What is the carbon footprint of the internet and streaming?

If you have spent more time online than usual lately – you are not alone! Especially streaming has had almost exponential growth, as our consumption patterns of movies and series has been revolutionized by online services. Have you ever wondered if all the hours on Netflix actually have a carbon footprint? We dig into the details!

Powering the internet uses a massive amount of energy, from the remote data centers all the way to the power of the device that you are reading this on. The scope of it makes it incredibly challenging to calculate, and even when we do, the numbers are almost too large to grasp – the carbon footprint of YouTube has been estimated to 10 000 000 tonnes CO2e. What can be said is that the internet is currently responsible for 2 percent of global carbon emissions, and this is because 80% of the energy used to run it comes from fossil fuels. This is basically the same amount as the emissions from the aviation sector! But let’s not forget, this also has to be put into perspective of the emissions that are avoided elsewhere – all the physical letters not sent thanks to emails and online bank services, just to give an example (although we all could probably reduce the number of emails we send and receive!).

All your screens are in dialogue with remote data centers. Photo by Domenico Loia

What is really booming on the internet right now is major streaming services. Almost 58% of downstream traffic on the internet is video, and Netflix alone held almost 20% of the traffic in the US in 2018 – a number that is probably not decreasing. So what is the carbon footprint of this?

Let’s start by saying that the carbon footprint of streaming is lower than driving to the cinema to watch a film there. This is not an argument to make people stop streaming, but to understand how our small actions add up to a big impact and that we should take responsibility – both for our own behavior, but also to encourage providers to do everything in their power to optimize operations.

A French think tank called the Shift Project first made some pretty horrifying calculations on this, estimating that watching 30 min of Netflix is equivalent to 1,6 kg of CO2 emissions. However, it seems like they based it on some wrong assumptions, as George Kamiya, Digital/Energy Analyst at the International Energy Association points out. According to his calculations and official IEA data, streaming a Netflix video in 2019 typically consumed 0.12-0.24kWh of electricity per hour, which is between 25 and 53 times less than the Shift Project estimation. So if we use the emission factor for the global average energy mix, that would give a carbon footprint of 0,028 – 0,057 kg (28 – 57 grams) CO2e for a 30 min Netflix session. Less than the carbon footprint of a banana!

So, it’s not actually that bad to watch Netflix (or, sending one email). However, we should consider how much traffic we generate, because it really does add up. Don’t leave things on in the background. If you listen to music, do so from a program that only gives you the music, and not the video stream (yeah, playing YouTube on another tab than the one you are watching is wasteful!). Pause videos that start just because you are scrolling on a page. Unsubscribe from all the newsletters that you don’t read anyway.

Do you need to use several devices at the same time?

But more importantly, we need to make better IT design. How can we optimize data transfers? Do we need to send as much as we do? It will be both faster, cheaper and better for the environment if we can implement sustainable interaction design! Researchers from Bristol University suggested that digital waste could be reduced if YouTube stopped playing the video when the window isn’t open – and that this could save up to 500 000 tonnes of CO2e per year! And streamlining solutions like this one could potentially be found anywhere, helping us all to keep emissions from digitalization under control.

Do you work in IT? Could you design better systems to slim down the quantities of data that are being sent across the internet? Exciting challenges ahead of you!

If you want to read even more, start HERE (medium article)

GoClimateNeutral becomes GoClimate!

GoClimate logo

GoClimateNeutral started out as a small side project with a big ambition, that took place as soon as the kids had fallen asleep, on weekends and holidays from regular jobs. Ideas saved as phone notes, lots of pitching to friends, and slowly putting the pieces together. Can we build a company offering a simple solution that makes a significant difference for the climate? 

Three years later, the answer is clearly yes! We are currently 4500+ members, seven employees, and some 200+ companies on board who have together avoided the emission of 333,836 tonnes of CO2 – that’s so cool! 

We are working hard to continuously improve the service, to make even more difference for the climate. As part of this, we have decided to change our name! We are dropping the “Neutral” to become GoClimate – a name we felt is more powerful and straightforward. Also because over time, we will need to do more than just become neutral – and our capacity to go beyond that is also growing. 

This is the next step in our improvement process – we have already launched the updated version of the carbon footprint calculator, and we have more exciting things for you in the pipeline. All through, the service we provide remains the same – the monthly subscription is not changing, and the projects we invest in on your behalf are of the same star quality. We have expanded our work with companies and their offsetting, which gives a higher margin than what we charge from individual members. Thanks to that, we get more space to grow. 

So, join GoClimate to be part of this journey! We can stop climate change, and we need to do so together!

