Installing an ad blocker can significantly reduce your web data use and internet carbon footprint. I’m interested to know your thoughts on that, as it’s slightly controversial. Before getting to the ad-blocker, here’s a reminder of the key thing that you can do to reduce your internet carbon footprint: limit streaming 4K video on large TVs.
That was the conclusion of my last post, where I took a look at the carbon cost of internet data and estimated that:
- Data use in 2022 will average around 3,650 GB per person in the US, equating to an annual carbon footprint of 200 kg CO2 each.
- Watching video is responsible for the lion’s share of most people’s data footprint.
- Streaming 4K video to a large TV uses around 10 times more data (up to 7 GB per hour) than SD video, and 28 times more data than viewing video on a phone.
- So, a heavier user who streams 5 hours of 4K video per day will have a fairly significant data carbon footprint of 700 kg CO2, annually. That’s about the same as driving 3500 km (2200 miles).
So, the best way for most to reduce their internet carbon footprint is to manage without a huge 4K television, or at least be frugal with streaming ultra-high definition (UHD) video on it. Bear in mind that the information technology and communications (ICT) sector now accounts for around 3.7% of global CO2 emissions, more than air travel.
But there is another thing that you can think about: Using an ad blocker on your web browser to reduce your data use and hence your internet carbon footprint.
A study from Simon Fraser University showed that using AdBlock Plus reduced data use by 25-40%. Data use for a general web-browsing session was reduced by 25%, while data use for video-rich sessions was reduced by 40%. You can find a list of recommended ad blocker plugins for Mozilla Firefox here.
Is there a downside? Well, many websites and content creators do rely on advertising revenue to pay the bills. And I’ll emphasize again that if you’re a fairly light internet user then your data carbon footprint is not that significant. By far and away the biggest culprit is streaming UHD (4K or 8K) video on large TV screens.
Besides limiting (4K) video streaming, one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your online carbon footprint is to use Ecosia as your primary search engine.
As far as ad-blockers go, it’s your call – what do you think?