How to Reduce Your Website’s Carbon Footprint: Twitter Chat
Table of Contents
If the internet was a country, it would be the 4th largest source of carbon emissions. On average, a website produces 1.76g of CO2 per visit from the processing power needed to load and deliver the page. That’s why as a website hosting provider we have a responsibility to optimize our services and the performance of our clients’ sites to minimize these negative effects as much as possible.
To dive deeper into the topic of website sustainability, we organized a #WebSustainabilityChat on Twitter along with several experts in different fields of website development – Nora Ferreirós (@noraferreiros), Responsible UX/UI Designer, Ari Stathopoulos (@aristath), Web Developer, Accessibility & Sustainability Evangelist, and Marketa Benisek (@MarketaBenisek), Digital Sustainability Lead at WholeGrain Digital. Here’s a summary of their discussion with some useful tips and tools to help you measure and reduce your website carbon footprint.
How do websites contribute to carbon emissions
In short, the faster your website, the less server resources it uses. Likewise, the simpler the website, the less data it uses. Website speed optimization and keeping things simple are good both for the environment and for saving energy.
“Every bit of information you put on a website will need energy. The more information you put on your website, the more energy you need, and the more carbon emissions you will contribute to,” points out Nora Ferreirós, Responsible UX/UI Designer.
How to measure your website’s carbon footprint
Our experts agree that there’s no need to use many tools to measure your website’s carbon footprint, but rather find one tool that gets the job done. You simply run a test, make improvements on your site and see if that has an impact: “It doesn’t matter which tool you use, just use one consistently and make comparisons to see if your changes make sense,” says Ari Stathopoulos, Web Developer, Accessibility & Sustainability Evangelist. Here are a few examples that you can use:
Our website carbon calculator measures the environmental impact of your website and sends you tips for improvement straight to your email inbox. You’ll get actionable tips on how to both optimize your website performance and reduce your website carbon footprint – it’s a win-win for your online presence and the environment!
The Website Carbon Calculator “gives context about the energy you consume with your website by comparing it with non-digital stuff – your website consumes X kg of CO2, and it’s the size of a car, for example”, explains Nora Ferreirós.
“Ecograder is more about metrics and all the settings you should improve in order to reduce your website’s carbon emissions,” says Nora Ferreirós.
Keep in mind that apart from using such tools, it’s even more important to have context about sustainability, Nora Ferreirós, points out because “sustainability is a way of doing things and understanding how they work – it’s not just about metrics”. The decisions you make about your website are just as important as the technology and tools you use, she adds.
5 tips to reduce your website’s carbon footprint
Once you’ve measured the carbon impact of your website or particular webpage, it’s time to work out a way to reduce their carbon emissions. Here are some top tips and immediate actions you can undertake to improve your website sustainability:
Improve your website’s performance
Let’s first look at the bigger picture in terms of website performance. According to Ari Stathopoulos, the best way to optimize your site is to get rid of all the things that are not related to what you actually want to do.
To explore this point, he gives an example with a website that sells T-shirts, for instance. In his opinion, most website owners would want their site to have everything – 10 images on the product page, a video presentation, plus a slider at the top with related products, and all that other stuff that are not really necessary in order to sell the actual T-shirt.
Marketa Benisek, Digital Sustainability Lead at WholeGrain Digital, elaborates further and explains that it all comes down to the elements that are causing the individual webpages and the website to be larger than necessary. In her opinion, these are usually “either very large stock images, or videos that are data heavy”. Here’s some advice on the images and videos:
- Reduce the size of your images
As Marketa Benisek points out: “For example, if you have thumbnail images on the website’s team page, even though those images appear small on the site, they can sometimes be uploaded as full-size, like 1MB or 2MB. By reducing the size of those images, you also significantly improve the speed of that page.”
- Rethink how you use videos on your site
If you have any videos, you might need to rethink the way you use them. First of all, “think whether the video really serves the purpose or whether it can be replaced, perhaps, with an svg animation, instead of a full-on video, and also avoid autoplay videos,” Marketa Benisek continues. Ari Stathopoulos adds another smart alternative as well – if you want to show a presentation of a product, you don’t need to embed a video, you could just link to the video on YouTube.
