When you think of a website, you think of a hub of content that displays articles, videos, and animations. People take weeks or months to create and develop the perfect website which they believe will help generate revenue, boost their online presence, and cultivate relationships. According to global statistics, as of January 2020, approximately 1.74 billion websites are running on the internet with 4 billion+ estimated daily visitors. This may suggest that as a society, we have moved on from using paper and instead absorb information online, heading in a greener direction. However, that is not completely the case. The energy that is needed to run these websites and the online traffic they receive both heavily impact the environment, and this impact is increasing each year which many business leaders are oblivious to.
According to Website Carbon, an online carbon calculator, the average website produces 1.76g of CO2 for every page view; so a site with 100,000 page views per month emits 2,112kg of CO2 every year. Additionally, some estimates have suggested that if the internet were a country, it would be classed as the world’s seventh-biggest polluter.
One of the popular websites in the world, Netflix, accounted for 300m tonnes of carbon dioxide globally. This is equal to how much Spain emits every year.
Co-Founder of Web Neutral Project, Jack Amend, stated: “The internet is essentially the largest coal-fired machine on the entire planet.”
In recent years, more and more companies across the world are realizing the importance of having a greener website. Awareness of digital sustainability is growing. The likes of Google, Sky, and Adobe have moved towards a greener path. So, what’s causing websites to have such a large carbon footprint and what steps can be taken to reduce the carbon footprint of your website?
Reasons For a Websites Large Carbon Footprint
When it comes to key environmental impacts that affect the world today, the main topics that might come to mind include climate change, food waste, plastic pollution, deforestation, air pollution, etc. Not many, if any, would categorize websites as an issue. But despite that, the actions taken online, regardless of how small the action feels, generate a carbon footprint. In truth, digital technologies and internet usage are two significant components that affect the environment due to the amount of electricity used.
According to the Shift Project, digital technologies account for around 4% of greenhouse gas emissions and the energy consumption of digital technologies increases by 9% each year. However big or small your website is it will always leave a carbon footprint, but what exactly contributes to this footprint?
- Interactions – Every time your website gains a visitor, their browser must create an HTTP request to your server asking for information. Your server responds with this information and as a result, uses up a small amount of energy. Furthermore, the browser the visit is using also uses up energy to generate the website’s data onto the visitor’s screen.
- Hosts – A hosting provider stores your site’s files and data and also runs cooling solutions to ensure computers stay cool and do not overheat both of which consume electricity to function. Therefore, data centers tend to have large carbon footprints.
- Bot Traffic – Similar to human interactions, bot interactions also make requests to the server when visiting your site.
How to Reduce the Carbon Footprint of a Website
There are various small changes you can make to considerably reduce your website’s carbon footprint.
- Pick a Green Host
Choosing a host whose operations are powered by and committed to using renewable energy can go a long way. Wherever you are in the world, the Green Web Foundation lists a large number of different green hosting providers to choose from.
- Limit the Number of Images
Something as simple as reducing the number of images you place in an article, feature, or blog can help reduce emissions. Vineeta Greenwood, Account Director at Wholegrain Digital, states: “Images are the single largest contributors to page weight. The more images you use and the larger those image files, the more data needs to be transferred and the more energy is required.” It is the same with videos. Using embedded links to videos instead of uploading a video onto the page reduces the amount of energy that is needed to be used.
- Remove Redundant Content
It is always important to keep track of how many pages your website has as you don’t want your website to be cluttered with pages, especially if they are pages with redundant content. Cleaning up the number of pages your website is running doesn’t only save energy but also creates the visitor an easier path to their desired destination.
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As well as making your website more carbon-friendly, incorporating these changes will also bring along additional benefits including reducing the cost of running the website, improving load times and performance, and providing a better content experience for visitors.
So when your company attempts to boosting their efforts to become greener and more sustainable, it is important to keep in mind the technological aspect. Even if it is the smallest change, any change can make a big difference in the long-term, benefitting the environment, while also benefitting you and your business at the same time.