If you’re concerned about the environment and living as sustainably as possible, you’re likely considering transportation, manufacturing and agriculture as some of the main culprits for CO2 emissions. However, you might not realise that the unassuming internet is also a substantial producer of carbon emissions.

If you’re concerned about the environment and living as sustainably as possible, you’re likely considering transportation, manufacturing and agriculture as some of the main culprits for CO2 emissions. However, you might not realise that the unassuming internet is also a substantial producer of carbon emissions.

The internet currently produces 3.8% of all global carbon emissions. While that might not sound like a lot, if the internet were a country, it would be the sixth largest global polluter. Frankly, that’s huge.

With 1.17 billion websites in the world, there’s little chance of a simple fix, and no fundamental change that will solve all our problems. Instead, it’s down to each of us to ensure that our own web development is sustainable and planet friendly. Much like the climate problem at large, we all have to pitch in to make these changes work.

How can a website be unsustainable?

It’s hard for the average person to perceive why this is a problem. For years, the world has been pushing the narrative of “going paperless” to save the planet. Physical paper and other such tangible products are clearly a use of physical resources. Using less paper means fewer trees are cut down. Simple.

But what about the internet? It’s just data. Intangible tech wizardry that we can’t see, smell or touch. The answer is energy, and lots of it.

Let’s get straight to the point. Websites are not standalone digital bubbles where the polluting state of the real world doesn’t apply. Each website has a carbon footprint, driven by the resources needed to keep those bits of data active and accessible to the world.

Putting a website’s carbon footprint into perspective

Let’s take a look at some carbon emission statistics.

A simple, no-frills web page will emit around 20 milligrams of carbon dioxide per second when viewed on a desktop computer. For a page filled with detailed images, eye-catching animations and informative marketing videos (as many are with the current trends in digital marketing), this figure can easily rise to 0.3 grams per second.

For comparison, a small petrol car produces around 1.34 grams of CO2 per second. This means that the petrol-guzzling car you feel guilty driving around is only around 4.5 times more polluting than the webpage you’re reading this on. When it’s put into perspective like that, it’s crazy that we’re not freaking out about the environmental impact of the internet more.

How can we make our websites more sustainable?

Hosting companies need to do their part, of course. Huge data servers don’t come cheap, and they eat up enormous amounts of energy. Fortunately, our increasingly eco-conscious world has encouraged these businesses to adopt greener practices.

This might include switching to renewable energy sources or utilising a content delivery network (CDN) to load a website based on a user’s geographical location. Web designers can do their part here by always choosing a website host that adopts these more ethical practices. However, as we’ve seen, the actual designs of our websites also have a big impact.

With this in mind, let’s look at some ways of making your website more sustainable, helping to save the planet one mouse-click at a time.

Have sustainability ingrained in your business

Building sustainable practices into the very core of your business is a fantastic start, and helps to ensure that you don’t stray too far in the other direction when new, exciting projects and opportunities arise.

Not only does this direct the development of your business, it will also help you to appeal to customers based on their like-minded ethics.

Optimise images and videos

Our websites still need to pack that digital marketing punch to attract and retain an audience. This is, of course, non-negotiable, but how this punch is achieved is very much up for discussion. The big-hitters in this arena are visual media such as images and videos.

The simple act of removing auto-play video functionality could have a sizable impact on your website’s carbon footprint, along with applying more careful consideration to image selection. Large, detailed images take a lot more resources to view. Wherever possible, try replacing them with smaller image files or vector graphics.

Carefully consider your font selection

Perhaps surprisingly, custom fonts can impact your website’s carbon footprint in a big way. Selecting a non-standard font means adding them to a viewer’s device before your carefully crafted web experience can take full effect. This additional data transfer inevitably means a bigger environmental impact.

Are you able to maintain your website’s branding and style using the standard range of font selections? If so, you’re well on the way to making a more sustainable website.

Create green templates for future projects

Saving you time and money as well as giving you that warm, fuzzy feeling when doing your bit for the planet, creating ‘boilerplate’ green webpage templates is a great way to ensure your site’s continued sustainability.

Rather than reinventing the wheel when a new project or opportunity comes into view, you can start from pre-optimised page designs. This means less energy and resources spent creating pages from scratch, and an assurance that the final design is in line with eco-friendly best practices.

Sustainability at DWH

At DWH, we’ve made it part of our mission to be at the forefront of developing more sustainable web experiences for our clients. As such, our servers are compliant with ISO 14001:2015 and ISO 50001:2011 certification, and we’re in the process of moving existing websites over to greener data centres.

We’re also working with our development partners to deliver a greener, more sustainable internet experience to minimise the amount of carbon emissions generated by the websites we build. We aim to offset these emissions through our partnership with Ecologi.

If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your business, contact DWH today and we’ll start you on the path to sustainable website practices.