The internet emits 1.6 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, this is higher than the annual footprint of the UK, one of the world’s largest economies. Websites are part of our everyday online activity, but did you know that they all have a carbon footprint? We often don’t think of the carbon footprint of websites, but they can be surprisingly high. Tools such as Website Carbon Calculator estimate your home page’s carbon footprint. Anything that consumes electricity will produce carbon emissions, from the devices we hold to the data centres storing our information.
The question is, what can we do about it? We discuss a few ways you can minimise energy usage to ensure your website is as efficient as possible. The first step is switching to a host that uses renewable energy. The transmission of data to and from the data centre uses a lot of energy, therefore, selecting your host can have a massive impact. A PUE (Power Usage Efficiency) rating is given to data centres based on dividing the quantity of energy entering the centre and the volume being used to run it. The amount of energy wasted is then highlighted, most centres have a score around 1.67 while high efficiency centres such as those by Google are a rating of 1.11.
Energy efficiency is more than a technical topic, it can be improved as we build a website – design can have a massive impact. The volume of data stored and sent across the network dictates the size of a website’s footprint. For example, a site with a large video on the homepage will increase the footprint. Images are often the largest contributors to a page’s weight. The more images and the larger they are, the more energy that is required. Website designers should consider the value of the image to the user, could the size be reduced, or could a vector graphic be used instead of a photo? While effective, carousels consume a lot of energy for pictures which aren’t visible all the time. If you want to keep all your images, try to optimise them. Ensure they are the correct size, compress files while maintaining their quality, and use the most efficient file format.
The aims of SEO are aligned with the goal of reducing energy consumption, when a website is optimised for search engine ranking, people find information quickly and easily. This results in less energy being consumed. A similar effect is achieved with copy writing, clear writing will reduce the time spent by the user on the internet. System fonts while not always as pretty, do not require any font files to load, therefore, do not require extra energy. Try to stick to the same fonts throughout your website.
Keep your code clean and simple, write efficient queries and try to avoid duplication. This applies to both the code that you write and the code that you borrow. Avoid unnecessary plugins where possible when using sites such as WordPress. These suggestions should help to drive your websites carbon emissions down. From building your website to the everyday running of it, there are many ways you can make a difference.
While reducing your websites carbon footprint won’t have a massive impact globally, it is important to be aware of these sources and further ways you can minimise the carbon footprint of your organisation.