Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Is the blogosphere energy-efficient?

Slate's Green Lantern took on an interesting question in today's post, Green My Blog. Jacob Leibenluft clearly has a better handle on gigabyte to energy to carbon footprint conversion than I do but I'll do my best to break it down for you.

Direct pollution from a blog is pretty small. WordPress reported transferring about 161,100 gigabytes of data in 2008 across 3,132,606 blogs - adding up to a small amount per blog per year: 51 megabytes of data to be exact. Bandwidth increases on blogs with lots of traffic, videos or large images but even the largest ones would only be responsible for a few hundred kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, which according to the Lantern, "would put even one of those larger blogs somewhere in the range of the average household's microwave." Doesn't sound too bad to me, especially if the posts on the blog inspire readers to reduce their footprint elsewhere (hint, hint).

There is a camp saying that suggests information technology accounts for a larger carbon footprint than the airline industry. Sure if you add up all of the equipment necessary: rooms full of servers and network equipment, energy to keep those rooms cool, desktops, laptops, wireless routers, and so forth it does sound like an awful lot of energy - but you have to think about the alternative. Compare downloading an album to burning gas on your drive to the air conditioned or heated mall, purchasing the manufactured CD from a store to which it was shipped, the plastic in which it is packaged...

I'm not going to beat myself up too much about Just Saying's energy consumption, but I do predict a post about how I'm offsetting its footprint in the near future.