Navigating the Green Web: Strategies for Digital Sustainability

While sustainability is a top priority for companies across the UK and the rest of the world, an area of emissions still neglected across all industries is website development and hosting. In this blog, we'll walk you two of the most significant considerations for increasing your digital sustainability: your website and hosting.

Navigating the Green Web: Strategies for Digital Sustainability

While sustainability is a top priority for companies across the UK and the rest of the world, an area of emissions still neglected across all industries is website development and hosting.

Since the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, the size of the average web page has increased by 64%, which combined with 252,000 websites being created every day, has increased carbon emissions and the demand for datacentres dramatically.

When considering that emissions caused by the digital industry are level with that of the airline industry and the fact that datacentres contribute to 3% of global electricity supply (more than the entire UK), it’s obvious that neglecting this aspect of our emissions is not an option.

It's never been more important to reduce our Scope 2 and 3 emissions, and committing to digital sustainability is one of the simplest and most effective ways to do this.

It is both the responsibility of the website developers and the company for which a website is developed to ensure that they are taking steps to make their website more sustainable.

Two of the most significant considerations in increasing digital sustainability are the way websites are developed and the datacentres on which they're hosted. Breaking these considerations down into high-level chunks can make it significantly easier for companies and their content managers to work towards more sustainable website and hosting.

Below I look at each one of these considerations in more detail.

Sustainable Websites - Content Management

Looking at website data and page weight, there are numerous easy and quick steps to reduce the grams of carbon emitted by a user visiting one of your pages.

The easiest way is to reduce the size of your images and video as these make up just over 43% of all webpages. With a wide range of free compression tools available online to all, this step is often the quickest and easiest with minimum sacrifice to UX or design.

Another simple way to reduce carbon emissions is to reduce the use of custom fonts and purge unnecessary media and data from your media library. These are steps which website content managers can take immediately without diving into complex audits of website content itself.

More complex steps to reduce your website's carbon emissions involve projects which you can present to your respective digital agency or in-house development team. These include auditing and improving SEO, UX journeys, and CRO on your website.

Committing to these projects simply reduces the amount of time users spend on your website and the respective amount of carbon emitted during this time.

Sustainable Development

Development steps can also be taken to significantly reduce the data weight of your website.

Compressing code and scripts and purging old and decommissioned data can massively reduce the data stored on your website.

Upgrading to the latest software of your CMS can also have a significant impact. By moving to .NET versions of software, you can reduce the number of resources needed to develop and reach the same levels of performance.

Additional steps that can be taken include leaning towards 'dark mode' websites and caching, to purging unused tracking scripts and integrations.

By simply auditing the integrations you have on your website and evaluating their real use and efficiency you can reduce the amount of data and emissions your website produces.

Sustainable Hosting and Datacentres

It’s equally important to pay attention to the location and efficiency of your website's hosting and datacentres.

By simply researching if the datacentres you use are renewably powered and efficiently ran, you can make informed and sustainable hosting decisions. Datacentres ran by companies such as Microsoft Azure utilise virtual machines and statistical analysis to allocate underutilized hardware resources within their datacentres. This, combined with renewable energy sources, is an example of important steps towards sustainable hosting, and how important your choice in datacentres and hosting is.

Further factors include the proximity of your website's datacentres to the majority of your website's users, and whether the renewable energy being used by the datacentres comes through the purchase of RECs.

Ask yourself if your hosting company/datacentre are committing to genuine actions of being sustainable which consider double accounting?

ClerksWell's Commitment to Digital Sustainability

ClerksWell commits itself to creating digitally sustainable websites for our clients through our partnership with sustainable partners and commitment to sustainable development.

Our partnership with Microsoft Azure is a prime example of this; with commitment to GSF standards, cloud resource 'harvesting', and a commitment to run datacentres on 100% renewable energy by 2025, Azure is leading the industry in sustainability without a compromise of performance.

Our other key partners, Umbraco and Sitecore, both commit to producing more efficient software and carbon neutrality. Umbraco’s release of Umbraco v10 on a .NET framework has made the CMS 50% more efficient, resulting in coinciding CO2 emissions reduction. Umbraco Cloud and web projects make up half of the company’s carbon footprint and they have consequently committed to pledges of carbon reduction through sustainable projects (Ecologi, Cool Effect, Reforestaction, RECs).

Digital sustainability, your website, and how it is hosted are as important in your journey to being a sustainable company as your choices in workspace, transportation, and operations.

-- Author: Oscar Heal


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