The unjust and, yes, racist side of climate change

Climate change affects everyone, but it does not impact everyone in the same way or at the same time. That is why the fight against climate change should not be separated from the fight for justice and equality.

BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) are disproportionately affected by climate change, which is a consequence of global power structures with deep roots. White people are so used to this system which gives them almost limitless privilege, that it’s embarrassingly easy to assume that “it’s just how it is”. Opening our eyes to this profound injustice is not only well overdue, but an obligation if we want to have any chance of creating a sustainable society.

We all have our different entry points into the field of environment and climate change. For white people, some are genuinely convinced that this is a tragedy of large scale which needs to be addressed. But for many BIPOC, this is not some potential future threat – it is already lethal. And yet, it is so much harder for the affected communities to do work on these issues because firstly – they simultaneously have to  work on fundamental justice issues. Secondly– their work and their testimonies are not given the same validity as those of white people, as a result of a global system built on white supremacy. This is not even considering factors like unequal access to education, discrimination when applying for jobs, etc. etc. All of these factors have to be acknowledged and changed.

It seems like black lives don’t matter, when you look at global climate policies. When we act like 2, 3, 4, 5 degrees global warming is ok, we are condemning people primarily in Africa, Asia and Small Island Nations to immense suffering and death. The message the policies send, is that indigenous lives don’t matter, when we prioritize to build oil pipelines across the last crumble of land they have. Likewise, it seems like immigrants’ lives don’t matter, when we build highways cutting through their communities (but make a tunnel under the affluent areas).

Black lives matter as much as anyone else’s, and we have to start acting like it. Not only when it comes to the justice system and police brutality, but on all levels of society. The climate movement has to become intersectional and we have to do a lot more to enable that change. We have already lost too many lives, wasted too much time, to white supremacy.

One concrete thing we need to become better at, is to let BIPOC voices be heard so they can represent themselves. We need to hear them out, in all spaces. So, if you want to know more about the intersection between climate change, racism and justice, we recommend the following articles:

Black environmentalists talk about climate and anti-racism by Somini Sengupta (NY Times)

I’m a black climate expert. Racism derails our efforts to save the planet. By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (Washington Post)

Black Lives Matter in a Changing Climate by Andre Floyd (Greenamerica.org)

Yes, Climate Change Does Kill People of Color More by Asad Rehman (Newsweek)

Also Naomi Klein (notably white, but presumably a good ally) presented a good analysis in 2014: Why #BlackLivesMatter Should Transform the Climate Debate (The Nation)

Now is the time to start doing better.

Methodology behind the carbon footprint calculator

There are different ways to calculate the carbon footprint of an individual. If you have tried out more than one calculator, you have probably noticed that the questions differ and so do the results. The quick answer to this is that it depends on which data the calculator is based off, and what assumptions are made. For the GoClimate calculator, we have explained the rationale between the choice of underlying data and the calculations that we base the tool on in the Methodology, which can be accessed HERE

If there is anything in the methodology that you find questionable, please reach out to us! Let us know if you disagree, have a better source of data for something, or how we could improve. The calculator will change over time because emission factors are updated regularly, which means that your result can change in the future. It could also change if we find better data or an even better way to calculate. These adjustments are however most likely minimal, and the biggest change is what you do yourself!

We calculate Food with general values from a UK study, Flights are calculated with our own API, Car with emission factors provided by national sources (so that differs depending on where you are), and Housing are the most complex calculations based on national data on energy and electricity usage and national emission factors. To this, we add a national average for Personal consumption which is the clothes, furniture and other things you purchase, and a buffer for Public consumption which is infrastructure, hospitals, education etc.

Go to our main page to try the calculator for yourself – and compare your result to your national average!

Civil disobedience for the climate?

Civil disobedience is something that is not very common in Sweden, and is associated with being rowdy and uncompromising. Many believe that we have a well-functioning society where it is the individual’s duty to follow the law and maintain order. Can that be true, while there are also reasons to not comply? If so, could the climate be such an issue? We at GoClimate believe that the climate crisis is so big that we need to explore all ways to act on it, and with this post we want to inform about one method already applied, both to create understanding of it and at the same time inspire one another to find new ways to get engaged that suits everyone.

Civil disobedience is defined as the citizen’s active refusal to comply with a law or an order from the government, in order to change society. It is a non-violent method to highlight that something in society is morally wrong, and therefore one does not agree to be involved in it. Resorting to civil disobedience as a method can be seen as a last resort, when the formal paths to drive change have not worked.

