Large companies aim for digital carbon neutrality

Large companies aim for digital carbon neutrality



Indeed, Internet use represents 4% of global carbon dioxide emissions, according to Website Carbon, a tool that calculates greenhouse gas emissions generated by websites.

Average CO2 emissions generated by our web activities: 0.2g for viewing a 15-second video on social media, 1.76g for loading a web page, 4g for emailing, 8g for viewing a five-minute, 30g video to participate in a 20-minute videoconferenceView larger image (New window)

All our daily activities on the web generate carbon dioxide emissions

Photo : Radio-Canada / Camile Gauthier

According to the company, an average site generates 1.76 grams of carbon dioxide for every page downloaded. Even if this site only has 100,000 monthly visits, it is still 2,110 kg of CO2 released per year, the equivalent of 87 barbecue cylinders.

Volkswagen Canada's carbon neutral website on which you can make a black and white image made up entirely of small print.

The Volkswagen Canada website offers the option of virtually carbon neutral web browsing to view its electric models.

Photo : Volkswagen Canada

Volkswagen Canada led the charge this year by switching to more fuel-efficient web pages for viewing its electric vehicles. Pages contain almost only text and even black and white images are constructed from hundreds of thousands of tiny characters.

Viewing these pages consumes much less energy, since the downloading of data is done much faster.

A quote from:Pierre Boutin, President and CEO of Volkswagen Canada

While the average site generates 1.76 grams of CO2 per page viewed, the pages carboneutres of the automaker release a fraction of that amount, or 0.022 grams per page view, he says.

A black and white image of a Volkswagen car, recreated from several hundred thousand characters.

High-resolution color images are discarded and recreated from hundreds of thousands of ASCII characters, making the web page considerably less energy-consuming.

Photo : Volkswagen Canada

Mr. Boutin says that the engagement of Internet users who visit these pages is much higher than elsewhere on the Volkswagen Canada website. People spend more time, consume more content, and bounce a lot less, says the big boss of the Canadian division.

No powder in the eyes

Last year, Volkswagen was fined $ 196.5 million in Canada in connection with the polluting emissions scandal.

Between 2008 and 2015, the company illegally imported into the country nearly 128,000 vehicles that did not meet prescribed greenhouse gas emissions standards.

As a result of these events, there is sure to be a total questioning. You can’t be sitting on the fence. We have to go all out.

A quote from:Pierre Boutin, President and CEO of Volkswagen Canada

This is why the manufacturer demands ecological commitments from its suppliers and equipment manufacturers with whom it signs contracts. We are a major player, we have more than 10% of market share around the world, he said.

Tackling the carbon footprint of his website is part of this perspective, he said.

This is not a blindfold initiative. It is an initiative for us which is important to transform the organization, affirms Mr. Boutin.

Volkswagen Canada President and CEO Pierre Boutin sits in an armchair in front of a window that overlooks skyscrapers in Toronto.

Pierre Boutin, President and CEO of Volkswagen Canada

Photo : Dmitry Porechnyy/Volkswagen Canada

The president of Volkswagen Canada says there is a lot of interest in the carbon neutral web project at headquarters in Germany and other companies beyond the auto industry.

An embryonic movement

Website Carbon co-founder Tom Greenwood believes the digital carbon neutral movement is still embryonic, but it is growing globally.

The London, England-based service says it works with financial institutions, big names in European fashion and Network Rail, which operates the UK’s main rail network, among others. Website Carbon also advised Volkswagen Canada on the creation of its carbon neutral pages.

In recent months, several large companies from all sectors have contacted us to see how they can reduce their digital footprint.

A quote from:Tom Greenwood, Co-Founder of Website Carbon

He explains that companies can adapt the design of their website to reduce, adapt or outright eliminate colors, photos and videos, which require greater data transfers.

Tom Greenwood, Co-Founder of Website Carbon.

Tom Greenwood, Co-Founder of Website Carbon

Photo : Website Carbon

Mr. Greenwood also suggests looking for a green web hosting, that is, the data centers and servers that power the site run on renewable energies. These large machines also need to be cooled to prevent overheating and breakdowns, which requires even more energy.

I think most people have no idea of ​​their impact because digital technology seems clean to us, says the co-founder of Website Carbon.

What about the web giants?

The servers that power streaming services – like Netflix – and all mobile apps globally consume almost as much energy as all the electricity produced in Canada, according to a study.

That’s why the California-based company has set itself the ambitious target of producing zero net greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2022. By understanding the streaming footprint, our industries can better reduce it, says Emma Stewart, head of sustainability at Netflix.

For emissions that cannot be avoided, we invest in restoration and conservation projects for weakened ecosystems., she specifies.

With new investments in wind and solar farms, including in Canada, Amazon is on track to power all of its operations with renewable energy by 2025, five years ahead of schedule. The e-commerce giant has often been criticized for its environmental footprint.

Beyond getting rid of fossil fuels, the Amazon Web Services cloud services division seeks to remove carbon from the atmosphere. The company says it is evaluating a technology from CarbonCure, a Nova Scotia company, that injects liquefied carbon dioxide into concrete.

Facebook, for its part, has already said it has turned to renewable energies since last year, but the social network is now seeking to completely eliminate polluting emissions from its entire supply chain by 2030.

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