Do you know about vampire devices?


These are your household electronic devices that leach power even when they are not in use. A majority of us leave these devices on standby. Switching off these ‘vampire devices’ could save a UK household £147 every year on electricity bills.

Here is the study mentioned in the video

Your website is adding to climate change

Series: Digital Sustainability – Websites

What a long way we have come from those early websites that were hard coded by experts! Modern websites not only come with a host of options but most importantly, they can be easily constructed by anyone with a little bit of understanding about how the internet works.

And as we well and truly settle into the digital age, the website is going to be as ubiquitous as the corner-shop of the past. Except, now you can animate your products, show videos, and even sell online with a much lower cost than having a physical premises.

There is however another cost. That of the impact of your website on the climate, which, while not as humungous as other sources of carbon emissions, is still something to consider. Especially, as more and more of us spend more time on the internet for business and pleasure.

Our digital footprint is not just about the emails we send or the posts we make on social media. Buildings are required to house the hardware, data from computer networks, cloud services and digital applications – all of which also need energy. The IT sector already uses an estimated 7% of global electricity according to Greenpeace and this is projected to increase to 20% of all electricity produced, contributing 5.5% of the world’s carbon emissions.

And our own websites produce carbon as well. Median desktop page transfer size increased by 2165.5KB between 2015 and 2022 – an increase of 70%. Median mobile page transfer size increased by 1974KB during the same period – an increase of 127%.

Website Carbon tells us that each time you visit, 0.09 g of CO2e is released into the atmosphere. Granted, this is not a lot. In fact, this is less than that emitted by the Greenpeace website. Both Google and Greenpeace are working towards using green energy. But that’s not the point here. Think of all the websites out there combined, with more coming up each day.

The first ever website was published 30 years ago, on August 6, 1991, by physicist Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in Switzerland. It was called the World Wide Web (W3). Today, it is estimated that 1.7 billion websites exist, (some sources say 1.88 billion see figure) but this number fluctuates, as new ones are launched, or others are closed. Even so, the world wide web is gigantic, and 4.5 billion people are now able to interact on the internet. Each day 576,000 new websites are created.

According to Website Carbon the average website produces 1.76g of CO2e per page view, which means that a site with 50,000 page views per month emits 1,056kg of CO2e annually. This is just the average. The more complex a website is, the more energy it needs to function. This means more carbon emissions, which are not just calculated by the size of a webpage but include the energy source used by the data centre, how much energy is used to transfer and process data, the efficiency of the user’s device, and how the webpage behaves as it loads. As we add on images and videos, webpages become heavier, less efficient and emit more carbon.

So, what can we do? The most important thing is to use a hosting company that uses green energy. Plus, move your own energy consumption to renewable energy as well.

There are also ways to make the webpage lighter. Images are perhaps the largest contributors to the weight of the website, so moving from JPEG and PNG to lighter formats such as SVG is one way of decreasing that size. Many optimizing tools are also available that help you to reduce your image size – and several of these are free.

Many companies that have finally ventured on the road to climate and environment consciousness are starting by making their websites as light as possible, with very few or no images, reduced use of colour and by streamlining the coding used. Some websites hark back to the original website created in 1991 with just a white background and text, producing only 0.39kg of CO2e per year. There are still very few climate-friendly websites, but as people get more and more involved in digital sustainability, there is likely to be a change.

To me it seems though that we need to come up with more innovative ways of decreasing our digital carbon footprint (Read Stop sending thank you emails), and we are not there yet. The trend of making websites completely bare is in itself an unsustainable trend. It won’t catch on and it won’t last. It is very well for Elon Musk and Volkswagon to have ONE of their websites as lighter versions using less electricity, but their other websites continue along the same lines. We need to come up with better and inventive ways of ensuring that our digital life does not have the same results as our fossil fuel consumption did.

