The Forgotten Footprint

Eva Philips

The Forgotten Footprint is a web overlay that aims to highlight a source of CO2 emissions that is often overlooked and not considered.


In the age of big data, our privacy is not the only factor being compromised, so is our planet. Despite it often being overlooked, information storage and transfer over the internet comes at a huge environmental cost. We must stop thinking about the internet as a virtual product that only implicates society on a social level. The internet can have real, physical ramifications on carbon emissions.

The overwhelming amount of emissions from internet use comes from data centers. Data centers are facilities where servers, data storage devices, network devices, and monitors are use to store, manage, process, and exchange digital data and information (2). In order for the internet to be maintained, these supercomputers must constantly run, which can dissipate a great deal of heat. Data centers have to cool the computers in order to ensure that they do not overheat. The combination of dissipated heat and constant cooling produces an obscene amount of carbon emissions. While these emission are difficult to quantify, it is estimated that one Google search produces about 7g of CO2 emissions and in 2019 the internet will pollute more than civil aviation (1).

The Forgotten Footprint is a chrome extension that aims to build awareness toward this issue and expand the conversation on how we can mitigate these impacts. When a user downloads the chrome extension and begins to browse the internet, a symbol (footprint) overlays each webpage. Throughout the browsing session, with each page load, the footprint grows with respect to the amount of estimated emissions produced. This experience is meant to bring awareness to user about this issue and put the size of the internets impact on the environment into prospective.



The Uses of Discomfort