Now, more than ever, there is mounting pressure on businesses to improve their green practices and reduce their carbon footprint. While many companies might look upon this as a chore, taking steps to make your business more eco friendly should be looked upon as an opportunity to take your company into the future and the end result benefits everyone involved: your business, the users and the planet.
When we think about pollution and carbon emissions, our minds probably instinctively go to cars and landfills. With more and more businesses now thriving in the digital ether, it’s easy to overlook that things like the Cloud and online services, while not tangible to the end consumer, take a huge toll on the environment. Online industries currently comprise around 4% of the world’s carbon emissions – and while that may not sound like a lot, as a basis for comparison that’s about as much as the aviation industry – and that number is on the rise.
Every time you stream a video or do some online shopping, every time you back up your phone or chat with your friends, every time you search a question or visit a website, data is hurtling back and forth between yourself and a shockingly large physical infrastructure. The internet and mass storage of our data is not possible without huge data centres and transmission networks all over the world. Data centres are huge and full of servers and those servers run on electricity – a lot of it. They have to operate 24/7 and be continuously cooled to keep up with our demands and handle a constant influx of new websites and platforms.
Where this becomes an issue is that, while our energy consumption continues to drastically rise every year, the majority of all these data centres rely on fossil fuels to operate and there is very little transparency when it comes to choosing your web hosting company so you, as a business, can make a more eco-conscious decision.
Thankfully, resources like the Green Web Foundation are your new best friends in making the best choices not only about your web hosting provider but how your daily practices within your business can be revitalised to reduce its impact on the planet. The GWF is currently the world leader in sustainable web design and can provide a roadmap to making your business proudly more green.
Herdl, a digital marketing agency, has embraced being environmentally minded. They are set up as a Green Web Foundation partner ensuring certified green hosting to their clients and are proud to be a climate positive workforce offsetting their carbon footprint through Ecologi, which offsets their employee’s home, personal and business travel, holidays, food, hobbies and more.
There are three key things to consider when it comes to your website’s environmental impact: if your web hosting service uses renewable energy, how much data is transferred when you go to your website and how many visitors your webpage receives – obviously, the higher the number, the worse the resultant emissions.
Services like Google Analytics can show you your website’s foot traffic so you have quantifiable data to understand your company’s impact. Next, website carbon calculators can show you your website’s carbon emissions every time someone visits the homepage and how this compares to your competitors.
To assess and improve the size of data transferred when visiting your site, you can check the page size and identify the key culprits that raise that number. The larger the page size, the more grams – literally – of fossil fuels are required to run it. Ideally, webpages should aim for 1MB for their pages, with anything over 2MB being pretty bad. For instance – Amazon is at around 5MB! A large number of images and video files drastically increase this number, so if you want to trim down your MBs, consider simplifying your landing page where possible – keep it sleek and simple.
Most people make decisions with regards to their web hosting by price, versatility and storage allowance, but in order to make a more eco-friendly choice, you can test your website on the GWF to see if your host uses renewable energy or fossil fuels. It also provides you with the full directory of Green approved providers so you can decide which servers to switch to. And be wary of Content Delivery Networks!
Despite everything being “up in the air”, geography is still a big factor in terms of your business’s carbon footprint. The further away you are from your servers, the more power is needed for all the data transfers. And while CDNs can increase your webpage load time by caching the data, so it has to travel less distance between the visitor’s device and their nearest server, the networks used for this are often fossil-fueled. So your origins server may be green, but the CDN cache servers won’t be.
All of this may well go over the average person’s head, but there are plenty of things that your team can do on an individual basis to collectively improve your business’ eco standing. Tell them to think of using the internet as being on Santa’s naughty list – for every page visited, for every link clicked, they get a lump of coal. So the more superfluous internet usage they do, the bigger the stack of coal gets. The analogy isn’t even that ridiculous – the real quantity of coal per person is comparatively tiny, but when you multiply it by millions of users, it adds up to a whole lot.
Start by unsubscribing from any unnecessary newsletters, frequently empty all your trash folders and delete any apps you’re never going to use. If you have simple queries, do quick searches on your phone – by virtue of the fact that it’s smaller, it drains a lot less energy. Google actually has some of the most energy-efficient data centres in the world, so you can switch to Drive and Google photos for all your cloud backups.
These might seem like simple steps, but collectively they make a huge difference to your company’s carbon footprint. More and more consumers are basing their decisions on eco standing and if you take the right measures, you can get green certification for your webpage and continue to deliver outstanding products and services by encouraging your users and fellow businesses to lead the way into a cleaner, renewable future.