Almost 1,400 individuals and companies (including Google) have signed the Sustainable Web Manifesto since 2019, committing themselves to create a greener and sustainable internet. But what does this really mean? Are we all going to start creating starkly bare websites? I am not so sure. What I do know is that as more and more people get access to the internet, and more people create their own websites, this is a good time to at least start the conversation about digital sustainability.

Stop sending thank you emails

Series: Digital Sustainability – Emails

Twenty years ago, when I started working in environmental conservation and climate change, most people looked at me quizzically when I told them what I did for a living. For many, protecting the environment was just getting rid of garbage on the street, and climate change was not even on the radar.

Today, the situation is entirely different. Climate change has found new activists, some so much younger than I was when I started on this journey. Two years of lockdowns have brought nature closer to us or have brought us closer to nature. Either way, quite a large proportion of the populace has finally taken an interest in the natural environment and the fact that we face unprecedented changes in our climate – all of which will resonate in our living spaces, through the food we eat, and the things we buy for years to come.

The pandemic confined us all to our homes, making us more dependent on digital systems as we tried to maintain some semblance of continuity in our lives.

Some are happy that our overuse of energy resources went down as we travelled less. But in the last decade or so, our inherent consumerism has been coupled with our need for attention. While the first has been catered to by online shopping during the pandemic, the second has also taken off through social media apps. Everyone now wants their fame, which is now expected to be longer than fifteen minutes.

But the digital environment also has environmental and climate costs, and this cost went up drastically during the pandemic. A new study led by Yale University estimated that internet usage increased by 40% during globally following the lockdown from January through March 2020. Netflix and Zoom also saw increases in use.

Data on the carbon footprint of the internet

According to the study, this resulted in a demand for almost 42.6 million megawatt-hours of additional electricity for data transmission and to power data centres. Our digital footprint is not just about the emails we send or the posts we make on social media. Buildings are required to house the hardware; data from computer networks, cloud services and digital applications all need energy.

The online activities of over 4 billion active internet users have a cost:

Obviously, there are a multitude of ways to impact the climate through digital use, including direct carbon emission through manufacturing, use and disposal of technology. These are the ubiquitous gadgets we use but also mobile networks, enterprise networks and data centres. Manufacturing, shipping, powering, and cooling, all require huge amounts of energy.

Our online habits also contribute to carbon emissions (Sources: and the BBC)

Loading a website 1.76g of CO2 on average (this can go up to 10g if the website has videos etc)
Emails                     0.3g for spam, 4g for regular email, 50g for email with attachments or photos
Instagram              42g of CO2(average 28 minutes of daily scrolling)
Facebook                12g of CO2 annually
Netflix/YouTube   36g of CO2 per hour

And we are just getting started. Just like there was a lack of analysis of the impacts of social media applications on our lives, there is very little analytical data available on the impact of ICT on the environment and climate.

The digital environment is a gamut of processes and actions, from extracting rare earth elements, to manufacturing and transportation of technological equipment, to us the consumers increasingly communicating with the world through our devices. There is some level of information on the impacts on environment and climate change for some of the steps, but not for all. It is also true that the overall effect is not as much as the aviation industry, transportation, and many others. However, we still need to understand the impacts of the entire digital system, ensure it follows the rules of sustainability, and plays its role in the circular economy.

Decreasing our electricity use and using renewable energy is step one. Everything we do when using the internet, from social media, music, emails, video streaming and even ecommerce use electricity, which is not always renewable.

What else can we do?

• Make your video streaming climate friendly: shut off open tabs, turn off auto play, avoid using video when you can do with audio
• Power down your computer when away
• Be conscious of vampire power: Plugged in but powered down devices/ devices on standby mode consume ¼ of residential energy
• Dim your monitor: If possible, from 100% to 70%
• Do not be in a hurry to change IT equipment
• Change your email habits: Unsubscribe from unused newsletters, limit reply all, and finally,

stop sending unnecessary thank you emails ( it could save 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year)