IRL: Online Life is Real Life

Host Manoush Zomorodi shares real stories of life online and real talk about the future of the Web.

IRL is an original podcast from Firefox.

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Season 5

3: The Internet’s Carbon Footprint

Manoush Zomorodi explores the surprising environmental impact of the internet in this episode of IRL. Because while it’s easy to think of the internet as living only on your screen, energy demand for the internet is indeed powered by massive server farms, running around the clock, all over the world. What exactly is the internet’s carbon footprint? And, what can we do about it?

Music professor Kyle Devine considers the environmental costs of streaming music. Geophysicist and pop scientist Miles Traer takes his best shot at calculating the carbon footprint of the IRL podcast. Climate journalist Tatiana Schlossberg explores the environmental influence we don’t know we have and what the web’s got to do with it. Greenpeace’s Gary Cook explains which tech companies are committed to renewable energy — and which are not. Kris De Decker tries powering his website with a homebrew solar power system. And, Ecosia’s Chief Tree Planting Officer Pieter Van Midwoud discusses how his company uses online search to plant trees.

Show Notes

Love the internet, but also love the environment? Here are some ways you can reduce your energy consumption — or offset it — while online.

Learn more about Kyle Devine’s research on the environmental costs of music streaming.

For more from Tatiana Schlossberg, check out her book, Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental Impact You Don’t Know You Have.

Have a read through Greenpeace’s Click Clean Report that Gary Cook discusses in this IRL episode.

You can find solar-powered Low Tech Magazine here (and, if the weather is bad, you can view the archive here).

As Pieter Van Midwoud notes, Ecosia uses the money it makes from your online searches to plant trees where they are needed most. Learn more about Ecosia, an alternative to Google Search.

Here’s more about Miles Traer, the geophysicist who calculated the carbon footprint of the IRL podcast.

And, if you’re interested in offsetting your personal carbon emissions overall, Carbonfund.org can help with that.

The sound of a data center in this episode is courtesy of artist Matt Parker. Download his music.

Season 4

Season 3

  • Examine how the internet is changing our minds, our votes, and our democracies – all over the world. Listen now.

  • Today’s teens are the first humans who have spent their entire lives online. Find out what it's like growing up in the age of screens. Listen now.

  • Veronica Belmont and Franchesca Ramsey meet the people working to make the web — and world — friendlier places. Listen now.

  • Veronica Belmont and Peter Rojas explore how the Internet is building and confusing our relationships. Listen now.

  • There’s a new currency in town (and no, we’re not talking about Bitcoin). We’re talking about attention. Listen now.

  • One of the most successful recruitment tools the U.S. Army ever made was… a video game? Find out how gaming elements in tech have infiltrated our online and offline lives. Listen now.

  • Explore the tradeoffs you make online everyday, and learn why on earth your email inbox is filling up with privacy policies. Listen now.

  • Get a sneak peak at what Veronica Belmont will cover in Season 3 of IRL, because online life is real life. Listen now.

Season 2

  • How to stop the spread of disinformation online. Listen now.

  • How technology can create, and can break, our filter bubbles. Listen now.

  • When bad code spreads disinformation and bias, it’s never something that “the algorithm did.” It’s something people did. Listen now.

  • On the Internet no one knows you’re a dog, as the old joke goes. But does anonymity truly exist on the web anymore? Listen now.

  • From Snapchat filters to Apple’s Face ID, biometric technology plays a growing role in our everyday lives. What do we actually give up when we upload our face to these apps? Listen now.

  • Recent reports estimate that over 50% of teens are addicted to their smartphones. Veronica Belmont investigates the impact of growing up online. Listen now.

  • Most website visitors aren’t human. They’re bots. Here’s how to spot them. Listen now.

Season 1