Optimize your website’s data transfer
To optimize your website’s data transfer, your starting point should be the notion that everything you put on your website is data – “every single pixel is a piece of data that people will have to download from the website,” Marketa Benisek points out.
You need to start with one step at a time. As Nora Ferreirós advises, it’s important to begin with having less things on your website (just the ones you need) and then build them up, if needed. The reason is that it would be more difficult to optimize a website later on, once it’s already big and has a lot of things: “If you want to optimize your data transfer, just transfer less data,” Nora Ferreirós says.
In case you already have lots of things on your website, you need to reduce them, as this can significantly reduce the overall size of the website, therefore the data transferred, and eventually the carbon footprint.
Bottom line is to keep everything on your website simple, minimal and clear for your users to easily find what they’re looking for. To achieve this, you need to “think about what would be most useful to your users and have an understanding of who your users are,” Marketa Benisek concludes.
Apply UX/UI optimizations
Not only should you have an understanding of who your users are, but also an understanding of how they are interacting with your website. For this purpose, you need to design the user journey on your website.
If you’re clear on who your audience is, then design your website accordingly, “simplify the entire user experience and make sure people find it easy to navigate when they visit your website”, Marketa Benisek advises. Nora Ferreirós shares an insight on how to achieve that: “A great exercise to keep things simple is to think about you as a user. When you’re a user, you don’t want things to be complicated, you want to understand what people are selling to you, so think as you navigate a website and apply this to your own.”
Once you’ve identified the user journey, the best way to achieve the objectives you have for your users, is to focus on one thing that you want to say. In Marketa Benisek’s opinion, simplicity on websites signifies a lot of confidence. For instance, Apple is one of the best examples to take as an inspiration. They have very little information on their pages, but they’re straight to the point. They only feature the information that people are looking for.
When your objectives and messages are clear, think about the website as a whole project, not about specific features (sliders, or videos, etc.) – only then you’ll be able to optimize your website and your UX/UI, Nora Ferreirós advises. Every part of your website should then work together for that main objective, she adds.
Adapt SEO practices
SEO also plays a huge role in website sustainability. For this purpose, Ari Stathopoulos advises you to think about the user journey again. He explains that most people go in a search engine, search for something, land on a website, and if it’s the wrong website, they try again with the next one and so on. Therefore, you need to be concise with your message – the clearer the text is, the more related users you’ll get, in his opinion. He warns that, on the contrary, “if you do keyword stuffing, all sorts of people will land on your website and none of them will stay, because your website will not be what they are looking for”.
SEO is indeed important, but we also need to keep it human, Nora Ferreirós warns. We sometimes begin to work for machines, while we’re supposed to work for people – get your website ready for helping humans and for giving them services and products they need, she points out.
Choose a sustainable hosting partner
The last but not least part of the puzzle is your web hosting provider. Ari Stathopoulos points out that there’s a lot of blame on hosting providers, regarding greenhouse emissions, but in conclusion he agrees that more web hosting companies are turning green, and that’s a strong and important tendency.
Here are a few questions to ask when choosing your web hosting provider, in order to make sure they are providing green and sustainable services:
- Do they use renewable energy for their data centers?
- Do they improve server software to minimize resource consumption?
- Do they optimize websites for higher performance and less data transfer?
- Do they have a sustainability-oriented company culture?
At SiteGround, for example, our efforts are dedicated to creating a green web hosting environment that helps both our business and our clients’ websites be sustainable.
- Our data center network is powered by the premium Google Cloud platform that matches all electricity consumed by the servers with energy from renewable sources;
- Our custom PHP setup lowers the server memory usage and gives more space for the server to handle more website traffic faster;
- Our SiteGround CDN, SuperCacher, and other in-house built solutions maximize websites’ performance and increase their efficiency;
- Our company operates in green offices and regularly initiates and supports green social causes.
Read all about our latest website performance and green hosting optimizations and policies in our 2023 Sustainability Report.
The top advice our experts recommend to all website owners is to keep things as simple as possible. That will not only help your users navigate easily through your website, but also significantly reduce your website’s carbon footprint.