Has the World Wide Web Made Our Planet Greener?

Now it’s probably obvious but when I say greener I’m not asking whether the web has made our planet a different colour, I am asking if, as the web has evolved into such an influential part of our lives, it has slowly helped us towards a more eco-friendly planet. 

I think that the first subject I should raise are the negative effects the internet has on the planet if any. Well let’s think about it, the main negative here is that to use the internet you need a computer or portable device. I don’t want to go all eco-freak on you but a lot of these devices are filled with toxic chemicals, carcinogens, heavy metals and plastics most of which will end up in a land fill. But saying that, all of this is improving as most manufacturers are becoming a lot more eco-aware and there are now multiple ways to recycle your computer or device.

Well the most prominent positive point to make next would be that the web has lessened the need for paper, with entire libraries of information, publications, magazines, etc. available online; theoretically a lot less paper should be used. But saying this, people are still printing out web documents daily, so does this cancel out the paper not used because of the internet.

Well let’s take a more in depth look, to start off with let’s look at magazines, newspapers and other publications. Well we know that these publications still exist as physical paper objects, and although these publications also now exist online, the amount of paper used hasn’t changed that much. But saying this, personally I don’t ever buy a newspaper, instead I read sky news on my iPhone on a morning, and I will very rarely buy a magazine.

Although all these publications exist both physically and virtually there are now information sites that purely exist online. For example blogs such as Engadget, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, amongst others only exist in the online world and Gizmodo alone get over 5,097,121 US views a month. The question is whether sites such as these will eventually take over? Will the internet take over and newspapers, magazines and books cease to exist? Well there is no sure way of knowing, but with new technological devices such as e-readers and tablet PCs it is very possible, especially if we want a greener planet.

Apart from ridding us the need of physical paper based publications, technology and the internet have got enabled us to access phone bills and bank statements through the web instead of having to have a physical copy sent to you.

The internet must have also made an impact on the carbon footprint by allowing more and more people to work from home by opening a whole new range of jobs, and even more importantly the internet has opened a whole new era of communication.

People no longer send letters to one another, instead e-mail, msn, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc. is used to communicate and keep in contact with friends. So mail delivery is used a lot less in this fashion, but again this could be cancelled out by the fact that more people are shopping and ordering products online and getting them delivered to their houses.

So even after all of this change we still seem to end up at the same point, the planet doesn’t seem to be getting any greener thanks to the net, but personally I think that if we wanted it to then the internet could become an important tool to creating a greener planet, we have eliminated the need for books, magazines, newspapers, paper bills and statements, etc.; but we still choose to use the paper versions. By no means am I saying that we should completely get rid of all paper, after all there is nothing better than a real copy of your favourite book, but maybe we could cut down the usage of paper thanks to the internet.

But the internet has not only made a change in the above ways, information on any subject is widely available on the internet, more specifically to this subject, the amount of information on recycling, alternative energy and general eco stuff is tremendous. This has allowed any person with access to the internet to find out anything they like to help make our planet greener in seconds.

Let’s have a look at some of the best eco-sites:

Treehugger.com:

Treehugger.com is a humongous blog/site with articles and information on every eco related subject you could possibly want to know about. From science to fashion treehugger provides some great reading material and also has a couple of pages on ‘how to take action’. Apart from all the info available on the site, it is aesthetically a nicely designed blog.

Recyclenow.com:

This site has a ton of information on recycling in your area and tips on how you can recycle. Again a great site and a nice design.

Blackle.com:

This one is a very interesting site, whether or not it actually works is irrelevant, but basically it’s a Google powered search engine but it uses a black background and white text to supposedly save power, I don’t see how it does save power as the monitor and computer will probably still use the same amount of power as when using a normal site. But either way it’s worth a look.

Freecycle.com:

I must admit it’s not the best looking site in this list, but for what it lacks in looks it makes up for in functionality. The site is based around a simple concept; one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Basically if you have something, anything that you no longer want or have the need for you can post details of on here, and if someone wants it you can arrange a collection or send it to them. It’s that simple and also works the other way around, if you need or want something you can scour freecycle and if anyone has one you can have it.

As you can see, the internet is changing most of our lives, whether or not it will have a big impact on our planet or not is yet to be found out. But personally I think that if we wanted it to, the internet and technology in general could help us a lot.