Green Websites for Small Businesses: Reduce Your Digital Carbon Footprint

Featured image of our post Green Websites for Small Businesses: Reduce Your Digital Carbon Footprint. Showing a presentation slide with the post title, a plant absorbing co2, a footprint and energy measure

This post was written by Jordan Farrar

30 Jul, 2023
Featured image of our post Green Websites for Small Businesses: Reduce Your Digital Carbon Footprint. Showing a presentation slide with the post title, a plant absorbing co2, a footprint and energy measure

Ever wondered what a “green website” is? Need some guidance on how you can reduce your business’s digital carbon footprint? You’re in the right place.

Let’s face it, we live in a world where going green isn’t just nice – it’s essential.

As small business owners, we’ve all felt the pressure to become more environmentally friendly. But have you ever considered the carbon footprint of your digital activities?

Just as we often assess the sustainability of our physical workplaces, we need to give the same consideration to our digital spaces. With our increasing reliance on technology and the digital world, our digital carbon footprint is a significant concern, for instance;

Did you know? According to some estimates, the carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet, and the systems supporting them (ICT) accounts for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions. We hear you, 3.7% doesn’t sound too high right? Well consider this, in 2018 aviation accounted for 2.4% of total Co2 emissions. Yes, the IOT (Internet Of Things) has a greater impact on the environment than all the planes in the sky. 

People frequently ask us the difference between a standard website and a green one. The main difference lies in the energy efficiency and hosting of the site – with a green website, every byte of data is streamlined and hosted on servers powered by renewable energy.

Tackling digital carbon footprint may seem like a daunting task, with its whirlwind of tech jargon and concepts. But, there are plenty of resources online which can provide you with the info you need to tackle this. Seeing how you’re here though, let’s save you the trip and break it down to help you understand how you can make your website more environmentally friendly.

Image of a plant growing from a keyboard with various green energy symbols circiling it

Understanding the Environmental Impact of Traditional Web Hosting

Before we delve into the concrete steps you can take to make your website greener, it’s crucial to understand the role of web hosting. Although this aspect is somewhat outside your control, it’s an important piece of the puzzle in our journey towards a more sustainable digital footprint.

Let’s shed some light on the environmental impact of traditional web hosting and explore how green web hosting can be a game-changer.

Problem:

You might not immediately think of web hosting as an environmental concern, but it plays a larger role than you might think. Web hosting is based on physical servers, often situated in large data centres, which require substantial amounts of energy to run around the clock.

Indeed, the traditional web hosting infrastructure can be quite the energy guzzler. Not only do these data centres require energy to power the servers, but they also need cooling systems to prevent overheating, which adds to the power demand.

Image of a data centre

Solution:

The good news? There’s a more sustainable way to host websites. Enter: Green web hosting. This alternative either uses renewable energy sources or offsets emissions through environmental projects. Choosing a green hosting provider, like those listed at The Green Web Foundation, is a solid step towards reducing your digital carbon footprint.

Making a Difference: How Green Web Hosting Reduces Carbon Emissions in the UK

Green web hosting plays a crucial part in reducing the UK’s carbon emissions. The Green Web Foundation highlights three key criteria they look for when approving a web host.

  1. Avoidance: Utilise renewable energy directly, such as hydroelectric or solar power.
  2. Reduction: Choose green energy tariffs or certificates to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
  3. Offsetting: When other options are unattainable, purchase carbon offsets to compensate for emissions.

For businesses using cloud services, it’s important to choose providers who have a clear and credible plan for reducing or accounting for their emissions. When these providers offer tangible evidence of their green practices, they get a nod of approval from The Green Web Foundation, which strengthens their commitment to a greener internet.

Easy Green Website Steps: How to Eco-Optimise Your Website

Greening your website not only reduces its carbon footprint, but, as a side benefit, also improves its performance and speed – a crucial factor for SEO.

With this in mind, in making your website more eco-friendly, you stand the chance to increase organic traffic, a win-win!

So let’s explore steps you can take to ensure your website is as green as can be.

Focus on a speedy website

The first step to creating an eco-optimised website is all about increasing your site’s speed. A faster website means less energy consumption, resulting in a lower carbon footprint.

