Insights

12th May 2021

Is your website bad for the planet?

When we think of the digital world and websites, we think of something that is non-tangible, it’s invisible and certainly not something that could have a detrimental impact on the planet. When we consume our news and do research online, we assume this translates to using less paper, which would surely be a good thing? However, the reality is that websites and data need enormous amounts of energy, which in turn means there are environmental consequences to our online activity.

At Varn we do try and do our best to reduce our environmental impact with recycling bins, using renewable energy where possible, and we invest in woodland in order to be carbon neutral. However, we are now starting to think more deeply about the carbon footprint of our digital activity.

When we send our daily emails, type in a Google search multiple times a day and when we stream our favourite office music the electricity we are all using soon adds up. Add in the fact that over half the world’s population are online and doing the same, it amounts to a huge demand for electricity across the globe. Ultimately this means rising CO2 emissions so we do need to be aware and think carefully about our digital carbon footprint. “Our growing appetite for digital services means the datacentres that power them are now responsible for about 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a similar share to aviation.” Source: The Guardian How viral cat videos are warming the planet | Greenhouse gas emissions | The Guardian

Some information that really stood out for us, put the internet in the context of a country’s impact on climate, which helped to put into perspective the collective impact of the internet on the environment:

“If the Internet was a country, it would be the 7th largest polluter in the world and is expected to grow considerably by 2030. If we embrace sustainability in our work, we can create a web that is good for people and planet.” Source: Sustainable Web Manifesto

And just look at the impact of our everyday emailing:

“With over 64 million unnecessary emails sent by Brits every single day OVO Energy called upon the UK to ‘Think Before You Thank’, having identified that each UK adult sending just 1 less email a day would reduce our carbon output by over 16,433 tonnes a year – the equivalent of 81,152 flights to Madrid or taking 3,334 diesel cars off the road”. Source: OVO Energy

So how can the web design and Search Marketing industry look to be more environmentally aware and friendly?.

1. Use environmentally friendly web hosting

As a step one, we can all use more environmentally friendly website hosting and energy supply for our businesses. Check out The Green Web Foundation which shares a database of ‘green’ hosting providers, that all claim to use green energy.

According to Kinsta switching to a green web host is the single easiest way to reduce website emissions.

“Unlike reducing data transfer, switching to a green host does not require any changes to the website itself and can be done quickly and easily, enabling us to make significant reductions to our website emissions with minimal hassle.”

Greening the Web: How We Can Create Zero Carbon Websites (kinsta.com)

2. Send less emails

Often our emails have the footer saying ‘think before you print’ but should it say ‘think before you reply’? Have a read of this from OVO Energy: Think Before You Thank’ | OVO Energy.

Maybe we should pause and think about the need to be so polite in our email exchange if every email we send has such an impact?

3. Optimise SEO & create better content

If we make sure people find out what they want to find out from a search, as quickly as possible, then we use less energy and the searcher is happier too. They are not spending hours trawling the web and are reducing the potential carbon impact they would have had if we didn’t answer their query with successful SEO in place.

Doing smart search marketing, making sure your keywords are the right ones, providing content that answers your customer’s likely questions, means your website is optimised for SEO but also reduces your website’s carbon footprint. When it comes to search marketing, good SEO means your website will be kinder to the planet, something we all need to be thinking about and actioning in our everyday SEO lives.

4. Build your website in a more environmentally aware way

This is a great list from the team at Kinsta hosting advising on things you can clearly do to make sure your website is as green as it can be:

  • Write code cleanly and efficiently
  • Use vector graphics and CSS effects to create a visually engaging experience with much smaller files than traditional images such as JPEGs and GIFs
  • Offload large media to third-party providers who are green-friendly
  • Compress files, images, and videos to reduce file sizes without visible loss of quality
  • Minimize custom fonts
  • Reduce tracking and advertising script, which consume data while rarely adding any value to the user
  • Utilize mobile solutions such as AMP to instantly strip down the current version of a web page
  • Use a good caching solution.

As Kinsta says:

“Throughout the entire lifecycle of a website, probably the best rule is, “if in doubt, leave it out.”

If you are keen to find out more about your digital carbon footprint, you may be interested in these articles and websites we have discovered recently:

  • And finally, in a public declaration of digital sustainability, you can sign (along with over 1,400 others so far), the Sustainable Web Manifesto.

If you would like to chat to any of the team at Varn about these issues and what we have learnt about making sure our digital activity is as green as possible, then do get in touch.

Article by: Vicky, Marketing Strategist More articles by Vicky

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