Website Sustainability – What’s It All About?

What is website sustainability?

Alright, so here’s the thing. You’ve probably stumbled across the phrase “website sustainability” recently, unless of course you’ve been hiding under a rock (and let’s face it, with the state of 2020, who could blame you?)

When I quizzed my family about what they thought it meant, they mumbled something about the website’s survival into the future. Clearly, I need to broadcast this message a tad louder.

So, what’s this all about? Let’s start with the basics. We all know that we’re leaving an absolute mess of a carbon footprint behind on this beautiful planet of ours. And believe it or not, websites are one of the biggest culprits. How, you ask? Well, it’s all down to those mega powerful servers that store and run websites globally. These bad boys take a tonne of electricity to stay functional and – here’s the kicker – they also need to be cooled down so they don’t have a meltdown. That cooling system? Yep, you guessed it, more electricity. It’s a vicious cycle. Fun fact for you, data centres currently account for 2% of the world’s carbon emissions. That’s the same as the aviation industry!

So, what exactly is website sustainability?

Think about it this way, when you want to save electricity at home, what do you do? You switch off lights in rooms that aren’t being used, you don’t boil the kettle for a single cuppa, and you turn off the TV when you’re not glued to Netflix. But your website? Well, you can’t exactly switch it off when it’s not being used.

What is website sustainability?
So, what’s the solution?

Well, one of the easiest ways to combat this is to switch to a green hosting provider like GreenGeeks. They use renewable energy to power their data centres. Dreamhost is another one. But, don’t stop there! There’s a heap of things you can do to make your website more sustainable.

For example, optimise your images to reduce file size – JPGs are better than PNGs, and AVIF or WEBP are even smaller. Be strategic with videos – do you really need that cat video on your homepage? And if you do, don’t have it autoplay as soon as someone lands on your site. Use lazy load for images and media – this means the images and media only load when they’re visible on the page. This also helps with page speed, because if the user doesn’t scroll to the bottom of the page, not all the images need to load.

Then there’s colour choices – did you know that black and red are the most energy efficient colours, while blue and white use the most? Dark mode is your friend. If you don’t want a dark website at least give your visitors a dark mode option.

And don’t forget about web caching – this involves downloading shared page elements, like images, CSS, and JavaScript, and storing them closer to the user. This massively improves the performance of your site and reduces the transfer of data.

Do a regular “spring clean” of your site and get rid of anything you don’t need – unused plugins and themes, unused images/videos, old post revisions, spam comments, etc. The leaner your website is, the less energy it uses.

Make sure your site navigation is clear and easy to use – if your users are confused, they’ll spend more time clicking around your site trying to find the information they need. According to Website Carbon, the average webpage produces about 0.5 grams CO2 per page view. That’s the same as boiling enough water for 8110 cups of tea!

What is website sustainability?
So, what’s the bottom line?

If you want to make your website more sustainable, you’ve got a few options. If you want to see how green your site is, check out Website Carbon and see how clean (or dirty) your site is.

And if you’re interested in having a more sustainable website, I know a nerdy website witch who can help! wink