We won’t go into too many detail on this as we already have a post explaining how to increase your websites speed though there may be a little overlap on the following points.

Optimise Coding, Loading, and Caching for Energy Efficiency

Clean, efficient coding practices are the backbone of a green website. They help reduce server processing time, which in turn lowers energy consumption and speeds up page loading times. Here’s how you can achieve this:

  • Efficient Coding: Writing efficient, clean code minimises server processing time, leading to lower energy consumption and faster page loading times.
  • Lazy Loading: This technique allows your site to only load images and other content as it becomes necessary (such as when the user scrolls down the page), saving a significant amount of initial loading energy.
  • Leverage Browser Caching: Browser caching stores parts of your site on a visitor’s device during their first visit. This means less data needs to be transferred on subsequent visits, reducing the energy required to load your site.
  • Optimise CSS and JavaScript: Minifying your CSS and JavaScript files by removing unnecessary characters, spaces, and lines can lead to faster page loads and lower energy usage.

Limit Use of High-Resolution Images

While engaging visuals are critical for user experience, large, high-resolution images can slow your site down. Try to limit their use and opt for optimised, smaller file sizes where possible.

Use Icons Instead of Images

Icons typically have smaller file sizes than images and can often convey the same information, helping to reduce data transfer and energy use.

Use SVGs instead of raster images where possible

SVGs (Scalable Vector Graphics) are generally smaller than their raster counterparts (like JPEGs and PNGs) and scale perfectly to any size, making them an efficient choice for many design elements.

Keep Fonts to a Minimum

Each font style and weight used on your website requires a separate HTTP request, slowing your site and increasing energy use. Minimising font usage can help increase load times and reduce energy usage.

Be Mindful of Colour Usage

Not only can a well-designed, clean, and simple website encourage efficient navigation, potentially reducing time spent on the site and therefore the energy used, but also, opting for a darker theme or offering a “dark mode” can contribute to energy savings. Darker colours, particularly on OLED or AMOLED screens, require less energy to display. This is because black pixels on these screens are effectively turned off, therefore using less power. Considering a darker theme for your website might therefore help lower its energy consumption.

Limit Plugins, Add-ons and Apps

Whether you’re running a WordPress website or an e-commerce store on Shopify, it’s crucial to keep a tight rein on the number of add-ons, apps, or plugins you install. Each of these requires resources to run, which can affect your website’s performance and increase its energy usage. Always ask yourself: is this add-on truly necessary? Could its function be integrated in a more efficient way? Opt for well-coded, energy-efficient add-ons and regularly review and remove any that are no longer needed.

Limit Video Autoplay

Autoplay videos can consume significant bandwidth, leading to increased energy use. Consider eliminating autoplay or providing lower resolution options for users with slower connections.

Use Responsive Design

A responsive design allows your website to adapt to the user’s device, optimising display and performance. This means less unnecessary data transfer and energy use.

Choose a Green Hosting Provider

We’ve discussed this before, but it’s worth repeating: your choice of hosting provider can significantly impact your website’s carbon footprint. Choose a provider that uses renewable energy sources or offsets their emissions.

Reduce Redirects

Each redirect causes an additional HTTP request-response cycle, which can slow down your site and increase energy consumption. Try to keep them to a minimum.

Regularly Check Your Site’s Performance

Tools such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights or GTMetrix can provide insights into your site’s performance and offer recommendations for improvements.

Final thoughts on reducing your digital carbon footprint

Now, let’s wrap things up.

Transitioning to a green website might feel like a daunting task at first, but as we’ve explored, it’s a journey made up of many small, manageable steps. From speeding up your site and choosing a green web host, to thoughtfully selecting fonts and colours, each decision can contribute to a leaner, more energy-efficient website.

And remember, making your site greener isn’t just about reducing its environmental impact. Many of these steps, like increasing site speed and optimising coding, can also boost your SEO performance, potentially leading to more organic traffic and conversions.

If you need a hand to make your website more energy-efficient, improve your SEO, or just fancy a chat about your digital marketing strategies, we’re here for you.

We understand this ‘green web’ thing can feel a bit overwhelming. We’re on this journey too and we’re learning heaps along the way. Why not join us? Feel free to subscribe to our Newsletter, leave a comment or send us a message.

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