It’s estimated that the IT industry creates roughly two percent of the world’s carbon emissions. That’s a significant figure that makes the Internet a culprit in man’s impact on the environment. The web and websites are a large part of this, with their servers, end users, network infrastructure, data farms, database front-ends and storage devices. Every time a connection is made on the Internet and data is downloaded, energy is used to effect the connection and the resulting data transfer. The greater the amount of data, the greater the amount of energy that gets used.
Reducing your carbon footprint is important not just for helping the environment; you can ultimately save money in the long run, as you may be able to pay your web hosting company less money, recycle hosting equipment resources, get money back on unused peripherals or devices that have valuable parts or components, and save on storage costs by not printing data, but instead archiving it digitally using high-density mechanisms such as optical or magnetic media.
- Choosing a Green Web Host
Your web hosting company is an obvious choice for going green. Each time someone loads your website, energy is being consumed to serve it. The more people that load your site and the larger it is in terms of data volume, the more energy is used to access and serve that data.
Do a little research, and find out how green your web hosting company is. Find out how power-efficient their server clusters are and where their power comes from. Do they use any renewable or sustainable sources of power for their equipment? Do they keep some storage offline so that not all of their machines are running 24/7 if they don’t have to be? Is their infrastructure efficient in a way that makes use of natural energy sources, such as solar or wind power?
And if your hosting company claims that they’re a “green website host,” is there independent verification for that? Are there any third-party companies who’ve reviewed their statements and/or their installations and can verify their claims? Certain hosting companies are rated very highly for sustainability and/or energy savings. Some of these hosting companies include:
- GreenGeeks Green Web Hosting
- Canvas Dreams Sustainable Web Hosting
- Super Green Hosting
- Solar Web Host Green Web Hosting
- Taproot Green Web Hosting
- BounceWeb Green Hosting
- Ethical Host Green Web Hosting
- Blue Servers
- Sustainable Websites
- EcoChic Hosting
- Interactive Online
It’s worth your while to do some research and see if the relative costs of hosting your site with one of them are balanced by the energy and/or resources saved. Different hosting companies have different methods by which they achieve their green website credentials.
- Minimizing Your Site’s Loading Time
Along with choosing a green host, streamlining your site’s content and documents also plays a part in going green. The “heavier” a site is in terms of graphic file sizes, quantity of files needed to serve pages and amount of preloaded resources, the harder a server has to work to serve its content, and the more energy is expended.
Instead of employing wasteful large graphics and huge numbers of files, try to think about how to deliver content in a way that’s “lean and mean,” with spare graphic file sizes, minimal numbers of files, a minimum number of fonts and style documents and efficient and/or “minimized” code. Work with your site’s developers to see how you can do more with less, and re-use files and data wherever possible. If you can compress graphics further without sacrificing too much image quality, do that. If you can combine files into smaller quantities (even if their relative sizes grow), you should do that, too. There are tools that can remove spaces, line breaks and extra characters from source code to reduce it to as small a size as possible (which will allow it to load faster, as well).
Take a look at your site’s navigation. Is it simple and transparent? Do users spend the least amount of time going from one page to another? Could certain resources be combined or shared so that people have to spend less time and energy looking for them? Is there any text that’s being delivered as a graphic, which could be delivered in text form (which uses less space) instead? Is there any content that could be removed from the site without harming your its functionality? Are there any files that are being stored on your server that are no longer in active use on your site?
Many hosting servers allow for caching of a site’s most commonly accessed information.
There are also networks that allow for “distributed delivery” of rich-media assets like video and PDF files, so the content is accessed from servers that are located physically closer to a user, resulting in quicker and less resource-intensive data transfers.
- Offset Your Carbon Usage
The website CO2stats.com, run by a company called Enernetics, will calculate your site’s carbon footprint, and allow you, through its monthly-billed Green Certified Site certification, to offset that amount and thus make your site carbon-neutral” — effectively not affecting the environment in any way.
Enernetics will produce renewable energy or resources via a third-party equal to the amount your site is using, according to their Green Certified Site monitoring software. The Green Certified Site certification comes with an online badge your site can display to let visitors know you’ve chosen to offset your carbon usage. This in turn can often generate increased traffic for your website.
By making some simple changes, you can greatly transform the impact your website has on the environment.
By decreasing the energy this 24/7/365 resource uses, you can contribute to worldwide power consumption conservation. By certifying your site as “green,” you can help spread the message that this practice is not just popular, but conscientious, as well, and increase the chances that others will follow your example.