Everyone knows single-use plastics are bad for the environment, but one often overlooks the carbon footprint of websites. Recent studies from The Guardian, Boston Consulting Group, and the University of Bristol prove creating and storing online content is highly polluting due to the huge resources associated with it.
The use of Netflix alone generated 300 tons of carbon dioxide worldwide in 2018.
How to Calculate Your Carbon Footprint
It’s almost impossible to establish how much energy the internet uses because users operate in different temperatures, on different devices, and in different locations. Moreover, website components are hosted on multiple platforms.
One main consideration when it comes to calculating your overall carbon footprint is website hosting. Hosting involves different aspects: the location of the data center in relation to the users, the type of energy that the center uses, etc.
Environmentally friendly providers take active measures to reduce their carbon footprint. Signing up for GreenGeeks web hosting means you’re paying a company that puts back three times the energy it uses into the grid.
Tools such as Google Analytics can measure if your website is efficient. They will draw attention to deficiencies such as slow loading speed, bulky images, and outdated file formats.
How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
A website launched a few years ago has probably published thousands of pages by now. Your content strategy might be outdated, or you uploaded multiple images to decide which one works best and left them all up. Your content might have become outdated and irrelevant.
All of these scenarios contribute to your website’s carbon footprint, but you can make many small changes that will reduce it significantly. We outline these below.
Review Content Creation and Planning
A website’s content strategy defines the process of planning, creating, and maintaining content. It also articulates your target group and why you want to reach it. The strategy should cover all types of content: text, images, videos, etc.
Is your content effective and relevant? If not, it’s not only wasting energy but also driving users away. A coherent and considered content strategy can help make sure your content is current and meets your target group’s needs easily and efficiently.
Audit Your Content Periodically
Audit your content now and then as part of maintaining your website. Analyze its condition systematically and use analytics to assess if it is still effective. If not, you can make the corresponding changes, including taking down old content.
Suppose you find that one of your pages is no longer serving its intended purpose or is otherwise ineffective and out of date. In that case, you can decide whether to improve it, delete it, or use a redirect to lead visitors to another page. A redirect is a good option if you’re not sure what to do, as it gives you time to decide.
Ineffective images are even more onerous than text that serves no purpose or serves the wrong purpose. To be effective, you must include keywords you want to rank for in the names of the images. Have you done this? Are you using quality images or stock photos? Have you compressed the images, or are they still weighing your site down and generating carbon through the roof?
If the answers to these questions are not satisfying or raise further questions, you can change that. One tool that can help is ImageOptim. It compresses images to minimize load during data transfer.
Consider Search Engine Optimization
More than two-thirds of all internet users start their online journey through search. SEO makes it possible for visitors to your site to find what they’re looking for as soon as possible. This does away with needless surfing and unnecessary carbon emissions.
Admittedly, not everyone feels strongly about the climate crisis, but you have an additional incentive here. Integrating SEO best practices in your website design and activity will improve accessibility, usability, and even your conversion rate if you’re selling a product or service.
Optimize Web Hosting and Server Efficiency
Choosing a web hosting provider that prioritizes sustainability is crucial in reducing your website’s carbon footprint. Providers that use renewable energy sources for their data centers can significantly lower the environmental impact of your online presence.
Additionally, consider the server’s location relative to your primary audience. Servers closer to your users will result in faster load times and reduced energy consumption because data travels a shorter distance. Implementing server-side optimizations, such as caching and efficient database queries, can further reduce the energy required to serve your website to visitors.
Leverage Modern Web Technologies and Practices
Modern web development technologies and practices can play a significant role in minimizing a website’s environmental impact. Utilizing responsive design ensures that your website is efficient across different devices, avoiding unnecessary data transmission and processing.
Structuring content with meaningful headings, title tags, and lists using the right HTML markup will ensure your website is indexed by Google more efficiently and is navigable when using a screen reader. In the best-case situation, users will be directed to the content they’re searching for without meaningless browsing. In the worst case, they’ll leave your site.
Finally, a study from Nielsen Norman Group found page speed and conversion rate stand in direct proportion. Compressing images and using lighter file formats will load your site faster.