Making responsible, green choices for your website.
With a summer of truly extreme weather events behind us, and with more of the same to come, the negative impact of climate change continues to affect us all in ever more real terms.
As the world’s leaders strive for international agreement across a range of high level measures at COP26, all individuals – and the organisations we make up – have a responsibility to make choices that will have the least impact on the world’s limited resources.
Here at Square Eye we’ve been reflecting on how we can better support our clients in reducing their impact on the environment through digital activities.
One source of carbon emissions that is often overlooked is the internet, and the systems around it. Despite the limited attention it gets, the size of the problem is significant:
- The carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet and the systems supporting them account for 3.7% of global greenhouse gases.
- The internet is one of the fastest-growing sources of carbon emissions. Based on the current rate of growth, these emissions will double by 2025.
- If the global ICT sector was a country, its electricity demand would be ranked 3rd, behind only China and the US.
- Internet use emissions are equal to the aviation industry (pre-Covid).
- Data usage has continually increased as it has become easier and cheaper to access it. Streaming services are a big contributor, but normal websites use more data too. The average webpage is nearly four times bigger than it was in 2010.
So, what can we do?
- Switch to green hosting providers, suppliers fueled by renewable energy.
- Start measuring our impact so that we can manage it.
- Optimise our websites finding carbon savings wherever possible.
- Set up and implement guidelines to ensure that future development of our websites are responsibly managed.
Many of our clients are already hosted by Kinsta, voted top WordPress hosting provider by specialist sustainable web design agency Whole Grain digital. Kinsta is supplied by 100% renewable energy, and offers a number of features and tactics to reduce carbon emissions.
You can check if your hosting service provider is run on renewable energy by using the Green Web Foundation checker tool.
Measuring our impact
Before we can make a change we need to know what our current position is. The free Website Carbon Calculator tool will measure your website’s carbon emissions footprint. The tool takes into account:
- CO2 emissions per page
- Number of page views per year (using website analytics data)
- Type of energy used by your hosting service provider (using data supplied by the Green Web Foundation)
You can use the tool to benchmark your website against others and set targets to reduce your carbon footprint.
Audit our websites for carbon savings
Data transfer consumes electricity; therefore, reducing data transfer reduces the energy required and the emissions generated. Data efficiency is key and this can be achieved in a number of ways:
- Reducing the ‘weight’ of a page. The size of a webpage is measured by combining the filesize of all its constituent images, code files and other assets. There are lots of ways to reduce page weight; here are five examples:
- Ensure any photos are compressed and optimised for the perfect balance of filesize and quality.
- Avoid auto-plays on videos – ask a site visitor if they want to watch it.
- Avoid use of third-party font or icon libraries where possible.
- Use vector graphics and CSS effects instead of imagery to create a visually engaging experience.
- Ensure the code used to build the site is clean.
- Remove what isn’t needed or used; anything a website houses has to be stored, and storage uses energy.
- Implement a caching solution; this guarantees that websites load faster, as data from an earlier request is stored locally.
- Reducing the number of times our pages are loaded. Although it may sound counterintuitive, it doesn’t help us to have the wrong people look at our websites; more traffic can involve more ‘bad’ traffic. To make a sale or get someone to sign up for our services, we need to attract the right kind of visitor – the kind of person that needs what we sell or is interested in what we have to say. This can be achieved by:
- Improving search engine optimisation
- Streamlining user journeys
Return on investment
If the environmental benefits are not compelling enough to make these changes, there are very strong commercial reasons for making them.
- Speed – or lack of it, is the #1 reason people leave a website. 57% of people will leave a website if it hasn’t loaded in 3 seconds.
- Bounce rate – is the % of your site visitors who leave immediately, seeing only one page. A high bounce rate costs you money: you are paying for these visits and getting nothing in return.
- Improved user journey and customer experience = more sales or other ‘conversions’ for you.
To futureproof your website from becoming carbon-heavy again in future, take care over how it is maintained and extended in future. We can help you record the steps your organisation has taken to ensure its website is sustainably managed. We can then build on this to create a set of guidelines to ensure future development does not undo all your hard work.
How Square Eye can help
We’re here to help you become more sustainable online. That can start with an informal Zoom call where we answer your questions and give you suggestions, or we can conduct a formal sustainability audit on your digital operations, including:
- Review of your current hosting arrangements; recommendation of a new provider if appropriate; and assistance with any migration.
- Audit of your website’s speed, performance, filesize and other technical metrics.
- Investigation of your digital supply chain to check for suppliers you may want to replace.
We also offer hands-on help including:
- Optimisation of your site images, PDFs, fonts, icons and other assets.
- Implementation of other techniques & improvements to improve your website speed and reduce data transfer.
- Replacement of third-party services where possible with ‘cleaner’ methods.
- Implementation of a content delivery network (CDN) and caching system if not already in place.
- Make appropriate design changes to deliver a cleaner, lower-data experience to your site visitors.
- Addition of a carbon emissions badge on your site, as calculated by the Website Carbon Calculator. This may help encourage your customers and website users to interrogate their own organisation’s carbon footprint.
- Spring-clean of your website code to reduce bloat and future maintenance overheads.
- Create sustainable web development guidelines for your site.
- Help implement a sustainability statement on your website.
- Set up an online donations facility encouraging site visitors to contribute to carbon offsetting.