Peaceful demonstration against climate change

What can be important to bear in mind when considering whether civil disobedience is a good or bad method of social change, is that it is difficult to imagine a change before it has happened. What would the United States look like without slavery? How would England work if women were allowed to vote? Today, we generally agree that slavery is wrong and voting rights are a right regardless of gender, and using that reasoning we must also assume that in a hundred years’ time our grandchildren will be living in a society that has undergone even more changes. Moreover, the pace of change seems to be accelerating rather than slowing down, so it is reasonable to believe that we are not living in the most highly developed form of a human society yet.

What has civil disobedience actually accomplished historically? Perhaps the most well-known example is Mahatma Ghandi’s struggle for India’s independence from British colonial power, which included a long march in which he broke the salt law. Another person who today is praised for her courage is Rosa Parks, who refused to leave her seat on the bus in Montgomery to let a white passenger sit. Women’s suffrage is another example of what has been accomplished, however that struggle did involve violence. It can thus be individuals as well as groups and movements who perform civil disobedience, but neither Ghandi nor Parks acted alone.

More and more people gather to demonstrate for a societal change towards a sustainable planet

In 2018, Greta Thunberg sat down outside the Swedish Parliament to strike for the climate. She thus violated the Swedish Education Act, arguing “why should we study for a future that is being taken away from us?”. Greta is perhaps a special case in civil disobedience because she does not violate the law that she believes is the problem, but does so to raise another issue. We at GoClimate are convinced that Greta’s morality is right, and that we as a society must change to live in accordance with it. The fact that Greta is a child who is not going to school has undeniably been a thorn in the side for many around the world. The fact that she has become the front person of Fridays For Future, where millions of children around the world follow her example and strike from school, is both proof of the reach that civil disobedience can achieve and the seriousness that today’s children and young people feel about the climate issue.

Within the environmental movement, Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion are two organizations that use civil disobedience to call for attention and push environmental issues. Greenpeace’s actions often target large companies and directly block operators from engaging in environmentally harmful activities, while Extinction Rebellion’s actions have instead intended to cripple society and influence the masses by blocking bridges and roads. Both organizations are considered controversial, although many believe that their work highlights major problems that we have to handle.

How you choose to engage yourself in the climate issue is your own choice, and we at GoClimate hope that we can contribute to a transition to a sustainable society as quickly as possible. Committing civil disobedience is a method that has had a major impact historically on important issues, and it is already part of the environment and climate movement. Civil disobedience continues to be a relevant option because it is clear that systemic changes are not occurring at the pace necessary to secure a habitable planet in the not too distant future.

No matter what you do with your time and engagement, you can always combine that with compensating for your carbon footprint through us at GoClimate. This way, you can do as much good as possible for the climate!

Emissions from different ways to travel

travel emissions from different types of travel

Have you wondered what the climate footprint are for different ways to travel? How big is the difference between flying and taking the train? Now you can use our new travel emissions calculator to see the different emissions from different modes of transportation.

You can easily see that climate emissions from flying and petrol and diesel cars are a lot higher than going the same trip by train or an electric car. The difference between flying and train is quite mad when you start thinking of it.

When you have calculated the travel emissions, please register to offset your emissions as well!

The best climate-related podcasts – GoClimate recommendations!

We at GoClimate listen a lot to podcasts! It’s a brilliant way to learn new things, when sometimes it can be demanding or impractical to read books and some of us actually get restless by watching movies. In addition, it is nice to be accompanied by someone who talks to you when you are out walking, cooking or just being alone at home. So now we thought we’d share our top tips on podcasts about the climate!

All you need to get deep into a podcast!

Note that the Swedish version of this post has more recommendations to podcasts in Swedish, and links to the podcast episodes that feature our founders Kalle and Cissi!

There is a Swedish podcast called Klimatpodden which also features episodes in English. However, it’s not possible to filter for them, so you have to do some digging. But it might be worth the effort – the episode with Kevin Anderson was what convinced Cissi to stop flying! The podcast is arranged in interview format, where you get to listen to inspiring people ranging from researchers and politicians to entrepreneurs and activists who are engaged in fighting climate change. It really shows that anyone and everyone can and should do what they can to help the climate!

A tip from Kalle is the podcast My Climate Journey by Jason Jacobs, a software developer who sold his successful company (Runkeeper) and was looking for deeper meaning to life when he stumbled upon climate change. In his quest to understand the issue he talked to many experts, and those interactions developed into a podcast where we can jointly learn about the subject and get inspiration for what we can do to contribute to the solution.

