Understanding your website’s carbon footprint

Websites need certain processes to operate effectively, and these processes have an environmental impact whether we like it or not.

This means if your website is getting a lot of visitors – which you probably hope it is! – then the carbon footprint you are creating is something you should be aware of.

Globally, digital technologies are behind approximately 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, while the rate of energy consumption created by digital technology is at 9% according to the Shift Project. But how are these emissions created?

Much of the carbon footprint a website creates is through the data centres it uses. These data centres create massive amounts of emissions, not only in terms of the electricity needed to run the computers that comprise the data centre itself, but also the solutions in place that are designed to keep these computers cool.

Additionally, digital technology is reliant on electricity in a number of ways. From the devices being used to view and engage with websites, all the way through to the electricity needed to power the data centre, there is energy consumption taking place. This all ultimately contributes to your website’s carbon footprint.

Understanding your website’s carbon footprint

How to gauge your website’s carbon footprint

How to gauge your website’s carbon footprint

One easy way to find out how your website measures up when it comes to its carbon footprint is by using a website carbon calculator.

An example is Ecograder. This website allows you to simply enter your website’s URL and Ecograder will provide an in-depth report on your website, giving it an overall score out of 100. You can get a figure for the amount of emissions per page load, as well as scores for your page weight, UX design and green hosting. Your site will also receive a digital carbon rating from Ecograder.

Another website offering a similar carbon footprint review service is Website Carbon. Again, it’s simply a case of entering your website’s URL and taking a look through the information that Website Carbon provides. This includes the amount of CO2 produced per web page visit and whether your website is running on sustainable energy. This website also offers some interesting comparisons, such as how far you would be able to drive an electric car using the energy spent on your website per year.

How to reduce your website’s carbon footprint

Now you have an idea of how your site ranks on the sustainability scale, it’s time to take a look at some of the best ways to reduce your website’s carbon footprint.

A good place to start is the hosting provider you are working with. Are they running on green energy? If not, then considering switching to one that is will help support your sustainability efforts (we at Un.titled use Pantheon). Additionally, look to use renewable energy sources for any server infrastructure, as this can bring down your carbon footprint significantly.

Look at your images and aim to optimise any that have a large file size. This will not only reduce your carbon footprint but will also help speed up your webpage load time.

Reducing your website’s HTTP requests is also beneficial. HTTP requests are one of the technical processes that play out every time a person visits your site. They see the web browser make a request to the web server for a file that contains content like the text, images and multimedia that is associated with the specific webpage.

Once the browser receives the file, it renders it on the user’s device. The important detail when it comes to sustainability here is the number of files beingrequested and the size of these files. The lower the number and the smaller the file size, the lower your website’s carbon footprint will be.

The efficiency of the code that underpins your website can also help reduce your carbon footprint. The more efficient the code being used, the less processing power it requires.

Reviewing specific webpages across your site can also help you understand where changes need to be made. Ecograder and Web Carbon can both be used here. You can simply enter the specific URLs you want to review into their respective systems and make changes accordingly.

Additional factors to consider include using browser caching efficiently to reduce repeated resource downloads, using content delivery networks to optimise content delivery, and reducing the amount of dynamic content your website features.

A culture of sustainability

We hope these points will be suitably considered when it comes to addressing your website’s carbon footprint. Of course, these efforts should be part of a wider culture of sustainability that stretches across your business.

There’s little point in having a sustainable website if the rest of your operations are not working in  sustainable way. Therefore look to address other aspects of your business – from fulfilment to delivery to the packaging you use – and aim to create a sustainability-focused operation across the board.

A sustainable ethos throughout

Sustainability is something we at Un.titled prioritise across our work, and we are pleased to have delivered websites for clients that have high sustainability scores. These includes the likes of Alconbury Weald, who have an Ecograder score of 98/100, and Contemporary Art Society, who boast an Ecograder score of 89/100.

An Ecograder score above 85 is what we feel organisations should be aiming for, so take the time to review your own website’s performance in the sustainability stakes and take the time to address any areas that need improvement.

Our team at Un.titled are well versed in addressing such challenges.