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 these which are the environmental impact of websites.
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.