Tove recommends The Wardrobe Crisis – a podcast for those interested in fashion and who want to know more about how fashion and culture are related to sustainability, ethics, activism and the environment. It’s so inspiring to see people who are willing to drive change within their industry! And there are many episodes for those who are not trend geeks too 🙂

If you instead are very interested in the energy issue (or have a specific query), it might be worth listening to The Interchange about the global energy transition! It was recommended to us by a friend who works with renewable energy – gracias! 🙂

Another one of the more niche podcasts out there is Resources Radio on the topic environmental economics, with episodes on global emissions trading and how the oil market is affected by COVID-19. Great source if you want to understand the interconnection between the climate and the global market, which can be super hard to grasp on your own.

A broader approach to topics in the environmental field is offered by the BBC podcast Costing the Earth. It deals with current issues discussed by leading experts who are working for a cleaner and greener planet. If you want to know more about how COVID-19 affects the climate, plastics, or what would happen if the whole UK went vegan, this is the podcast for you!

Alexandra and Emma are both very fond of the Swedish radio show SRs Sommar & Vinter i P1, where selected Swedes get one hour to talk about whatever they want. One of our idols in the climate field, the world renowned scientist Johan Rockström, made an episode that is just perfect about this – and it is available in English!

We also have a recommendation from a member of our community, who shared Not Cool – A Climate Podcast with us! Thanks a lot! It’s an American podcast which digs deep into serious aspects of climate change, such as tipping points, national security and information gaps. We will definitely give this one a try!

Isn’t it impossible to get bored when there is so much to listen to! What are your best climate podcast recommendations? Leave a comment to your community!

When it sucks to be eco-friendly (and why we choose it anyway)

In the sustainability movement, we are a dedicated bunch who choose to complicate our lives out of the conviction that it is necessary to make the world a better place. Then, we try to make the non-believers join us by convincing them that it’s fun and easy, and you save money too! Right?! It is an appealing narrative and there is definitely truth to it, but we who try to break new ground also get exhausted from walking through a jungle of resistance.

My old laptop was giving up on me. I had bought it in 2013, and have carried it across continents, literally. It had worked in the heat in southern Africa, in the hights of the Andean mountains and in the dampness of Brussels. I had already replaced the screen (I bought a replacement on Amazon and had my friend perform surgery on it for hours) and exchanged the battery once, but I could no longer resuscitate it.

I was offered to buy a Macbook second hand from a friend, some nine months ago. And he had told me there was some issue with the keyboard but he also gave me a discount to account for that. So I paid 2500 sek (approx 250 usd) for the computer, knowing that a repair could add another 2000 sek (200 usd). I was happy to have found a second hand computer, knowing that the production and mining for minerals is a dirty business that I don’t want to support if I can avoid it. Sure, the computer was old, but in good condition and given that I am not a heavy user, I thought I’d be fine.

Working on the train and using the accessibility keyboard to compensate for the broken buttons

When I started working for GoClimate a few months later, they asked me if I needed a computer. But as I had just gotten the Macbook, what was the point of buying another one? That would totally defy my purpose of trying to save resources.

I was fine, for a little while. Then, the number buttons stopped working. Given that a lot of my work is done in Excel, this became a big hindrance. I prayed that it would go away, but of course it didn’t and I had to hand it in for service. It took them some 10 days, but they exchanged some parts and charged me 2280 sek (230 usd) and I thought, ok, now I’m fine. Except the problem came back the following week and now I’m being charged another 2200 sek (220 usd) to replace another part. Adding it up, it’s costing almost as much as a new Macbook, and I am now on my third week of working on a borrowed laptop that is… far from ideal.

About a year ago, I broke my beloved Kindle reading tablet. Living abroad, I used it a lot to read books I couldn’t get hold of in store. I still spent 6 months trying to figure out if I could fix it (warranty expired), if it was worth ordering a new screen from Hong Kong, if I could buy a second hand one (the guy in the sales group ghosted me when I asked too many questions so I’m guessing it might have been stolen)… In then end, I found that Amazon actually sells refurbished items. I ordered one from there but since they don’t ship to Sweden, I had it sent to a friend in the UK. Once I could pick it up, turns out the model I had ordered (the only one available) is older than the one I was used to and it has no back light, which seriously reduces the usability for me… so I actually read less now than I did before.

When I used to go to cafés to read on my kindle and drink matcha latte

All of this leaves me with frustration and a bitter taste. I wish I did not have to deal with this, but electronics have become a necessity in society. My argument to keep pushing for this is that I genuinely believe that to make the world a better place, it is my duty to act in accordance with my values especially when it is uncomfortable. Change is not just gonna happen, someone has to do it. Someone has to create a demand for those second hand products, for the replacement parts, for the service centers. I’m that someone.

