Is blogging even sustainable?

A while ago blogging was announced dead. This proclamation related to the decrease in marketing spending on blogs in favour of other platforms, such as podcasts, Instagram and YouTube. The marketing budgets might have gone down, but the influence bloggers have on their readership is bigger than ever. This is particularly true in the space of the sustainability sector. Lifestyle bloggers all over the world take the complexity of sustainability issues and translate them into simple everyday practices. In fact, the blogosphere has been called the fastest growing source for environmental information. But is it really that simple? Is blogging really a force for good in the fight against environmental degradation. Or are we all just kidding ourselves?

The Good 

As I began to research this topic I wanted to start with the positives. And I was happy to find that the work had been done for me. A 2018 scientific paper explored the positive impacts of personal blogs on environmental communication. (Yes, someone did a scientific study on bloggers!) The study lauded sustainability bloggers on their reinforcement of the individualization of responsibility. These bloggers show us how we can make practical changes in our lives that do good on the environment. From zero-waste bloggers and vegan recipe creators to minimalists and clean beauty guru’s, the blogging sphere has a wealth of knowledge for self-governed sustainability. It is through these blogs that I started my own sustainability journey. And after several university degrees on environmental sustainability I still believe that the small personal changes advocated by bloggers are the most crucial ones for change. So far, so good.

The Bad

The actual content of sustainability blogs is to be encouraged. Their medium is wanting. That medium is of course the internet. We often talk about the internet as ‘a cloud’, as if all the trillions of memes, videos and articles are floating somewhere in space. But in reality, they are stored in massive data centres that use up a whole lot of energy. And on the other side, there are all the internet consumers that use their increasingly smart – but also energy-intensive – devices. In 2018 the amount of global internet users increased by 7%. It was also the first year where the total amount of internet users surpassed the 4 billion mark. Without increased efficiency or a switch to renewable energy by the IT-industry, researchers have estimated the internet could create 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. If that doesn’t sound too bad, it is. When the Gangnam Style video went viral in 2012, it was watched 3 billion times. Those 3 billion views together emitted as much CO2-emmissions as when 313.000 passengers fly from Amsterdam to Bangkok. 14% is bad.

The Solution

The internet is not all bad news. Big internet companies, such as Google, are increasingly using renewable energy to power their data centers. In fact, Google is much more sustainable than the popular sustainability search engine Ecosia. This search engine plants trees for every search people make but is hosted by Bing. Since Bing does not have great sustainability credentials, Ecosia’s net emissions are actually worse than Google’s. Google is really pushing the frontiers of sustainable internet. So step one is too use sustainable internet services. (Check this list for a sustainability ranking of the most used internet services). Bloggers can make their blogs sustainable by using a smart design that features darker colours. (Note to self: redesign the white blog layout.)

We can also become more mindful, both as creators and consumers. As consumers, we can do social media detoxes or shut off our electronic devices entirely for a weekend . Of course, we can also read blogs that push us towards sustainable habits, rather than those that promote heavy consumerism. As creators, we can post only when we feel proud to share our articles rather than spewing out thin content to keep the blog busy. I am not saying these solutions are perfect, but they might help.

The internet is truly a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it has empowered people all over the world by supplying access to knowledge at the tip of our fingers. Sustainability would not have been propagated as much on the personal level if it weren’t for bloggers. On the other hand, the internet is one of the most polluting industries in the world. As with anything in sustainability, the issue is complex. All we can do as users is to become more mindful when and what we create and consume on the internet. Let’s all do our bit!

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.