There is very little business activity that doesn’t leave a carbon footprint and this is true of running a website. With governments demanding net-zero emissions and consumers increasingly in search of eco-friendly brands, website owners are under growing pressure to make their sites more sustainable. In this post, we’ll look at the benefits of becoming greener and explain some of the ways you can achieve this with your website.
How websites use energy
Maintaining a 24/7 online presence means your website is using energy all day every day. Power is needed to keep the web server running so your files are available and every time someone visits or interacts with your site, more power will be needed to carry out those requests. You’ll also be using energy if your site gathers analytical data, even if it’s via a third-party, like Google Analytics. There are also those automated emails, performance monitoring tools, backups, updates and so forth.
At the same time, everyone who visits your site will use energy on their devices, even if it’s just the increased frequency with which they need to charge their batteries. And then there’s the energy needed to power the network over which they connect, whether it’s by broadband and wi-fi router or via phone network. Of course, the bigger the website, the more visitors you have and the wider range of tools and applications you run, the more impact your hosting will have.
According to research from Lancaster University, the combined carbon footprint of the internet, connected devices and the systems that support them represent 3.7% of global carbon emissions; equal to that of the airline industry. It’s also a figure which, by 2025, is set to double.
The benefits of a green website
Any reduction in a website’s carbon footprint is good news as it helps to slow down the environmental damage that humans are doing to the planet. That, really, should be reason enough to make a website greener.
However, according to recent research, there are business advantages to becoming sustainable. Most consumers today would prefer to shop with an eco-friendly brand. Indeed, almost 9 out of 10 US consumers hold more positive views of companies that support environmental issues. What’s more, 7 out of 10 millennials said they’d purchased products because they had a positive environmental impact. Going green, it seems, also helps attract and retain new customers.
How to make your website greener
Here are some of the main ways you can reduce the environmental impact of your website.
1. Choose a greener web host
Much of the energy needed to run your website will be used in the data centre in which your files are hosted. Choosing a web host that uses more efficient ways of hosting can reduce the site’s overall environmental impact.
Today, many web hosts plant trees to offset their impact. While this does balance the eco-system by absorbing some of the carbon that hosting generates, it doesn’t deal with the main issue – that of reducing the carbon that hosting actually creates.
At WHUK, we’ve found our sustainable solution in new technology. Since 2015, we’ve been replacing older servers with newer SSD-powered machines. Based on high-density server technology from Quanta, our newer servers work far more efficiently and thus greatly reduce our carbon footprint and that of our customers’ websites.
2. Use green energy to manage your website
The day to day running of your website will probably take place in your company’s offices and much of this will involve using computers and being online. This all contributes to your website’s overall footprint. By switching to one of the growing numbers of green energy providers you can immediately ditch fossil fuels for more sustainable options, like wind and solar power.
3. Reduce your server load
The more server resources your website uses, such as storage, CPU, RAM and bandwidth, the greater its carbon footprint. You can help reduce this by rethinking your website’s design. Think about whether you need those data-heavy images, videos, widgets, popups and plugins. If you do, how can you optimise them so they don’t use so many resources? Can you use minification, compression, image optimisation, caching or content delivery networks?
If these sound familiar, it’s because they are also the methods by which you can improve the speed of your website. That’s the added bonus of going greener – a lighter site loads faster and this improves both the user experience and your SEO.
4. Configure documents for printers
Many websites provide documents that users can download and print out (application forms, school worksheets, colouring in templates, invoices, etc.) While this is a useful service for your visitors, when those documents aren’t configured to print correctly, it can lead to people having to print things out several times, perhaps having to resize what’s on the page before they get a printed document that looks the same as the screen view.
Making sure the document is scaled to print out correctly can reduce the number of printing attempts users need to make and thus cut the carbon cost of printing. This also applies to those many documents with unnecessary blank pages. Users might not waste any ink with these, but they still use up energy going through the printer.
5. Encourage eco-friendly use of your site
Your visitors might be able to use your website in more environmentally friendly ways and it’s up to you to encourage this. For example, you could ask them whether they need to print a document out or whether they can more easily access it on-screen. You can give them a choice to receive plain text emails, which generate 4g of CO2, instead of those with images, which generate 50g. If someone is attempting to download a document that they have previously downloaded, you could remind them to check their ‘Downloads’ folder first.
These might seem like trivial things, but if you consider the number of people carrying out these actions every day across the internet, the environmental impact of them all is huge.
If individual websites make increased efforts to become greener, the benefits to the environment will be significant. For those that do, there’s also the advantage of becoming more attractive to the sustainable consumer.
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