Low Carbon Websites: Greening the Internet

Mitchel White
August 21, 2020

Though we can’t physically see the impact of the internet on the environment. It’s a very real problem and one that’s becoming more widely recognised.

Within the worldwide web, our digital lives are stored in vast data centres and it’s these vats of data that sap electricity at a staggering rate. Globally, the internet consumes more electricity in a year than the whole of the UK. Couple this with the sheer growth in data (it’s predicted that 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years and this figure is set to triple in size over the next decade), it’s clear that something needs to change.

Search engine giants, Google, have already invested in reducing the impact of their data centres by adopting various techniques in green building, machine learning and renewable energy. But, more importantly, what can we do as individuals or small organisations to reduce how much energy we’re consuming through our internet use?

The answer might lie in low carbon websites.

Features of Low Carbon Websites

The average website produces over 3 grams of CO2 per page view, which adds up to an eye-watering amount when you consider all the webpages that exist.

Imagine the impact we could have if all these webpages were cleaned up and the clunkiness removed.

These simple steps will give you an efficient website that runs smoothly, loads quicker, and in turn, pollutes less.

So where does it all start?

Low carbon websites work by minimising the page weight (in KB). A lighter page weight entails removing or optimising old fonts, removing filler images and videos that autoplay. Smart caching, ensuring code is clear and concise and removing third-party tracking scripts are also quick wins for bringing down page weight.

As the data that’s loaded onto the website directly impacts emissions through server load and data transfer, when this is reduced so is the digital carbon footprint of the site.

Outside of the main methods listed above for reducing the carbon emissions produced by a standard site, there are additional benefits for you, the website owner. Including faster loading times (good for user experience) and improved SEO. And the newly cleaner site requires less data, offering an enhanced experience for users with limited internet access.

If you want to go another step further, consider switching your web host to one that runs on renewable energy. Check out GreenGeeks, they’re an industry leader who offer eco-friendly web hosting services that replenish 3 times the power they consume in the form of renewable energy. Or go for Eco Web Hosting who are based in the UK and offset their carbon footprint by planting trees for every site they host. As of July 2020, they have planted over 10,300 trees and offset more than 820 tonnes of carbon.

Calculating website carbon emissions

Yet, all this work wouldn’t even be possible without being able to measure carbon emissions from various websites. Check your website on https://ecograder.com/.

Carbon calculators like this one help organisations see the impact of their website and, with suddenly being able to measure what we can’t see, it becomes easier to change it.

Let’s take a look at a brand who’ve done exactly that…

Already pioneers in plant-based cleaning products, Ecover is now reaping the rewards of a greener website.

Fighting for a clean world revolution, this innovative brand always aims to do better, whether it’s developing non-toxic laundry products or marketing a washing-up liquid that’s made from waste from the beer brewing process. Yes, really. Check it out here.

But they didn’t stop there.

As the brand went under a refresh, so did their website. The site has been optimised and condensed, note how there’s no ads, gifs or videos on site. They’ve stripped it back to leave a beautifully slick and clear website. Which as a result, benefits from a reduction in carbon emissions.

Ecover isn’t the only brand to simplify their site.

ThoughtCo is a 20+ year old information site, focused on expert-created educational content. Credited as one of the top 10 information sites (as measured by comScore) they serve a huge 13 million users each month.

Similar to Ecover, they opted for a clean site without moving elements. Their millions of users benefit from faster load times and ease of locating the information they were searching for.

Implementing a greener internet with low carbon websites

We can now see the effect that reducing our website’s carbon emissions could have and the potential is huge. These small wins could play a monumental role in greening the internet.

To summarise how we can mitigate our website carbon footprint…

  1. Reduce the page weight by optimising fonts, images, and be concise with code.
  2. Benchmark your current website carbon emissions and recognise the scope for change.
  3. Switch to an eco-friendly web host running on renewable energy.

And remember, it’s not just the planet that will thank you, your website visitors will find your site slick and more user-friendly, which in turn can play an important role in return on investment. A low carbon website is a real win/win and well worth considering in your wider digital strategy.

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