By carrying out our daily activities, each and every one of us is responsible for releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is known as a carbon footprint. When we collectively generate more carbon than the Earth can assimilate, the extra CO2 contributes to climate change.
Even the most harmless daily activities, such as Internet use, add to our carbon footprint. Although the data that circulates on the Web including your websites is essentially invisible, it is processed and stored in massive centres worldwide. These data centers operate 24 hours a day, every day, waiting to send information to our digital devices, be it videos, podcasts, music, news, memes or messages.
All of that data that we take for granted will be just a click away in our “always on” mindset and ends up contributing to our digital carbon footprint. It is not easy to measure our individual impact, but we can take steps to reduce it.
Do Websites Really Have a Carbon Impact?
When you browse the web, it’s easy to separate your actions from your impact on the environment. When you drive a car, the connection is clear: you can see it on your gas gauge going down and the gases coming out of your tailpipe. But with a website, all you’re doing is looking at a screen, you’re not impacting the environment, are you?
In addition, the data you transmit around the world also has an energy cost. Remember that viral Despacito video from 2018 that hit over five billion views? That video alone used as much energy as 40,000 US homes use in an entire year.
How to measure website footprint
Online activities produce about 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, double that of aviation. When we consider the environmental impact of online media, we mean the following factors:
- Data transmission by cables
- The energy consumed by data centers, telecommunication networks and devices;
- The source of this energy (a data center can use electricity from the grid or take advantage of renewable resources);
- Website traffic (the more hits a website gets and the more time people spend there, the more impact it will have).
How to check website’s carbon footprint
Do a quick search online, you’ll find several carbon footprint calculators. According to the Website Carbon Calculator, the average web page they test produces approximately 0.5 grams of CO2 per page view. That translates to 60 kg of CO2 per year for a website with 10,000 monthly visits.
How to Reduce the Digital Carbon
There are two main parts to reducing the digital carbon footprint of your WordPress website:
- Your hosting
- Your site’s optimization
Choose Sustainably Powered Hosting
Above, you learned that most Internet broadcasts come from the huge data centers that power the world’s websites. In other words, the energy your hosting service uses. You can search for one or check your current host in The Green Web Foundation’s directory. The website lists more than 500 hosting providers around the world that have a tangible commitment to using green energy.
Optimize Your Website’s Performance
By choosing green hosting, you can ensure that the energy your site consumes has a lower carbon footprint. You can use tools like WP Rocket, Imagify, and RocketCDN to not only make your site load much faster, but also reduce your digital footprint.
Reduce the size of your images and videos
On average, images make up around 50% of the average file size of a web page. If you can reduce the size of your images, you can make a big reduction in the amount of data your server needs to transmit, which will reduce your digital footprint (and speed up your load times).
Also, heavy images are to blame for slow page loading, which is a terrible experience for your visitors. Slow-loading pages are also bad for SEO
Regularly check for redundant content
Part of maintaining your website will involve regularly auditing the content. Systematically analyze the state of your content, using analytics to assess the effectiveness and make changes accordingly.
Every time you start, creating new pages isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is important to keep track of the number of pages on your site.
It is also important to clean up the pages you no longer use, it not only saves energy but also helps site visitors find the right content and not get lost on your website.
Accessibility and SEO
There are a number of crossover benefits when it comes to accessible content and search engine optimization. Structuring your content using the correct HTML markup, with meaningful title tags, headings and lists will ensure that your website is navigable when using a screen reader and also more easily indexed by search engines.
Reduce unnecessary crawling
There are also bots from other search engines, trading bots, SEO bots, etc. If they support crawl delay directives in robots.txt, set a crawl delay so they limit unnecessary crawling.
The best part is that it improves SEO, online performance, and user experience. So a green website means an inherently better business.
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