The green web
While I’m typing and while you’re reading this, we’re indirectly contributing to global warming. Just by using a computer, which runs on electricity that is in turn is produced by fossil fuels, we emit 60 grams of CO2 per hour.
I’m loathe to preach about how we should conserve energy to save the world from exploding (and South Africa from intermittent darkness), especially when I’ve got my heater on, cell phone on charge, and a casserole in the oven. My “wrongdoings” probably warrant an entry on True Green Confessions, a website that’s the equivalent of a church’s confessional booth for “sins” against the earth. It’s strange, but addictive.
It may be too little too late, but the new web is making significant attempts to become environmentally friendly, just as food, fashion and business has. Here are some web 2.0 attempts at going green.
Save-the-earth Search Engines
Eco-friendly search engines were the brainchild of Mark Ontkush, who wrote this post on the amount of energy Google could save if it changed its home page from white to black. This is his basic argument:
“Take at look at Google, who gets about 200 million queries a day. Let’s assume each query is displayed for about 10 seconds; that means Google is running for about 550,000 hours every day on some desktop. Assuming that users run Google in full screen mode, the shift to a black background will save a total of 15 (74-59) watts. That turns into a global savings of 8.3 Megawatt-hours per day, or about 3000 Megawatt-hours a year. Now take into account that about 25 percent of the computers are CRTs, and at 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, that’s $75,000, a goodly amount of energy and dollars for changing a few color codes.”
Heap Media launched Blackle last year, a “black” search engine that uses Google search. Unfortunately, the site lacks many of its features like iGoogle, advanced search, and images. A better alternative is Earthle – known as the Black Google -, which is powered by Google, uses less energy and has the exact same features that you’d find on the original search engine. (It looks much sexier too!).
Then there’s the Yahoo! owned GreenBackSearch, which returns the same results as an original Yahoo! search, but the site gives back to the environment by using 50% of its revenue to purchase carbon offsets/credits. Yahoo! also powers a search engine called Ecocho, which grows 2 trees for every 1000 searches conducted on the site.
Eco-friendly social media
Care2Make a Difference is the biggest green social network on the web, with more than eight million users. The network provides a great connection and a wealth of information and services for eco-enthusiasts ranging from healthy living to saving a rainforest with a donation or a signature. Similar green social networks like RiverWired are also on the increase.
The green equivalent of YouTube is Empivot, which aggregates all green- related video content and allows users to upload their own. The site hosts a large amount of audio-visual content from both individuals and companies.
Hugg is the eco-friendly alternative to social bookmarking communities like Digg or del.icio.us. The site is popular and active, and is a useful source of information for anything green related.
Internet users in the US are using Gigoit to donate or get rid of unwanted items instead of dumping them in landfills. The site is like Craigslist, where other users can call dibs on – or as South Africans would say, shotgun – items that they want. The giver then chooses who he wants to donate his stuff to, and the two make arrangements for the exchange. It’s a philanthropic and eco-friendly way to get rid of old cellphones, kids’ toys and dad’s tools that have been collecting dust in our storage room since the 1960s.
For environmental offenders (like me, you and let’s face it, everybody else), EcoGeek and Green Marketing 2.0 provide the latest news on technology and inventions that will help reduce our impact on the environment.
Making a difference
Eco-friendly web 2.0 strategies have taken a lot of flack for their perceived lack of effectiveness. Critics dismiss green social media as mere fluff, and snort in derision at the “black web”, seeing it as regressing towards the ancient MS DOS interface.
But these initiatives, however small their impact may be, are noble and a step in the right direction. Web users should realise that the Internet, for all its wonder and uses, does have a tangible and negative impact on the earth. Given the millions of users and hours spent online, and consequently the amount of CO2 emitted, attempts to create a greener web should be supported.
With that said, I’ve changed my home page to Earthle. Now that I’ve gone black – or should I say green? – there’s no going back.