Is your website damaging the planet?

There’s lots of recent efforts being made to reduce a company’s impact on the planet – and rightly so. From carbon neutral drinks, net-zero companies, carbon offsetting and waste reduction.

This is of course fantastic news – consumers are starting to demand more positive action, and businesses are starting to listen. But at what point do you shout from the rooftops about it? At what point do you feel you’ve turned every stone?

The problem we’re seeing is that some big headlines are being made, but there’s glaring gaps left around the edges. For every recycling scheme there’s needless waste elsewhere. The problem is, some parts of being sustainable are more easy to grasp conceptually, whereas others take just a little more thought.

We recently ran a survey, “Sustainability and the drinks industry” where we asked consumers about their understanding of the word “sustainability”. The good news is that many did – however, many said it was confusing.

My website is digital – that isn’t bad. Is it?

One particular area which we feel is overlooked is a company’s website. Whilst they may spend much time on it telling of their own virtuous journey into net zero, B Corporation and much more – their website, one of the ‘low-hanging fruit’ may be adding to the problem, not taking away. Think about it – your website us hosted by a company who need electricity. People viewing your website need energy. Where’s this energy coming from?

Ok, for those of you saying we’re picking hairs – yes, there may be bigger issues – but surely a solid approach to sustainability and environmental consciousness would contain the incremental changes too? After all, at home you probably use low-energy light bulbs and make sure you do your kerb-side recycling, don’t you?

According to Website Carbon Calculator, the average web page tested produces 1.76 grams CO2 per page view. For a website with 10,000 monthly page views, that’s 211 kg CO2 per year.

So for example, my website producing 0.84g of CO2 every time someone visits the home page, with 10,000 views a month produces 100.93kg of CO2 equivalent. That’s the amount of carbon 5 trees absorb in a year, and uses 234kWh of energy which is enough electricity to drive an electric car 1,500km. (Source: Website Carbon Calculator).

And that’s just 1 website.

Let’s put that into perspective; as of June 18, 2021, there are currently over 1.86 billion websites online.(Sources: InternetlivestatsNetcraftBuiltwith).

Why do websites emit different levels of carbon?

There’s a couple of reasons. Firstly, your hosting provider. They obviously need lots of power – and where is it coming from? A simple checker, Green Web Foundation will tell you of your host is using green electricity. Much like how you buy domestic electricity at home.

Next is your website itself and how it is built. The longer it takes to load fancy graphics and video, or do do calculations – then the more energy is uses. An example of this, at an extreme scale, is Bitcoin mining. In a 2021 article, the BBC stated that Bitcoin consumes more electricity than Argentina, with the reasoning that ;”‘Mining’ for the cryptocurrency is power-hungry, involving heavy computer calculations to verify transactions.”

There are other factors too – such as file formats, over-reliance on ‘plugins’ and coding which can have an effect.

So should my website be more basic?

Well this is where the line between attracting and engaging customers and being more environmentally friendly butt heads. Anyone involved in web design, marketing and UX will certainly look at rich content and ways to keep visitors on websites for longer. Whilst the customer is there, they need to be immersed into a brand – possibly involving a unique cut of a non-standard font, beautifully crafted typography, well structured video and other content and links to keep them reading.

Thus using more energy.

So where do you draw the line?

What should I be doing?

Only you can decide this. It’s like going on holiday on a plane. It’s not great for carbon emittance, but you want to enjoy your life. But at what effect on the planet? The decision needs to align with your principals as an organisation and as a brand – but be careful. The more you say how environmentally conscious you are, the more you need to prove this and evidence this. Unfortunately, Greenwash still exists, and it’s an unwelcome label…

Some considerations for you;

  1. Is my website hosted by a green provider?
  2. How much carbon does my website use?
  3. What can I do to change these two things?
  4. Should you also consider a carbon offsetting scheme to supplement any changes?

Whatever you do decide to do, don’t forget to account for your website the same way you do travel, lighting and water usage in your organisation.

To talk about this and how to create an authentic Sustainability Story for your business, set up a call here. It would be great to hear from you.