Sustainable web design is not something most of us consider. But maybe it is time to start.

Every time someone clicks on your website CO2 is added to the atmosphere. This not only happens when they visit your website but also when sending emails, looking at videos, using social media, surfing the web – or any access to the digital world.

Data centers that store data, transmission networks, and end-user devices all require energy.

According to an ESCP Business School (Grande école de commerce et de management) article from 2021, there are nearly 5 billion active internet users worldwide. This accounts for 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year.

And those numbers are rising.

A couple of decades ago the paperless movement began and continues today. It is now the norm to see options to go paperless from institutions such as banks and insurance companies. The connection between paper and trees is well known as is the fact that we need trees to breathe.

But energy consumption is not always visual. If greenhouse gases were colorful, they would give us a constant reminder to conserve energy. Since most of us don’t live next to a pollution-emitting power plant, attaining net zero emissions requires active education and outreach.

As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Fortunately, using sustainable web design can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. And once you achieve this goal, share your accomplishment with others.

What is Sustainable Web Design?

A sustainable website is designed for more than just the intended purpose of getting people to see it. Sustainable web design services offer a path that benefits the future and health of our planet.

That website you build today has an impact on generations to come across the entire planet.

To transform into a zero-emissions economy, we need to do more than buy carbon offsets. Instead, we need to reduce the number of emissions created by our website designs.

Understanding sustainable website design and how it affects the planet is the first step. Learning what options make the biggest impact comes next.

How to make your website more sustainable

Sustainable web design has multiple benefits. When designed and built using sustainable methods, your website runs faster, is found easier, and reduces your carbon footprint and the footprint of those visiting your website.

Moving from on-premises infrastructure to services like Amazon Web Services (AWS), or other cloud services committed to 100% renewable energy, can reduce your carbon emissions by as much as 88%. (1) This is just one way you can make a big difference.

Here are a few web design methods to consider when building your sustainable website:

  1. Reduce image file sizes and use lazy load coding for images and media as much as possible. Ask yourself if you need all the images to communicate information. In some cases, could a vector graphic be used instead of a photo?
  2. Include a web caching option.
  3. When you change things on the website, delete what you no longer need.
  4. Reduce the time needed for the user to find what they are looking for. The sooner they get there the better. This means having excellent SEO on every page.
  5. When they do find your content, make sure it is useful. This includes clear and efficient copywriting. Otherwise, all that energy used for browsing is wasted.
  6. Host the website on servers in facilities operating on renewable energy.
  7. If video is necessary, remove auto-play. Videos on a website use about twice as much energy as a website without video.
  8. Font size and type matter. One font file can be 250kbs and bold doubles that size to 500kbs. It is best to use system fonts like Arial and Times New Roman. Sticking to a single font variation is best.
  9. Have clean code. This includes code you write yourself and code that you borrow from others.
  10. CSS is much more efficient than JavaScript.

How much carbon does your website produce?

There are a few website calculators to check how much carbon your website is producing. Each calculator may give you different results, but you can get a general idea of where you stand.

  • Website Carbon claims they are the first website carbon calculator.
  • If you use Amazon Web Services, they include a Customer Carbon Footprint Tool in your account under Cost & Usage reports.
  • Greenpixie is a barebones website carbon calculator and shares the result as a comparison to other websites.

It’s time to start designing and building sustainable websites and spread the word. One by one we can make a large impact.

Contact me if you are interested in ways to make your website more sustainable.