As the world gears up for the upcoming holiday shopping season, the technology needed by online retailers to meet demands will bring with it many unintended negative byproducts: increased inefficiency, waste and pollution, to name a few. Online sales are expected to grow by 12 percent in the holiday season, on top of an already unprecedented, some might say alarming demand for online information.
Why alarming? In 2014, data centers in the United States consumed approximately 100 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy. According to Sudeep Pasricha, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Colorado State University, “that’s almost twice the electricity needed to power the whole state of Colorado for a year.” Further,this growing and insatiable desire for digital content is actually polluting the environment: the massive data centers that house all this digital content on servers are now responsible for an astounding 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a similar share to today’s aviation industry.