Sustainability: Googles carbon footprint has deep impact

By Henry Smith, Guest Writer

Google is by far the Internet’s most popular search engine, but some might question Google’s sustainability.

As a member of the generation that grew up on websites like MySpace, YouTube and Facebook, I think it is important to be aware of our own online carbon footprint.

For Google to operate, information stored on more than 2 million servers worldwide is run through an algorithm and returned in just 0.17 seconds.

While this technological masterpiece has revolutionized the way we obtain information, few people may know the amount of energy that is used to provide the world with this service.

It has been estimated that Google uses approximately 2 billion kilowatt hours per year of electricity, which equals 0.013 percent of the world’s total energy usage — enough to power a city roughly the size of Miami.

Google uses approximately 0.3 watts, or 10 calories, of electricity to answer each search query. This produces one-fifth of a gram of carbon dioxide.

This means one Google search consumes the same amount of energy as it would take to power a 60 watt light bulb for 17 seconds.

Every day, Google could power roughly 1 million of these same light bulbs for 24 hours.

In 2010, Google began to offset its carbon emissions by investing in renewable energy elsewhere. Before that, the company generated a total of 1.46 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

While Google has begun to offset its emissions by investing in renewable energy elsewhere, there are significantly greener alternatives.

For example, Ecosia is an environmentally friendly search engine that invests 80 percent of its income in planting trees in the Amazon rainforest to fight deforestation.

Ecosia can easily be added to Google Chrome, or any other web browser students on campus use.

Pacific Lutheran University is aiming for a carbon neutral campus as part of its 2020 program.

While major renovations will help reduce the carbon footprint of different buildings on campus, it is important to reevaluate our own personal habits.

Though it may be hard to believe, your Internet use has an effect on the environment.

The next time you need to search for information for your class, choose to reduce your online carbon emissions by using Ecosia to make sure that we, as students, help this goal of carbon neutrality by 2020 succeed.

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