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Which websites have the worst (and best) carbon footprint?

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It’s hard to ignore it today: our clicks on the Internet have an environmental impact. Indeed, surfing the web generates CO2 emissions, particularly in data centers. Recently, a company made several rankings of platforms according to their carbon footprint in the UK.

Reddit is the most polluting website

In 2019, we were already talking about the digital carbon footprint of web video streams. YouTube, Netflix and online pornography generate hundreds of millions of tons of carbon emissions per year. YouTube alone emitted more than ten million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2016. But there you have it, even a single click has a carbon footprint. Uswitch, British digital consumption comparator, conducted an investigation published on March 9, 2021. The objective was to rank the websites based on their carbon footprint.

The first classification focuses on 25 sites with the highest carbon footprint United Kingdom. In the top three, we find Reddit and Pinterest (social media) as well as Nintendo (video game). In the list, large sites are present such as Alibaba, Amazon, eBay, Ikea or the famous media channels CNN and BBC. Conversely, the second ranking includes websites with the lowest carbon footprint, still in the United Kingdom. The top three are Wikipedia, Linkedin and H&M. Other well-known sites appear there such as Messenger, PayPal, Spotify or WordPress.

These two rankings are:

Credit: Uswitch
low carbon footprint site ranking
Credit: Uswitch

Very precise evaluation criteria

The Reddit platform therefore holds the palm of most polluting website in the UK with 13.05g of CO2 per visit. Pinterest and Nintendo are not far behind with 12.43 g and 11.43 g of CO2 per visit, respectively. For comparison, according to Uswitch, 69 visits to Reddit equate to a 5 km drive. Regarding “clean” sites, Wikipedia has only 0.04 g of CO2 per visit, quite far ahead of Linkedin and H&M, posting 0.23 and 0.29 g of CO2 per visit, respectively.

Uswitch comparator estimates are based on very specific criteria. Let us quote for example site size as well as its mode of accommodation. In addition, the amount of energy used when an Internet user loads a page is also calculated. This calculation takes into account the energy required by the cloud, but also the telecommunications network as well as the device used by the Internet user, whether it is a smartphone, a computer or a tablet.

Finally, you should know that very often, data centers are singled out for their energy consuming side. However, it is not the main source of digital pollution. Indeed, the biggest problem is upstream, in the manufacture of terminals. This step causes significant soil pollution, water and obviously air.


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