Leading Forward with Sustainable Practices in Website Designs

In our day and age, we are constantly dependent on the technology around us. One of the most important tools of technology is the internet. We are able to access information on a variety of topics, interact with individuals globally, and even curate our own sites. With the creation of websites, people are able to run their businesses, showcase their portfolios, and have their own online forums. While this opportunity has proven to be beneficial, it does come at a cost. Most businesses, companies, and people will create the best website that fits their needs but is ignorant about the impact it has in order to run the website.

Did you know that the continuous use of the internet, leaves behind giant carbon footprints? A carbon footprint is an amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the air, contingent on our own energy needs (Selin, 2023). It is so easy for us to desensitize ourselves from this fact and how the release of carbon dioxide negatively impacts our environment. Here are some examples of how the emission of carbon footprints affects us:

  • The main cause of human-induced climate change
  • Contributes to urban air pollution
  • Carbon emissions lead to toxic acid rain
  • Adds to coastal and ocean acidification 
  • Can raise the average surface temperature of the planet to intolerable levels 
Here is a detailed video on the carbon footprint of the Internet.

Statistically, there are about 30 billion internet users and connected devices in the world (Kettle, 2021). And by the year 2025, the Information Technology industry could potentially use 20% of all electricity produced. In addition, they could release up to 5.5% of the world’s carbon emissions (Selin, 2023). If we think about it, 2025 is only two years away, and we are already on a path of producing an immense amount of carbon emissions. This is concerning and something that we need to prevent immediately. Kettle (2023) speaks about some sustainable ways to limit our carbon emissions on the internet. One of which is designing less energy-intensive websites, with a minimalistic approach. This can help reduce the energy required to load images, videos, and other tools on a website. Surprisingly enough, Google’s homepage generates about 0.2g carbon dioxide per visit, leaving less carbon footprint compared to other sites such as YouTube and Zoom. Another potential way is the use of solar energy to power websites. An example of this is the website, Solar Protocol. Although the design is simple, their website runs more efficiently and is dependent on the availability of sunlight, in real-time. This could be beneficial for a lot of businesses because it reduces energy costs while also enhancing their reputation (Kettle, 2023). 

Designing a Sustainable Website

When it comes to designing a website, we have to be conscientious about how much energy we are using. We do this first by utilizing the tool, Website Carbon Calculator, which calculates how much carbon dioxide is emitted on a website. As an example, I decided to test out my website and was astonished by the results. Let me just say that according to the Website Carbon Calculator (WCC), my web page is dirtier than 71% of web pages tested. This is surprising because this website is fairly new, and I originally, did not believe it would consume too much energy. However, with every visit my site gets, 0.86g of carbon dioxide is produced. Additionally, WCC estimated that within a year, if my site gets 10,000+ monthly views, it will generate 103.51kg of carbon dioxide. This is the same weight as 0.69 sumo wrestlers and as much CO2 as boiling water for 14,026 cups of tea. Not only that, this site takes up 234kWh of energy, which is enough electricity to drive an electric car for 1,499km.

Not going to lie, I feel pretty ashamed of this result…

The good news is, it is not too late for both me and you. There are practical things that we can do to have a sustainable internet presence. For one, we can move our websites to green hosting providers. Green web hosting minimizes any negative impact on our environment and is a sustainable way to host a website. It is a great first step to take when it comes to designing an environmentally-friendly website. If you are uncertain about what provider to choose from, here is a website with a list of 500 hosting providers, that are committed to using green energy in their data centers: The Green Web Foundation’s Directory.

Secondly, we can make websites more energy efficient in a variety of ways. This can include reducing the number of videos, and images, carefully choosing fonts with minimal file weight, and creating an accessible user experience. We have to put in the effort and carefully design our website while being mindful of the amount of energy we are using. As much as I love using GIFs, images, videos, and fancy fonts, having a minimalistic approach is more important than wasting energy.  

Take a Stand and Make a Change

We have to take the time to learn more about the importance of reducing our carbon footprints on our websites. Therefore, we cannot be ignorant of the impacts it has on our planet. For me, it started with checking my website with the WCC tool. Which has convicted me into designing a more sustainable website. There are many benefits to reducing the carbon emissions of our websites and practicing online sustainability:

  • It is cheaper to run websites when they are carbon friendly
  • It improves the load time and performance of a website
  • It provides a better content experience for users.   

Let us take the time to educate ourselves on this issue and change the statistics. Even though we may not see the direct impact of carbon emissions, it still impacts our lives and the environment. We have the ability to create a more sustainable future and pave the way for future generations. Let us be conscientious, not ignorant, and take steps to change the world. 

If you would like to learn more on how to limit your carbon footprint, here are some useful links:

https://thundersaidenergy.com/2023/04/20/what-is-the-energy-consumption-of-the-internet/#:~:text=Powering%20the%20internet%20consumed%20800,2.5%25%20to%20global%20electricity%20demand.

https://www.conservation.org/stories/what-is-a-carbon-footprint#:~:text=As%20we%20burn%20fossil%20fuels,host%20of%20life%2Dthreatening%20impacts.

https://www.britannica.com/science/carbon-footprint


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