This is not a surprise to those that read Metro daily. 

A Harvard study by physicist Alex Wissner-Gross concluded that around 20 miligram of carbon dioxide is released for each second when a webpage is being viewed. This amount of carbon dioxide is calculated from the energy use from the client’s end and the server side, including electricity to run the computers, the data centres and servers. 

As I read the article, the first thing that came to my mind is Google. And indeed, the article goes on, stating that a newspaper finger-pointed Google after the study, bashing Google for generating as much carbon dioxide as boiling water with two Google searches. The Metro article even ends with a statement from a CEO, “think twice before entering a ‘frivolous’ search query or streaming a goofy YouTube video”.

But, (if we can believe what Google says is true, and I think we can) Google thought about going green almost a decade ago. This is before everyone watched An Inconvenient Truth. Their data centres have been designed to use less energy – both the servers and the facilities. By estimating from a graph they show, it uses 50% of the “typical data centre”. Now how typical are the typical data centres I don’t know, but the fact that they have something to show is something. Furthermore, these data centres also run on “recycled water”.  They claim that ” in the time it takes to do a Google search, your own personal computer will use more energy than we will use to answer your query”. To add more credit, The Sunday Times agrees with Google’s calculation of carbon dioxide emitted for a single search query. This means a year use of Google for a typical individual user is equivalent to a single load of washing. The article failed though, to state what a typical user is… 

I also googled Microsoft’s green iniative, and was going to compare the two companys’ green programs. Then I realized, I may be a little biased to do that. Just a little. 

Now if I can translate this into some PDEng answers…

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Sites: 

Metro article on web and pollution: 
http://www.metronews.ca/toronto/live/article/168888
Google Going Green: 
http://www.google.com/corporate/green/index.html
Google’s  CO2 emission for a single query: 
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/01/powering-google-search.html

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