07 July 2021
Designing for Carbon Neutral Websites
The problem with the internet is that people generally have the perception that it is clean and environmentally friendly. This is a problem with most immaterial things as people usually don't consider them to contribute much to the carbon footprint. However, statistics show that the internet contributes 3.7% to the annual carbon footprint which is increasing annually. Let alone 3.7% doesn’t look like a lot but when compared to the aviation industry which contributes 2% towards the annual carbon footprint, one can just imagine the extent of the pollution that the internet produces. We’ve covered how the internet contributes to the carbon footprint and how websites have a part to play in that in a previous blog on (Insert Link to How Faster Webs can Lead to Sustainability of the Planet once uploaded). The blog basically mentioned how reducing the weight of a website can contribute to the sustainability of our planet. Now reducing the weight of your website is not a simple thing, it involves taking into consideration a lot of things. For that matter this blog will be focusing on how you can design a website that has little to no contribution towards the carbon footprint and what things you should consider when doing so.
Measuring Carbon Emissions:
It is very hard to fix something that you cannot see. However, the internet has a very real environmental impact even if we cannot see it, but luckily you can now measure your website’s CO2 emission with the help of this free online tool Website Carbon Calculator. Before you start designing for a carbon neutral website you need to know how much CO2 emissions your website currently produces, after which it is easier for designers and developers to estimate how much they need to reduce the weight of their website in order to reduce as much CO2 emissions their website produces. This tool provides you with data about how much CO2 emissions are produced per page view, the annual CO2 emissions (based on a specified amount of page views), the annual energy consumption and whether or not your website is hosted in a data center that is powered by renewable energy. Using this tool you can also create a benchmark for your website against competitors and set targets for reducing your website's CO2 emissions.
Reduce Data Transfer:
One sure way of reducing your website’s CO2 emissions is to reduce the amount of data needed to be transferred between servers. Reducing the weight of your website in KBs is not only sure to help you reduce your website’s CO2 emissions but it also has some additional benefits which include faster load times, which improves user experience as well as SEO, and it also reduces data usage for users with limited internet connections. This can be particularly important for developing countries where internet data is very expensive relative to local wages.
One more way of reducing the amount of data transfer is to adopt a minimalistic design for a website. Another way to do so is to not preload your multimedia content, that way the user has full autonomy to choose the thing they want to see, for example if you have an e-commerce website where your sell clothes, what you do is rather than preloading the images of the clothes you sell, you give the user the option to actively choose the picture your user wants to see. This will not only reduce the amount of data transfer but also give the user a more personalized and engaging experience.
Switching to Renewable Energy:
We understand that not all websites can have a minimalistic design. Saying that in order to ensure the sustainability of our planet we need to make the internet minimalistic would be a lost cause because not every website can have a minimalistic design. So for those websites that cannot reduce the weight of their website, who rely on heavy multimedia content like Netflix or Instagram, a secondary solution is available, switch to renewable energy. The root cause of the problem is how electricity is produced which is needed to power the internet. If you remove the root cause then you don't need to focus on designing a website that has a lighter weight or has a minimalistic design. One easy way of making this switch is through CO2 Neutral Website. This website allows you to pay a standard fee for the carbon emissions of your websites - including the traffic of your users. What this organization does is that if you cannot switch your website to renewable energy sources like solar or wind then what you can do is invest in renewable energy and neutralize your website’s carbon emissions.
In conclusion, it is important to note that all these above solutions do not guarantee that your website would become a 100% carbon neutral, chances are that even after adopting all these tips your website still ends up producing some carbon emission but still lower than it used to. Striving for a carbon neutral internet is not a one man’s game, it requires us all to be a part of it, even the user because it doesn’t matter weather you live in Australia and the website your using is in hosted in USA because at the end of the day we all live on the same planet, under the same roof so it affects us all irrespective of where the problem originates.