I understand that I am stating the obvious, although it has become clear that many people don't understand how much electricity. I hope people can understand how much electricity each kilobyte of data requires and how to reduce their electical impact.
The first example I'd like to make is a common one, sending a text message across the room. To some people they believe that it is as simple as bouncing it from your system to theirs within the house - wrong. Lets use MSN or Gtalk from/to Niagara as an example. Your message from send to receive does this:
- Packages itself with a header and goes from your PC outbound
- Next stop is your ISPs Data-centre, the one that you connect to
- Afterward it will bounce across the continent in seemingly random directions - Toronto, Chicago, New York, Erie, Des Moines, Vancouver. Sometimes up to 30 times until it reaches the host for your text messaging service (MSN usually in Washington State, GTalk usually in Colorado)
- At their server it will unpack and read your message and its recipient, then repack it from them to your friend. This involves checking to see if your friend is still online sometimes using more bandwidth than the message itself.
- The message makes a long journey similar to yours except the connections may be different depending on internet traffic and available data-centres.
- It arrives at your ISP and comes back into your house through the modem you power likely through the router that you power to your friends laptop - and lets presume its charging.
Can you tell me how much electricity that used to say "Yo, your fly is down" in this fashion? No, and neither can I without knowing exactly how many bounces there are between you and your text message service. In your own daily use you probably consume between 1-5kWh on data services. Multiply that by the number of households online - constantly pinging and searching and loading. It can be easy to see that data conservation can start at home.
Advertisements don't support your favourite websites - ad agencies do. Ad agencies do business with those looking to adertise. Gone are the days you'll see "NBC, Brought to you by GE". Now we receive ads as part of an arrangement, with contextual linking. If GE manufactured TV parts and supported a TV station - that was classic contextual linking. If ConAgra supported a cooking show - it made sense. Businesses wouldn't touch some things or weren't allowed to - and Wikipedia saves us all the bandwidth by remaining ad free. Which sites would you support ad free, or which companies do you believe should support which sites? This may not change quickly, and if all our ads come from 3rd party agencies it has been easier to block them and save electricity.
We send too much useless data. The organizations that built, organize and run the Internet have a number of interests even though the goal is the same - to communicate. To be efficient we need to communicate clearly and less frequently. Academics, Business Leaders, and Talkative Nobodies are burying themselves in a pile of their own useless information, riddled with barriers larger than the data, or ads - on top of ads. Let me download all of the data and sort through it locally rather than getting lost.
The same goes for repeat YouTube Viewings, except on a massive scale, as additional systems are needed just to do load balancing between the multiple servers being used by millions of simultaneous users. With HTML5 coming into use, we can all reduce our reliance on the flash applets scattered across the internet.
The same also applies to my website - which is the real reason you don't see unnecessary java applets or flash applets, or music. In fact I even considered getting rid of my profile picture and logo seen at the top and right of the page. Some things need to stay - so I reduced the file sizes long ago to ease bandwidth use.
I'm asking you to let the people you know that the internet is an amazing tool, and let them know that it comes at an unseen price. Much like how a dripping faucet can fill a bucket in less than a day you can help reduce your electrical footprint on the internet by doing simple things.
- Don't send a message if you are in the same place. Use your voice.
- Opt-out of High-Definition videos and music in favour of compressed video.
- Use RSS to get the media ONCE rather than reloading ad-nauseum.
At first it can be a challenge. The benefit is that you will discover more free time and a more productive online experience than before. As you too will also not be in a "constant ping cycle" for your internet addiction.
* Digg users - use Diggriver.com when you opt out of Java/Flash
Youtube Users - Choose a browser that supports HTML5 and get away from flash @ http://www.youtube.com/html5