By implementing five simple steps, such as optimizing the website's energy efficiency, choosing a CDN and green web hosting provider, offsetting carbon emissions, and constantly monitoring its digital carbon footprint, each company can achieve carbon neutral website, and this way empower its brand and show its customers their strives to make a world a better place.
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You have probably heard this statement "If it's not on the Web, it doesn't exist at all''. Of course, this assumption is untrue from a logical point of view. But from the global awareness of the market, it makes sense. Today having a well-functioning and attractive website is a must-have for every company that aims to join both international and local markets and simply be visible to customers. Websites serve for people to inform about the business offerings, products, and services, create a company image as an authority in the field, and serve for communication with our customers. But this digital presence has a pretty high price that we pay regarding the environmental impact measured in CO2 and the sum of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere.
The internet is not as innocent as we believe. Digitality is not an immaterial, invisible substance floating above our heads but has its concrete measure calculated in bits and energy used for existence. It sounds like an exaggeration. Still, modern society's guilty pleasure is no longer only watching hours of streamlined TV series, day by day, but simply using the web daily for work, entertainment, education, and running our businesses.
So how and where does this beautiful idea of connecting people and sharing knowledge worldwide hide its darker face? It is all about energy consumption. The IT industry doesn't exist without it. It needs energy, so the amount of electrical power, to produce devices, run data centers and servers, and finally, transfer data and encode them in digital products, websites, apps, software, etc. All of them need electricity just to be and work as they should. And it is a massive amount of electrical power.
Research shows that the IT industry's climate impact can be compared to one created by the aviation industry, which is responsible for about 2-4% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We can be sure it will increase rapidly when more people become users, and we will generate more data. Without a doubt, those fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions will shortly be forced by regulations to adjust their performance to the restricted amount of energy consumption to save our planet.
We have already explained in the article how each website may produce CO2, but it is time to take the next step and explain what we can do about that. Because luckily, we can lower carbon emissions of your websites, minimize the negative impact on our environment and even achieve a carbon-neutral website.
What is a carbon neutral website?
How to become carbon neutral with your website? Of course, these are not sites that do not generate any carbon footprint at all. As long as we use traditional energy in their creation, hosting, and receiving by network users, it is impossible to eliminate CO2 emissions entirely. That's why we also call them low carbon websites.
What we can do, however, is a conscious approach to both the amount of energy consumption they require to perform and our work to reduce it, as well as neutralizing generated emissions by offsetting and supporting projects whose task is to minimize climate change, and thus protect us from environmental disaster.
Check our guide with 5 steps on how you can make zero carbon website and achieve carbon neutrality with your business:
1. Optimize your website's energy consumption.
For many, the carbon footprint accompanying us in our everyday activities and all products that perform a function in our lives is still an unconscious process. Most of us have heard how bananas and avocados traveling thousands of kilometers are environmentally destructive and generate a huge carbon footprint. On the other hand, our knowledge of the digital carbon footprint is either negligible or not at all. After all, most people have been taught, read and believe that technology will save us, and moving our lives, products, and processes to the virtual world is more ecological.
Unfortunately, the plain truth is websites have a significant impact on CO2 emissions. After all, they are not intangible entities - each bit of them must be supported by the right amount of energy from electricity, which is still driven in the modern world mainly by fossil fuels.
According to research, the average website with 10,000 monthly page views produces 0,5 grams of CO2 per page view. That means that its annual CO2 emissions will result in 60 kg of CO2 emitted. It is equivalent to the amount of carbon one tree absorbs yearly. But to be more precise, we must add that many websites are heavier, and people sometimes view several pages during single sessions. That means the negative impact can be even doubled or tripled per year for a website. It isn't an exact science, as the factors are changing rapidly and rely on many different circumstances such as the localization of the data center or the energy efficiency of the end user's devices. Still, we can't deny its consequences.
Fortunately, designers, developers, and website owners can do a lot to reduce emissions. When creating a website, we should not take the attitude that we are going on an all-inclusive holiday, where we have everything at our fingertips, but rather on a backpacker trip, before which we thoughtfully prepare ourselves. Visualizing this analogy in sustainable web design and development, we should focus on critical elements and optimization that help us create truly green websites that serve people, businesses, and the planet.
Does this backpacker approach mean our website will look austere, representing this trip's "Spartan conditions"? Luckily not. Low-carbon websites turn out to be even more user-friendly, with perfectly optimized and improved SEO and user experience, than in those cases where we provide content and set up web performance without deeper reflection on what truly brings value to its users and our business.
So what can we do to optimize and improve website performance and make it eco-friendly? Check some of those ways to reduce the weight of your website and achieve its energy efficiency:
- establish a web page budget at the beginning that will guide you and keep you strict regarding your sustainability restrictions and setting targets for your own carbon reduction.
- choose more efficient image formats, i.e., SVG, WEBP, or AVIF, whenever possible, replacing GIF, JPG, or PNG.
- avoid and minimize custom web fonts, choosing those more widely available, from open source sources, and even the most ecological system fonts.
- choose fonts in the modern WOFF and WOFF2 format, representing the most compressible approach.
- prevent auto-play video. When you use videos, host them on platforms with sustainability and renewable energy policies like YouTube.
