Wild Elements Tik Tok

Explainer: Does TikTok Have a Carbon Footprint?

Social media is a huge part of our lives, and unless we have some Station Eleven style meltdown, that won’t change anytime soon. Millions of us enjoy creating content for Instagram, TikTok, and beyond, and as long as that brings us joy, it's okay.

What’s not okay is being clueless, especially when it comes to the environmental impact of technology and the things we can do to minimize it. Which brings us back to (yes) social media, in the form of a Paris consulting firm called Greenspector, who recently completed a series of tests to determine TikTok's energy output.

It turns out, your social media carbon footprint is directly tied to which apps you use—and ones that stream videos have way higher energy consumption. That means your TikTok account is likely the most energy-draining app on your phone... which you probably know because of the battery drains whenever you fall down a “Duet Me!” rabbit hole. In fact, if you’re an average TikTok user (i.e. one that uses the app about an hour a day), Greenspector estimates you’re using the same amount of energy that would get a regular automobile about half a mile down the road… which means in one year, your TikTok carbon footprint would power our car about 180 miles. That's enough to get us from Los Angeles to Mexico and back.

Does this mean we should all stop using TikTok? Nope. In fact, like all social networks, TikTok has some incredible accounts and creative resources dedicated to loving and caring for the planet and its creatures. Full disclosure: Wild Elements is on TikTok, and we love it. Plus, if your version of self-care includes learning hip-hop dance routines, nerding out on new books, stalking international street style, or singing along to Heathers: The Musical (guilty), there’s no reason to cut TikTok out of your life because it—like a million other things in our modern world—uses energy.

If you'd like to make the energy a little cleaner, consider investing in a solar charger for your phone, which replenishes your battery through the renewable resource of sunlight. (We like the Biolite and the Big Blue Solar Charger, which you can anchor to your fire escape or put in your apartment window if you don’t have a backyard.) You can also ensure all your apps are closed until / unless you’re actually using them, and dim your screen during evening hours, which cuts down on battery use. And if you can cut your TikTok habit from 1 hour a day to 30 minutes—maybe with help from your phone’s built-in alarm—you’ll be saving actual energy and mental energy that could be spent on a walk or talking with a friend.

But if sometimes you need a full TikTok session to learn the latest FKA Twigs dance? We’ve been there. We get it. It’s okay.