Mobile phones or transatlantic flights – which is greener?

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The big thing these days is reducing your carbon footprint, and everyone is at it, both individuals and big corporates. As an example, Google has recently invested $5 billion on an offshore wind farm project in a bid to reduce the company’s carbon emissions. 

So what are the carbon footprints of the most popular gadgets and every-day technology used by us in our everyday lives? Some of these are fairly obvious as they have an obvious connection to an energy source (i.e. a computer) but others are less obvious – like making a search on Google or using your mobile!

1. Apple MacBook 2010

The MacBook 2010 produces 9g of CO2 per hour while the product is idle. The average 60 watt lightbulb produces 48.4g of CO2 per hour.

(Apple, which has a company footprint of 9.6 million metric tons, claims to have reduced the MacBook’s carbon emissions by 12 per cent in the last four years despite increasing the power of the machines.)

2. Google search

This is a scary one! Reports have suggested that 7g of CO2 is produced per Google search, making two searches roughly the equivalent of boiling a kettle (15g of CO2). However, there was a lot of controversy around these figures, which in fact derive from the power of the computers used to perform the searches. Google claim that actually a simple one-hit search produces only 0.2g of CO2. It was estimated in 2009 that more than 200 million Google searches are performed every day  – that’s 40  tonnes a day on Google’s figures or 1,400 tonnes on the other figure world-wide!

As green as it can get?

3. Mobile phone

This one amazed me – Every minute spent on a mobile phone is estimated to produce 57g CO2. And for those who talk an average of an hour a day (not difficult I would suggest), a year’s usage is equivalent to the same amount of emissions as flying from London to New York one way (125 million tonnes CO2).

In 2009 there were 2.7 billion mobile phones in use around the world, giving a total of 125 million tonnes of CO2 emissions were produced – making it one-quarter of a per cent of emissions worldwide. Using a landline phone uses one-third of the power it takes to make a call on a mobile phone.

I realise this is not really significant in overall terms but it should make us think about how to reduce our own carbon footprint – and perhaps will stop so many people complain about transatlantic flights!


3 thoughts on “Mobile phones or transatlantic flights – which is greener?

    Tim GARRATT said:
    October 23, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    OK, so if I give up my mobile can I go to New York…one way….

    Simon Dare responded:
    October 24, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Apparently! Probably be quite happy staying there wouldn’t you?

    Tim GARRATT said:
    October 24, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    No ‘probably’ about it….

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