Sustainable Web Design and Climate Change

Website Design | |

We are all aware of the current climate crisis, and the changes that we can make to help the planet. But did you know that website design can have an impact on climate change?

Whilst cutting down on printing and paper has made a positive impact on the environment, going digital isn’t all good.

Creating, storing and consuming digital content is resource intensive, and the carbon footprint on the internet is often overlooked.

Don’t believe us? In 2018, Netflix usage accounted for over 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide globally. This is the same amount that the whole of Spain emits in one year.¹

Internet Usage & Climate Change

Internet usage has risen dramatically over the last two years (thanks, COVID), but the majority of people are not aware that internet activities have an environmental cost.

Large amounts of energy are required to store digital content, and all have a carbon footprint. Including:

  • Transferring content from servers
  • Using wifi in homes and offices
  • Computer and screen use

Although individually, these activities produce small amounts of carbon, the number of people using the internet is huge – 54% of the global population – meaning all of that carbon adds up.

How to Reduce Your Website’s Carbon Footprint

Website Hosting

We’ve talked about why the location of your website hosting is important, but this also has an impact on your website’s carbon footprint. The further away your server is located, the longer it takes for the data to travel in order for your website to be loaded – which takes a large amount of energy.

Remove Unused Images and Content

You should be regularly checking the content of your website, and this is also a great opportunity to delete any pages or images that no longer serve a purpose. For example, you may have uploaded multiple similar images to see which one works best. The images that you do not need should be deleted to reduce storage consumption

Caching

If your website uses a CMS, each page has to be generated dynamically every time a user visits the page. This requires server processing for every page view – which increases the energy consumption of the web server. You can use caching technologies to pre-generate static versions of each page, which will reduce the server energy consumption.

Font Files

Minimize the use of custom fonts. Fonts can add significant file weight to websites. Therefore, it is recommended that you use system fonts – as they are already loaded on a users device – compared to custom fonts which are not.

However, if you have the itch to use custom fonts, try to minimise the amount of font variations that you use – such as using less font weights for each typeface.

Use Clean Code & Minify Code

When developing your website, try to streamline the code as much as possible. Not only will this mean that less code needs to be stored – but it also makes it easier when you come back and edit it in the future. You can also minify code to reduce file sizes by removing unused code.

Optimise Images

Images are one of the largest contributors to the amount of data transferred on most websites. You should always upload images at the correct size instead of relying on CSS to resize them.

Video Autoplay

Don’t set videos to autoplay – instead let users choose to watch those of interest to them. This means that the videos won’t need to be uploaded in the background, thus saving energy (and it might also make your website quicker – bonus!).

Making these changes not only helps the environment. By doing the above, you are also making your website more user friendly, more accessible, and ultimately more likely to appear higher up in the SERPs as it is more SEO friendly and likely to be ranked highly by Google.

¹ The Shift Project

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Rebecca

Rebecca is Ballyhoo's Marketing & Support Officer, helping to keep the team organised and supporting all of our clients with day to day activities. She also runs all of Ballyhoo's internal marketing.