So now that my phone is becoming too tired to handle new apps, and I have spent the winter in Stockholm freezing my fingers off waiting for the maps to load, I’m searching for a second hand one. I’m hopeful about the Swedish company Inrego who sells second hand, refurbished electronics, and I’m consulting my tech-savvy colleague. Because that is who I am – the hippie eco-warrior who choose discomfort to live in harmony with my values and the hope to make the world a better place. Please join me.

Our team is growing and doing more good for the climate than ever before!

We have recently almost doubled the number of team members at GoClimate, with three new co-creators that allow us to proceed even faster and more efficiently towards our goal of creating a better tomorrow and a healthier planet.

Alexandra Palmquist is GoClimate’s climate advisor who came to us from the United Nations Development Programme in Bolivia, where she worked on climate and environmental projects. Previous positions include the European Commission in Belgium and the NGO We Effect, where Alexandra was stationed in Mozambique. Alexandra will work with measuring and reducing both individual and corporate climate impacts, and review of the climate projects we finance. Outside of work Alexandra recharges her energy by going running or dancing tango!

Tove Westling is the founder of the London-based PR agency VARG, which has worked with the establishment of brands such as Dagmar, DAY Birger et Mikkelsen, Filippa K, CDLP and Samsøe Samsøe on the British market. Tove has also been responsible for the agency’s focus on sustainability, and managed Vestiaire Collective’s PR in Scandinavia. With us, she works primarily with increasing climate commitment both locally in Scandinavia and globally. Beyond the climate issue, Tove’s heart is pounding for animal rights, above all with a commitment to stray dogs around the world.

Emma Bäckström is a trained civil engineer in media technology at KTH Royal Institute of Technology and has most recently worked as a developer at Mentimeter. At GoClimate, in addition to development, she also works with user experience and product development of our web service. In addition to saving the world, Emma wants to pet dogs and go running in the woods!

Besides the fact that we find it so exciting to have a living, growing team, we are extremely happy about what climate benefits this entails – as we can see that the number of co-creators is directly related to how much difference we make for the benefit of the climate. In 2017 we contributed to 660 avoided tonnes of CO2e per co-creator, in 2018 18, 000 avoided tonnes and in 2019 36,670 avoided tonnes per co-creator. We look forward to expanding the team further in 2020 and thus make even more positive difference!

Save the planet one digital meeting at a time

Digital meeting

Why digital meetings? Well, the transport sector is the fastest growing contributor to climate emissions, currently responsible for 14% of the total co2-emissions in the world. It is clear that we need to decrease transport emissions drastically if we are to reach the Paris Agreements goals – to limit global warming to below 2 degrees.

The good news is that there are many simple things we can do to decrease these emissions; things that we as consumers and businesses can act on right now.

One of the easiest things we can do – that not only helps stop climate change but also can save us money and time – is to simply travel a lot less. For companies doing business where meeting people face to face is key, this means swapping from physical to digital meetings.

And even for the ones of us not yet affected by the urgency of the climate crisis, in the current day and age of the Corona virus, digital meetings have never been more relevant.

So how to do good digital meetings?

  1. Choose a good video-service. At GoClimate we use google-meet and whereby.com, but there are lots of other similar services available. Our experience are that these services have improved drastically the last couple of years, coping with disconnects and audio-discrepancies a lot better than good old Skype did 10 years ago.

  2. Secure a good internet-connection. This is a must. There are few things as frustrating as interruptions during the meeting, compromising the flow of the talk and increasing the risk of misunderstandings. One thing that helped us with this aspect was to switch the wifi-channel, so it’s a different channel than the other wifis in our office-building.

  3. Get a high quality camera, microphone and speaker. For meetings with multiple participants this is also a non-negotiable. At GoClimate we were sponsored by Konftel with a brand new C20Ego-kit. We are delighted with the increased quality of video/audio and thereby the improved overall experience of our meetings as a whole. Thank you Konftel!

  4. Make sure everyone can participate on equal terms. This means, even if you have only one person joining on distance, you cannot use a whiteboard that this person cannot see or contribute to. Resolve this by using tools like Miro, the virtual whiteboard! Everyone needs to have equal access.

  5. Partner up! Another system that works well for us when we have only one person remote is to use a Buddy in the real meeting, who ensures that the remote collaborator is effectively included, and uses their computer as the channel for communication (the video connection).

If you want to read more tips to make distance meetings work, Konftel wrote a great guide here.

And if you still need to travel, make sure you at least carbon offset your emissions!