Twittering Adds How Much to Your Carbon Footprint?


Image via Mykl Roventine via Flickr CC

It seems like just yesterday that we went round and round about how much energy a typical Google search uses, and what kind of carbon footprint that equates to. The use of our computers and data centers adds up to a significant amount of electricity use, which adds up to a significant amount of carbon dioxide and other gasses into the atmosphere. And our use of digital media as a way of socializing and communicating is no small piece of that pie, as Facebook's electricity bill has proven. But breaking it down to smaller components like single tweets can be a more difficult task. However, one of the guys from Twitter recently gave a talk on the energy use and carbon footprint of twittering, including just how much each tweet takes up.
Earth2Tech points us towards a talk by Raffi Krikorian of Twitter on how much energy sending out a tweet takes. Quick calculations estimate that each tweet sent takes about 90 joules, which equates to about 0.02 grams of CO2.

When scaled up to the 50 million tweets sent per day, it adds up to about 1 metric ton of CO2 per day. Whether or not this is a big number is up to how one chooses to look at it. On the one hand, it isn't much for an individual's carbon footprint. For how much time we spend on our computers and electronic devices, cutting out your tweets would be like taking the bulb out of your refrigerator - it doesn't make much of a dent in total energy use.

Nor is it much when looked at relative to the total carbon footprint of the IT industry. What is more important than how many tweets are sent is where Twitter gets its power for data servers. As we've seen with Facebook, it's not so much the electricity bill, as the electricity source that really matters to environmentalists, since what is actually causing the carbon footprint is the generation of the electricity, not a user clicking a button to post a status update.

While sending a tweet creates a relatively small impact, knowing how much use Twitter is getting, and what that adds up to in terms of carbon footprint, is still very important so that Twitter and its users can stay savvy about how important it is to use green energy sources for data centers, offices and homes. Switch to renewable energy sources and that carbon footprint per tweet shrinks.

Check out a video of a little bit of the talk -- just skip to the 2:50 mark on the video.


Watch live video from Twitter Chirp Conference on Justin.tv
More on Carbon Footprint of the Internet
Seven Grams CO2 per Google Search? Not True or Relevant, but Fun To Repeat
What is the Environmental Impact of the Internet?
The Internet is Becoming More Energy Efficient, But Total Energy Use is Climbing

Tags: Carbon Footprint | Computing | Electricity | Social Media