The Internet is a masterstroke of environmental genius. Where we now argue about inane television plot twists, write obligatory life updates to our relatives, and receive mundane corporate memos via email, Twitter, and blogs, we could be typing out pages and sending out letters. All that content that’s housed on the World Wide Web might otherwise be wastefully printed on reams and reams of high-quality tree pulp. But just how much paper are we saving? How long would the Internet be if it were printed out in one massive book?
George Harwood and Evangeline Walker, students at the U.K.’s University of Leicester, estimate that the entire Internet could be fit onto somewhere between 68.1 billion and 136 billion pages of A4 paper, if each web page could be printed onto 15 to 30 paper pages. Their research is published in the student-run Journal of Interdisciplinary Science Topics.
Harwood and Walker arrived at their figure using the number of indexed pages on the web (according to one site, 4.54 billion pages as of February 2015, when they conducted their research). However, this figure doesn’t encompass the so-called Deep Web, which is not indexed by search engines and is much larger than the searchable Internet universe.
So how much of the world’s trees would be needed to print out that much paper? Assuming that each page on the searchable web is only 15 pages long on paper and that each tree can be made into 17 reams of paper, it would require a little more than 8 million trees—or about 44 square miles of Amazonian rain forest. The whole Google-able Internet could rest in your hands if you could just mow down 0.002 percent of the Amazon and turn it into reams of paper! Time to start printing and binding all those cat videos, anyone?