A recent survey by GoCompare has revealed that ‘being more environmentally friendly’ is one of the top New Year’s resolutions for people in the UK in 2022.
For most people that means recycling more, switching to eco-friendly cleaning and beauty products and using less plastic.
For web designers, it could mean so much more.
In this blog we look briefly at the impact websites have on the planet before considering a few ways web designers can work a little more sustainably in 2022.
The environmental impact of websites around the world
Statistics suggest that the internet consumes more energy every year than the entire United Kingdom.
Further figures from the University of California suggest that the average website has an annual carbon footprint of 9kg of CO2 every year.
To put that into perspective – a tree will offset around 21 kilograms every year, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.
Of course, businesses around the world need their websites to survive. So below, we’ll look at a few little wins that web designers can achieve to make their sites and their working practices more sustainable.
After all, it all adds up.
- Use an environmentally friendly search engine for research and inspiration
Every single search of the internet has a carbon footprint. Back in 2009, Google calculated that a single search on its search engine generated 0.2 grams of CO2 – that’s the same amount of energy a human body burns in 10 seconds.
There are search engines out there that try to offset their CO2 impact. Ecosia is one of the most popular.
This company uses a large proportion of the profit it makes from advertising to plant trees around the world.
Ecosia explains: ‘Here’s the math: an average search generates around 0.005 € of revenue. It costs roughly 0.25 € to plant a tree, which means that Ecosia can plant one tree every 50 searches. On average, these trees will each remove 50 kg of CO2 during an expected 15 year lifetime’.
- Use images efficiently
Using images efficiently is one of the easiest ways to reduce the size of your web pages and, in turn, the carbon footprint of those pages.
Next time you come to add an image to a page, ask yourself if it’s really necessary. Interrogate the value that image really adds to the page.
If it is essential, try to think of alternatives to the image – would a vector graphic work in its place, for example?
You can also reduce the impact of an image by choosing one that has fewer colours, fewer details and a shallower depth of field.
- Reduce the impact of your fonts
There aren’t many web designers out there who will happily design a website using common fonts like Ariel, Calibri and Verdana.
However, there’s no getting around the fact that custom font files can drastically increase the size of a website and therefore its carbon footprint.
On your next project, be cognisant of how many custom fonts you are using and question whether you really need to use as many if the tally starts to mount up.
Also pay attention to the amount of bold and italics you use on the site, as these add extra elements of code to sites, increasing their impact on the environment.
- Turn off auto-playing videos
There’s a good chance you’ve already banned auto-playing videos from the sites you design – after all studies suggest that 92% of web users find them annoying.
However, if your brief requires you to add auto-playing videos to a site, think about only adding them to a certain amount of pages, or just the homepage, to reduce their environmental impact.
- Employ best practices in SEO
If your websites are easy to find in the search engines, people will spend less time searching for them on the internet and their search efforts will automatically consume less energy.
You can find more articles and a free guide to SEO in the Search Engine Tips section of our blog.
- Test your sites using the Website Carbon Calculator
The Website Carbon Calculator allows you to input the URL of a website to check how much CO2 it produces.
It also tells you how many cups of tea this amount of CO2 could be used to make and how the site compares to others around the world in terms of its energy use.
At the very least, checking in on this site every now and again can help web designers stay cognisant of the environmental impact of technology.
- Read the Sustainable Web Manifesto
The Sustainable Web Manifesto suggests six principles that people around the world need to commit to in order for the internet to be more sustainable.
These principles go beyond the realm of web design, but they’re good to bear in mind.
The principles are cleanliness, efficiency, openness, honesty, regeneration and resilience.
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