- keep the code clean and simple.
- reduce to minimum web analytics, gather the amount of data and advertising scripts from users, or resign it. Often you don't need to know everything about the user who visits your website and creates an energy-intensive analysis of huge amounts of user data. Basic knowledge will be enough to match your content to your users' needs. By limiting their tracking and reducing the amount of data, you show respect for users' privacy and minimize the page weight. Check how we are doing it with our privacy-first web analytic tool Statsy.
- question every part you include to your website and carefully review website content - is this image or video necessary and valuable for your users, or can you remove it?
- work on improving the SEO of your website - the approach that website is addressed to everyone and you want to maximize its traffic doesn't make your business successful. SEO can help you create the traffic that matters and reach people searching for what you can offer them.
For more hints, check our other article, "How to design a sustainable website?".
2. Switching your website hosting provider for one powered by renewable energy.
Creating a sustainable website is not only about optimizing its content and files. A crucial aspect is also how the website is hosted. As a website owner, you know your website needs hosting. But the proper choice of provider can support your efforts to reduce the carbon it emits. While many hosting companies still use standard grid electricity to power their servers, and their recipients are unaware of this fact, fortunately, we can observe a growing number of hosting providers that actively purchase renewable energy for their data centres, offering alternatives to traditional solutions.
Choose those hosting providers using renewable energy to run their servers, coming, for example, from wind or solar power. Switching your website for eco-friendly hosting can significantly reduce your website's carbon footprint.
3. Use Content Delivery Network (CDN) and cut a digital carbon footprint
The efficient way to change your website for more climate-friendly is to use CDN instead of traditional hosting. CDN is a network of servers distributed around the world that respond to the demand of users in their nearest geographical location and cache and deliver digital content such as images, videos, and other files.
How can they lower website emissions? First, they reduce the distance that data travels between the user and the server because they choose the server located in the nearest point, less typically in the website's data center. In CDN, content is served from the server closer to the end users. Lower distance means less time for data transfer to reach users, less energy required to transfer them, and this way reduced carbon emissions.
Furthermore, CDNs have other website benefits, like improving their performance and speed. And those advantages also reduce the carbon footprint of your website because the fewer time users have to wait for your site to load, the less energy and carbon emissions are produced. Additionally CDNs, as mentioned above, can also use energy-efficient green servers that significantly reduce their carbon footprint. To check other benefits of CDN, read the article on Bejamas' website, which introduces everyone to our company's headless approach to creating websites.
4. Compensate for CO2 and purchase carbon offset credits.
Website carbon footprint is inevitable. Even if we would optimize and build our websites most sustainably, they will still need a particular amount of energy to perform both on through servers and end user's devices. Luckily, there are still other activities that can help to decrease their negative impact. Thanks to carbon offsetting, we can minimize the rest of the chosen part of emitted CO2 by purchasing carbon offset credits.
They are sold by verified and certified ecological organizations that work on projects that are good for the planet and promote positive environmental solutions like carbon sequestration by carbon storage (CCS), reforestation, waste management, or renewable energy. The number of carbon offset credits is set up according to the previously calculated amount of carbon dioxide a company generates. To learn more about carbon offsetting solutions and how to reduce your digital carbon footprint, read our article "Carbon Offset - Does It Really Work And Reduce CO2 Emissions?".
You can also automatize these processes with tools that help calculate and even offset generated CO2 emissions automatically, for example, through our tool Statsy.
5. Constantly measure data transfer and monitor how much carbon emissions your website produces.
Reaching carbon neutrality is never a finished process. The way we work, technology, and achievable solutions are constantly changing. That's why it's always a good idea to review the current environmental impact of your website, possible and applied sustainable solutions, and their results, and measure your actual impact. By doing it, you will never stop improving your product and its effect, representing the approach that there is always room to do something better. For example, you can constantly measure your website's carbon footprint using several web tools that sometimes provide hints on improving it. To learn more, check our article "How big is your digital footprint? Tools to help track your digital carbon emissions".
Make your website carbon neutral and empower your brand.
Businesses and individuals are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of the web, which we call a digital carbon footprint. The time when we tend to believe that digitality is more ecological than physical objects and "offline" activities have to be over. As we continue relying more on technology and the internet for our daily and business activities, we must acknowledge that it also impacts the environment.
The energy consumption from powering data centers, devices, and data transmission adds to our carbon footprint. By taking responsibility and following mentioned 5 steps to reduce our carbon footprint, such as using renewable energy sources, optimizing data usage, and constantly checking our impact, we can build a sustainable business strategy and image of a trustworthy brand that cares not only about the revenue but also about future of their clients and planet we all live on.
An eco-friendly website may seem insignificant, but it represents a step toward greener technology. Your eco-friendly approach can encourage your website visitors to stay in touch with your brand, giving them the message that you truly care about what you put into the world. And suppose those growing sources of greenhouse gas coming from websites are not convincing. In that case, we can still calculate that thanks to this approach, we will get faster, more user-friendly websites supporting our business effort to succeed. So, nothing to lose, right?
If you want to know how we work to reduce our emissions generated with Dodonut, how we create zero carbon websites, and how you can go green with your online presence, do not hesitate to drop us a line. We will be delighted to discuss how we can make your website more sustainable.