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Carbon-aware internet application design


3D viewing room
Status bar shows low carbon energy availability

The internet has a large, invisible and fast-growing carbon footprint. What if we could align people’s digital consumption with the availability of renewable energy? Onlign visualises the future of carbon-aware online experience by communicating carbon cost and nudging greener choices.

The digital industry is the next one to surprise you with its startling energy consumption and carbon emission. The internet industry accounts for 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emission, which is the same amount as the aviation industry, according to some estimates.

Introducing renewable energy to power data centres is a step forward, but it’s far from enough. The internet is 24/7 while the sun, the wind or the tides are not. The end user behaviour plays a fundamental role in the growing consumption of the internet. The project explores the possibility of aligning internet consumption with the availability of renewable energy to minimise individuals’ internet carbon footprint.

What if you could grow an invisible tree by adjusting your internet consumption? Onlign OS, a speculative operating system, leverages the underlying elasticity of people’s demand to shape the carbon-aware internet consumption. It visualises three scenarios of carbon-aware internet experience: entertainment, connection and social media. The interface and interactions are designed to encourage users to make decisions according to the carbon intensity of the internet at different times.

Lu Ye

Lu Ye is a multidisciplinary designer with a passion for digital and sustainability. Through design experiments and human-centred research, she explores current and future scenarios and prototypes interactions to define the relationship between people, activities and environment. She received her Master degrees of Innovation Design Engineering from the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London.