Saving the Planet One Search at a Time

Back in January, 2007, Boston Blogger Mark Ontkush decided to do some fancy mathematical magic and figure out how much energy could be saved if Google switched from a white background to a black background. I had never considered this before, but it makes sense that a mostly black screen uses less energy than mostly white. Not an incredible amount (15 watts) less, but if you consider how many hits a day Google gets (about 200 million) it starts to add up. After his computations, Ontkush announced that changing Google to a black background would save 3,000 megawatt-hours a year. 3,000 megawatt-hours! Holy batteries, Batman! I was astounded. Primarily because I didn't know what a megawatt-hour equated to. After some quick research, I had some additional perspective. It turns out that 3,000 megawatt-hours could power roughly 95 homes for an entire year. Not quite as mammoth as I original thought, but still not inconsequential.

And other people took notice. Specifically, an Australian company called Heap Media decided to put Ontkush’s musings into action. And so, was born. Powered by Google Custom Search, Blackle returns Google quality search results while saving energy with its black background. A running tally on the front page notes how much energy Blackle has saved (at the time of this posting, approximately .147 megawatt hours).

For my own part, I’ve set Blackle as my new home page for my browser (sorry Google) to see how it feels to use this inverted color scheme as my primary search engine. Luckily, I don’t use any features of Google beyond the search engine; I don’t have a Gmail account or custom iGoogle pages, so I’m not really losing any functionality by switching to Blackle. It will be interesting to see if I can make the change stick.

In reality, using Blackle is not going to save the world. But it is a small, small step. And if it helps keep me conscious of my energy consumption, that’s something.