How to cut your website’s carbon footprint

Discover some practical steps you can take to lower your website’s energy usage and lessen your company’s digital carbon footprint.

Today, we’re more aware of climate change than ever and we all have a part to play when it comes to safeguarding our planet for future generations. Yet, whether we’re conscious of it not, every day we make choices that impact our carbon footprint.

From boiling a kettle for a cup of coffee to popping to the shops by car, these individual actions all contribute to the amount of carbon dioxide that’s released into the atmosphere.

sustainable web design

It’s the same for businesses.

An increasing number of companies are reviewing the impact of their day-to-day operations on the planet, while consumers are becoming more selective when it comes to the green credentials of the brands they buy into. Many now value environmental responsibility above price when it comes to making a purchasing decision, choosing to invest in brands that demonstrate an environmental conscience over those that offer the cheapest product. Yet for all the ways in which businesses seek to offset their carbon footprint, there’s one area that seems to still escape attention.

The Internet.

Few people are aware that the Internet is responsible for generating large volumes of carbon emissions each year (latest estimates put it on a par with air travel) and the more traffic your website receives, the higher its carbon footprint is likely to be.

These emissions are a consequence of the electricity required to power our Internet usage, generated by everything from the devices we use to get online to the data centres and infrastructure needed to host websites in the first place. Everything from a simple Google search to watching a YouTube video creates a carbon emission. And while an individual Internet users’ carbon footprint is relatively low, the cumulative emissions created by half the world using the web is rising – and that’s only predicted to increase as more nations become Internet enabled.

carbon neutral web design

Lowering your website’s carbon footprint.

Of course, attracting site visitors (and converting those visits into enquires, sales and bookings) is what every well designed and optimised website sets out to achieve. But lowering your website’s carbon footprint doesn’t mean you’ll have to compromise its conversion potential.

We’ve pulled together five quick and easy ways you can positively reduce your website’s carbon footprint today, while actually improving its future performance.

1 – Choose a green web host

green web host

While all data centres need power to function, the levels of emissions these businesses generate can vary enormously. That’s because some companies have perfected more streamlined and efficient ways of working, which include using green sources of energy over conventional fossil fuels.

Hosting your website with a greener web host means you benefit from all the measures they’ve put in place to make their businesses more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Ideally you want to choose a host with a high PUE rating (Power Usage Efficiency). A good PUE (such as that of the data centres used by Google) demonstrates that energy is being used efficiently within the building.

Find out what your current provider’s environmental policy and PUE is, and compare this with other hosts on the market. If in doubt, give us a call. We only partner with green data centres at Regency, so we’ll happily recommend some sustainable hosts that make the grade.

2 – Optimise your site’s User Experience (UX)

sustainable web development

A website that follows the principles of UX design is straightforward to navigate, helps the user find what they’re looking for quickly and improves your conversion rate. In short it’s the gold standard for website design, making your users happy and delivering the outcome you need – be it ecommerce sales or a new booking.

The reason that UX design has a bearing on your website’s carbon footprint is because it reduces individual dwell times and bounce rates. The less time a user spends bouncing around your site the less carbon emissions their site visit will generate. They’ll also have a positive experience, which means they’re more likely to return again. While the simple act of them finding what they came for tells Google your site has value, giving you greater exposure in search engine results relating to your product or service.

3 – Use simple fonts

sustainable website

It may seem insignificant, but the fonts you use throughout your website all have a bearing on the carbon footprint your site generates. That’s because web fonts or customs fonts require additional files to load, adding even more weight to your site.

While it might be tempting to opt for a font based on aesthetics, if you want to lower your website’s carbon footprint you need to select one that the user is guaranteed to already have on their device (known as a system font). System fonts such as Ariel and Times New Roman, which are standard across all operating systems, fall into this remit. This means that no additional files will be needed for the user to view your website, thereby reducing the amount of energy it takes for your website to load.

Additionally, limiting the range of fonts you use (for example sticking to one or two) as well as the font weights (bold versus light) also positively benefits your website’s carbon footprint.

4 – Keep video content short

carbon neutral website

Video is a great engagement driver, particular when used in social media, but it can also be data intensive, leading to long loading times and increased processing (all of which eats up energy).

If it’s essential to have video on your website we recommend keeping the footage under a minute in length (engagement tends to tail off at around 60 seconds anyway) and limiting video to just one page of your site. This will help your website to load quickly, which is another criteria Google prioritises when assigning its search engine results order.

A short video that sends a concise message, will not only deliver what you need it to in terms of engagement (and therefore ROI) it will also limit the amount of energy your website uses without compromising its efficiency.

5 – Consider graphics in place of images

carbon neutral web development

There’s no denying that images help to tell a story and they definitely have a place as part of your online experience but like video images require a lot of data to load. This adds increased weight to your site, meaning more energy is needed to load it, and this is bad for your carbon footprint.

While images can help to build your brand’s persona, they don’t deliver as much weight in search engines as content and they also make a website less carbon efficient. But images aren’t the only way you can make your website more visually engaging. Static graphics, infographics and simple colour accents, are all a great way to give your website appeal and personality, without adding to its weight.

Making images smaller will also help to improve your website’s performance, while reducing the amount of images used across your site will have the biggest impact on your carbon footprint.

At Regency, we always strive to deliver eco-conscious solutions to our clients. We achieve this in a number of ways: from using green website hosts to offering inks and paper stocks that are environmentally friendly. If you’re seeking a design agency that demonstrates a responsible approach to sustainability or looking to improve your own carbon footprint, get in touch. We can be reached by email at hello@regencycreative.co.uk or by calling 020 8144 1909

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