Skip to main content

Think Digital Marketing is Environmentally Friendly? You’d Be Surprised

low angle view of human representation of grass

Many modern businesses focus on sustainability and being environmentally friendly because consumers are increasingly concerned about this. You may be familiar with the triple bottom line concept of profit, people, and planet.

Marketing is no exception to this trend. Business leaders make marketing decisions partly based on how sustainable that practice is for the environment. For example, they may decide to send out an email campaign rather than doing a direct mail appeal because of the trade-off of a digital medium compared to printed paper.

However, did you know that digital marketing has an environmental impact, too? Let’s examine why this is and what your company can do to maintain effective and ethical marketing practices.

How Does Digital Marketing Impact the Environment?

It may seem counterintuitive to think that online marketing has a carbon footprint and contributes to global warming—but it’s true.

Most of this impact is caused by data centers and computer servers, which are estimated to be responsible for about 2-3% of global CO2 emissions. That’s more than the emissions from all commercial airline flights.

  • Watching 30 minutes of Netflix is equivalent to driving about 4 miles in your car. 
  • Each email sent generates 4 grams of carbon dioxide, and the average office worker sends and receives over 100 emails daily.
  • Cryptocurrency especially has a high carbon footprint. Bitcoin alone consumes more energy than the entire country of New Zealand.
  • Every time Christiano Ronaldo posts on Instagram for his 240 million followers, it consumes as much energy as 10 households annually.

Every video watched, email sent, and social post has to travel to and from computer servers worldwide. These server farms consume a rapidly growing amount of electricity and water, not to mention the production of new hardware that goes into building these data centers.

Plus, don’t forget that internet-enabled devices all require power, too. The power to charge your laptop or smartphone pulls energy from a power grid contributing to carbon emissions. 

Why Should We Care About This

The most difficult challenge with cloud computing’s carbon footprint is that it’s largely invisible. When we drive a car or throw away paper, we can imagine the environmental impact of those actions. But scrolling on your phone or computer seems harmless.

Sustainable marketing is about realizing the true impact of our work and the dedication to do something about it. It’s about each doing our small part to decrease our negative impact and foster more ethical marketing practices.

The goal of Net Zero—or negating the carbon contributions of marketing—is more possible than we might think. This is a growing trend in our industry and gradually becoming a more common practice. Sustainable marketing is good for our brand, our people, and, ultimately, our planet.

How to Measure Your Impact

Imagining how much energy your digital marketing efforts expend can be challenging. Thankfully, there are tools to help put this into perspective. 

Tools like the Website Carbon Calculator or Digital Beacon calculate the environmental impact of any website. The amount of carbon emissions is based on your website’s size and where it’s hosted. These tools also give you tips on reducing this number, like improving load times and switching to a website host that uses green energy.

Tips For Reducing Your Digital Carbon Footprint

There are lots of little things your brand can do to make your digital marketing more green. Here are a few small tips that can add up to make a big difference.

Truthfully, GreenMellen is far from perfect at sustainable marketing. Our agency’s work is a work in progress, just like it is for most brands. The first step begins with awareness, which is the goal of this blog post. Sustainable marketing is something we should all strive for together.

About the Author

Robert Carnes

Marketing Manager

Robert Carnes is a freelance writer, published author, and professional marketer. His book, The Story Cycle, is your business's guide to becoming a better marketer. Robert lives in Atlanta and you can follow him on social media @jamrobcar.

View Robert's Profile

More from Our Blog

Leveraging Internal Links to Make Your Website Even More Powerful

Most everything we do when designing a powerful, effective website benefits two main audiences: a site’s users and Google. Internal and external hyperlinks within well-written…

Read More
cyclone fence in shallow photography

Common Marketing Problem: Your Brand Doesn’t Properly Reflect The Business

Let’s explore a critical aspect of your business that might be flying under the radar: your brand.  While it’s easy to overlook amidst the hustle…

Read More
sad young ethnic lady arguing during video call

Switching Your Website Data From Google Analytics 4 to Fathom

There are many options when considering which platform to track your website’s analytics. Google Analytics is an option most of our clients use and many…

Read More
macbook pro on brown table