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Oct 30

Are We Being ‘Green’ By Using Broadband?

A commitment to reducing carbon emissions and other forms of pollution means that each of us has to consider the impact our actions have on the environment. With more and more of us spending more and more of our time on the internet via broadband connections, many of have wondered whether our browsing habits are good or bad for the environment.

The simple answer to the question of whether using broadband helps or harms the environment is that it depends on how you use it and what you use it for. Casual broadband use makes little difference to the environment, but broadband use that helps to reduce other harmful activities is likely to have a net positive effect.

The most obvious example of an environmentally-friendly use of broadband is working from home. Employees who work from home instead of commuting — particularly those who would otherwise drive to work — reduce their carbon footprint significantly. A study by American computer company SUN Microsystems identified commuting as accounting for over 98% of an employee’s work-related carbon footprint, far outweighing the energy costs of office lighting and computers. In addition, the study showed that home equipment was generally more energy-efficient than Workers who use their broadband connections for telecommuting are definitely using broadband in a green way. One caveat comes from the cost of heating: heating a large number of homes is less energy-efficient than heating a single office, so energy costs may rise for home-workers who need to heat their homes during the daytime.

Similarly, broadband use can help to make everyday life greener if it’s used to get around high-impact activities such as driving. Any time using the internet takes the place of driving, broadband users cut down on their carbon emissions. Similarly, sending email instead of letters and paying bills online reduce the use of paper, protecting forests and reducing waste.

There are some environmental downsides to broadband. Many modern homes are filled with always-on electronic gadgets. Even when on standby, these devices use up a trickle of electricity that can add up to a significant amount over time. Broadband routers are yet another contributor to household energy use, and therefore to the user’s carbon footprint. It’s also important to remember that ISPs make significant demands on power to run their equipment. Some broadband companies have begun to offer green services, which purchase carbon offsets to compensate for the carbon emissions they generate.

In essence, then, as with many things, the environmental impact of broadband depends on how you use it. Although it does generate a certain amount of pollution, a broadband connection can be helpful in avoiding other high-impact activities such as driving and wasting paper.

This guest post was submitted by Anthony Davies, who is passionate about all things internet and cable broadband – and using it to help make the world greener.

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