with internet infrastructure (electricity powering and cooling data centers, internet service providers)
  • Energy costs associated with internet hardware (electricity powering modems, routers, and user devices)
  • Energy costs associated with data transfer
  • Energy costs associated with internet support (internet service providers)
  • Electronic waste

Global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) or carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) were estimated at 54.59 billion metric tons (tonnes) in 2021, a 4 billion t increase from a decade earlier. The IT sector (globally) uses more electricity than every country in the world, except for China and the United States. The internet’s carbon footprint was last estimated at 1.7 billion t, and digital technology and support systems accounted for 3.7% of total GHG, comparable to airline emissions.

The digital share of global GHG is expected to double by the end of 2025 and reach a staggering 14% share of annual carbon emissions by 2040.8, 75

Until now, improved efficiencies in data storage and transmission have kept pace with the explosive growth of internet use. With internet capacity expected to continue its astronomical growth rate in the next two decades, keeping an eye on internet sustainability is critical!

What Is Internet Pollution?

Every internet search, video stream, blog entry, and photo upload contributes to internet pollution, the sum of global digital activity. Although the internet may appear to run purely on happy thoughts and good vibes, it is actually supported by a very complex infrastructure. Here is how internet pollution stacks up today.

The wonder known as the internet is built upon physical, tangible hardware. Signals are transferred by cable or satellite or cell tower from one physical structure to another. Cables (and hubs), satellites, and cell towers all have high production costs, as do user devices such as smartphones and personal computers.

Manufacturing of these materials uses enormous amounts of electricity, primarily supplied by fossil fuels which release large amounts of CO2e into the atmosphere.

Manufacturing byproducts, such as mercury and lead, or the cadmium used in semiconductors and silicon used in microchips are released back into the environment where they can potentially interact with other compounds. But are manufacturing costs the only source of internet pollution? Unfortunately, no.

After the manufacturing stage, the materials are put to use, where they enter the second stage of internet pollution: energy costs for internet usage. Every time the internet is used, data is transferred, expending energy. Electricity is required to run and cool the data centers which house the body of the internet. Electricity is also required to power up and operate user devices.25, 36

The last crucial variable associated with internet pollution is electronic waste. What happens when electronics near their expiration or end of life? Ideally, those electronics would be sold back to be refurbished or recycled, but unfortunately, only about 20% of electronics are. The remaining 80% winds up in landfills, polluting the soil and water in the ground with radioactive waste. An estimated 50 million metric tons (tonnes) of electronic waste is generated annually.18

Available estimates for the internet’s carbon impact suggest that the internet and associated IT systems are responsible for as much as 4% of annual GHG emissions, but this number has probably grown in the years since this data was analyzed.

Understanding how website carbon footprint measurements are made, as well as the total carbon footprint of the internet can provide users with more knowledge and help them lean ways to mitigate the emissions generated by internet use.

Frequently Asked Questions About Website Carbon Footprint

How Do I Find Out the Carbon Footprint of My Favorite Website?

Finding the carbon footprint of a favorite website can be as easy as entering the URL in a website carbon footprint calculator such as the one on this page! Once the C02 per page view is ascertained, simply multiply that number by the number of annual website visits to find out the amount of carbon emissions generated by a website over the course of one year.

How Does Page Weight Affect a Website’s Carbon Footprint?

Page weight is a term referring to the amount of data on a web page, or the size and complexity of it. It is increased when images are not optimized, custom fonts are used, and videos are self-hosted. Websites are four times larger today than they were a decade ago, and these elaborate web pages require more energy for data transfer.24

Is There Such a Thing as a Zero Carbon Website (Zero Carbon Footprint Website)?

One of the lowest carbon footprint websites on the internet has to be which, according to website calculators, generates .00 g of carbon per page view. Zero carbon websites can be achieved by optimizing the website to reduce energy consumption and offset carbon emissions.38 A carbon offset calculator can provide the information needed to fully negate website carbon emissions.


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