Tuesday January 30 2024.
3 minute read
Why website emissions should feature in your carbon strategy.
Many conversations about sustainability in society tend to focus on fossil fuels, energy efficient buildings and renewable energy. But as our world becomes more digital, the carbon footprint of the internet is often forgotten. Senior Account Executive Madeleine Stewart sat down with Pete Jones, Digital Director at JFD – Camargue’s digital and design agency – to discuss the carbon footprint of websites, and how companies can tackle the problem.
3.7 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions are generated by ‘the internet’. Air travel and web usage emit similar levels of CO2 and the internet’s emissions are expected to double by 2025 due to ever-increasing demands for services such as high-quality video streams, cloud-based resources and AI. The rapid increase of data centre capacity is also driving emissions. Across the world these assets use three per cent of all electricity generated on Earth.
To seriously tackle climate change, we all need to look at our online presence, and the impact it has on the environment. While voluntary at the moment, corporate reporting on carbon emissions will increasingly require greater disclosure about digital and physical assets.
How does a website have a carbon footprint?
Anything that is plugged into an electric socket is a potential source of CO2. A website or app has several factors that can contribute to emissions – the server(s) that host the website, your internet connection and the device that you're using. It all contributes to the site’s overall footprint. Globally, the average webpage emits around 0.8g of CO2 per visit, which equates to 102kg a year for a website with 10,000 views a month.
What makes one website more polluting than another?
Some websites use more data than others. If there is just one word on a single webpage, that has a fairly low carbon footprint. However, if a website has lots of pictures and videos the CO2 footprint grows significantly, especially if they are high quality. Data heavy websites with lots of users and visits, such as Facebook, require more processing power and use a lot of energy. In summary, the more visual content and the higher the number of visitors, the bigger the carbon footprint.
Help! How can we reduce a website’s carbon emissions while still ensuring it is engaging and we attract and retain visitors?
We help clients to fine tune a website’s performance with things like caching. When a website caches data, it stores information temporarily instead of going back to the database, which uses less energy. Think of that like having to type your email signature out with every email, compared to Outlook ‘caching’ it and popping it at the bottom automatically. For example, if you looked at a list of your Instagram followers then looked again two minutes later, the data probably hasn't changed so the app will use what it’s stored rather than rebuild it from scratch.
We optimise our page assets (the images, the videos and even the code itself). A smaller image has a smaller footprint and the aim of course should be to still create a high quality visual impact that engages visitors. This is a key consideration for us when designing a website for a client – getting the balance right between performance and impact, and a strong and engaging design. Think of this like fine tuning a car engine resulting in better performance, and lower fuel consumption.
For example, on our new website, we have photos of all Camargue staff. The original high-resolution image files were around 1mb, whereas the images on the website are around 350kb (saving 77%). The smaller image means less data being stored, sent and processed on the device and also a webpage that loads more quickly.
What other factors can increase a website’s emissions?
Another key way we help clients to reduce their website’s footprint is considering the energy that a web host uses. Hosts look after the servers (where the website lives). Every time you visit a webpage, the host sends all the elements of the page to your device. We prioritise hosts with green credentials – our preferred provider is using 100 per cent renewable energy. Some clients with clear and well defined carbon strategies are also offsetting their digital emissions.
2023 was the Earth’s hottest year on record and we need to take bigger steps to reduce emissions across all our activity, physical and digital. The hidden costs of internet usage are often overlooked and are an essential consideration in any effective carbon strategy. With a clear strategy this doesn’t have to mean compromising on content and visual impact.
For more information on JFD’s digital and design services, click here
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2 minute read
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