Climate change continues to be the biggest threat to our way of life. Within the past ten years, we have seen sustainable changes encouraged from all angles — whether recycling or reusing, biking to work, or simply eating less meat, people everywhere are making changes to live more eco-friendly lives.
As a business owner, it can be hard even to know where to start in this debate. Whether simply changing out the milk in your daily coffee to plant-based alternatives, or implementing a cycle to work scheme, there’s a lot to be done and lots to be learnt.
One of our clients is aiming to become a carbon-neutral business. With that plan, they asked us if their new website would affect their carbon footprint.
As an SEO Executive and someone who tries to make a conscious effort to be more sustainable, I never thought about the impact the internet could have on the environment.
But, it makes sense that as we continue to consume more through the internet, the amount of electricity consumed by the internet would grow rapidly.
This growth may seem to be out of our control, but this consumption has an enormous carbon footprint, which businesses need to address.
Google has been ahead of this for years, and became the first major company to be carbon neutral in its founding years.
In the company’s second decade, it was the first global company to achieve 100% renewable energy, and by 2030, it aims to be the first major company to operate carbon-free.
With Google proving that carbon neutrality is possible, more companies look to make important changes to ensure their business can run ethically and sustainably.
After some research, I learnt some interesting facts about the carbon footprint of a website:
- The average website produces 6.8 grams of CO2 per page view
- An average site with 10,000 page views per month would produce 816kg of CO2 per year
- The internet uses roughly the same amount of electricity as the UK, one of the world’s largest economies.
With these facts in mind, I have collected some important points to consider with your personal or business website, when trying to reduce your carbon footprint.
Reducing data transfer is key
Reducing your carbon footprint comes with reducing data transfer.
Data transfers are directly related to energy consumption and emissions, so reducing your data transfers will also reduce your carbon footprint.
This can be done in a few ways, and most of the recommendations can be done through SEO, copywriting, and through improving user experience.
Simply reducing the weight (in KB) of all your web pages is an amazing place to start, and you can do this by:
- Writing clean code for your site
- Reducing and resizing your images
- Reducing and resizing your videos
- Optimising images by loading images at the correct scale instead of relying on CSS to resize them for you
- Choosing your fonts carefully, we know that fonts improve the aesthetics of your site but they also add a lot of unnecessary weight to your site
- Offloading your larger media to a third-party provider who is more eco-friendly
- Avoiding autoplay on videos on your site’s homepage
- Choosing to implement a caching solution will reduce the weight of all your web pages.
- Use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Improving these aspects on your website will reduce the amount of energy used by a user on your site and also improve user experience.
Switching your site to renewable energy
Switching your site to renewable energy is another way to reduce your site’s carbon footprint. As a website owner, it is difficult to control the energy used by your networks or end-users, but you can have some control over the energy used by the data centre if you choose the right hosting provider.
A growing number of hosting providers actively purchase renewable energy for data centres. It can be hard to identify which hosting providers use green energy, and to find that information, it is always best to go to the providers directly. The Green Web Foundation has a great directory of hosting providers that claim to use renewable energy but it is still advisable to check.
You can also ensure data centres close to your users, to limit wasted energy while transmitting data across large distances.
And finally, being able to use a CDN can combat all of this, as the largest files will be loaded from the CDN location in the users own region, reducing the travel distance each time a page is loaded.
Measuring carbon emissions from websites
It might seem difficult to achieve and measure emissions as a business owner, but there are free tools to measure your website’s carbon footprint.
WebsiteCarbon.com is a free site that provides data on sites’ CO2 emissions per page view, annual CO2 emissions (based on a specified amount of page views), annual energy consumption, and whether or not the website is hosted in a data centre powered by renewable energy.
Using this site can help benchmark your website against competitors, helping you set goals and targets to reduce your own carbon footprint.