The climate crisis is becoming increasingly present in our everyday lives. We’ve all adopted paper straws and recycling in our stride, but the virtual world – the home of the internet – has a dramatic impact on the environment too.
Websites consume energy, and it’s easy to ignore when you’re browsing a product catalog, buying a gift online, or searching for directions. Complex pages, data transfers, videos, large images – it all adds up!
So what actions can you take? What can you do to lower your digital carbon footprint? How can you make your website more eco-friendly?
In this article, we’ll discuss why websites can be harmful to the planet, and share our 10 tips to help minimize your website’s impact on the environment, along with our favorite web hosts and website builders for going green.
You might be surprised to learn how damaging the internet is to the planet. We get the irony of us writing about this and you reading our article on the internet – but these are important figures to know, and ones we can’t shy away from.
Studies show that the internet contributes 1.6 billion tons of global greenhouse gas emissions annually. It also produces around 2% of global CO2 emissions which puts it on par with the aviation industry.
Many people are worried about the growth of AI – which is already being rolled out across most website builders – but did you know that AI is guilty of contributing to the climate crisis too? A study by the University of Massachusetts has shown that programming and training just one AI model produces as much carbon as five cars.
The core problem with the internet is its energy usage. There are currently 1.12 billion websites in the world, all powered by energy-sucking data centers, but only 18% of these websites are actually active.
In fact, The Web Neutral Project found that the internet – if imagined as a country – is the sixth largest consumer of electricity on the planet, sitting behind the big players: Russia, Japan, China, India, and the US. That means the internet and all the websites housed there make up 10% of the world’s electricity consumption!
We know these sound like big numbers to combat, but it’s not too late to make a difference. The small changes we make in our everyday lives – for example, using reusable bags or reducing food waste – help minimize our impact in the real world. And making just a few tweaks to your website can have the same effect.
It can be hard to determine your digital carbon footprint without a little research.
We’d recommend sites like Website Carbon Calculator which estimates your site’s footprint. For example, we tested Website Builder Expert and discovered that our homepage is 88% cleaner than other web pages tested, with 0.12g of CO2 produced whenever someone visits the page. Of course, we have additional pages that also consume energy, but it at least gives you a base idea.
Additionally, you can see how “green” your site is with The Green Web Foundation – a project working towards a fossil-free internet by 2030. If you aren’t already using renewable energy sources, we’ll get into more detail on why that’s important below.
Every website’s after traffic and eyes on their pages – we’re guilty of it too – but it all contributes to your digital carbon footprint. If you want to build an eco-friendly website, without sacrificing traffic, there are 10 simple steps you can take. And the best part is that a lot of these tips will also contribute to your website’s overall performance, helping your pages stand out and beat the competition.
1. Choose Green Web Hosting
One of the biggest culprits behind the internet’s carbon footprint is web hosting. What’s web hosting, you ask? All websites need hosting to appear online – without a host, the website won’t be accessible. A web host keeps the website’s files and information in data centers, and data centers are basically buildings that house computers to store all of the website data.
The problem with this is that data centers use a ton of electricity, and generate a lot of heat, meaning they rely on energy-sucking cooling systems to prevent the servers from overheating. And, as of 2022, there were 2,701 data centers in the US alone!
However, there are hosting companies that are committed to reducing – and even negating – their carbon footprint, making them an ideal option for any website owner’s looking to minimize their environmental impact.
These green web hosting providers use renewable energy to power their data centers, or they donate to renewable energy programs to combat their carbon footprint. One of the best green web hosts is GreenGeeks which offsets its carbon footprint by 300% – this means it invests three times the amount of energy it pulls from the grid into renewable energy.
GreenGeeks has even been recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency, becoming a Green Power Partner back in 2009. And for every hosting account created with GreenGeeks, a tree will be planted! It doesn’t get more green than GreenGeeks.
- GreenGeeks Review: For a detailed look at one of our favorite green web hosts, you can read our full review.
- Best Green Web Hosting Providers: Check out our list of the most eco-friendly hosting providers.
2. Optimize Your Pages
Websites need to be fast to be successful – and the quicker your website loads, the smaller its environmental impact. When a page takes ages to load, it’s not only boring to your visitors and puts your business at risk of losing customers, but it’s also consuming a lot of energy.
There are some super simple ways to improve your website’s loading speed, and we’ll get into a lot of them in this article. For now, let’s start with optimizing your pages and content.
- Minimize visuals – too many images, especially large ones, will slow down your pages, and autoplay videos can be a total drain on your website
- Avoid heavy elements – detailed widgets or animations can bring your website to a halt
- Compress files – it’s best to reduce file size without sacrificing quality
- Use lazy load – this speeds up load times since site visitors will have to scroll to browse the content below the fold
- Reduce HTTP requests – these requests use up energy so it’s best to keep them to a minimum
If you’ve already carried out a lot of these suggestions, and you’ve got the tech skills to hand, you can also try to minify your website’s code. Minification is a process that minimizes code and script files on your site, and it’s a major way of improving site speed.
We’d simply recommend that you keep an eye on your website’s site speed and see what’s draining resources the most. Whether you cut down on images or implement lazy loading, it’s always best to review your pages and content regularly to make valuable improvements.
- Video Optimization Guide For Your Website: Learn how to upload videos to your website without compromising your site speed.
- Website Load Time Statistics: Read more about site speed and why it matters.
- Image Optimization Guide: You don’t need to compromise on quality when sharing images online.
3. Invest in a CDN
To run an eco-friendly website, it’s good practice to invest in a CDN – otherwise known as a content delivery network. Not only does a CDN improve your website’s speed, but it minimizes your energy usage and benefits the user experience too. The less distance that content has to travel, the better off the environment will be.
What is a CDN?A content delivery network is the link that connects your website with visitors. Your base server might be far away from certain readers and cause slow loading, so a CDN works to spread content to additional servers – whenever a visitor lands on your site, the content will be delivered via a server that’s closest to them, not you.
Most website builders and hosts use a CDN to guarantee their clients – and the client’s website visitors – the best loading times and site speeds. Hostinger, for example, recently launched its own in-house Hostinger CDN beta for users on its Business Web Hosting plan or above.
4. Utilize Web Caching
Tying into the above point, web caching is another great way of minimizing your digital carbon footprint and reducing loading speed. Web caching works by saving your website data and content – usually static content like images and HTML – and keeping it stored for future use.
Where a CDN connects users to content via closely-positioned servers, basic web caching stores information on the user’s browser. This means the content doesn’t have to be transferred from the server, sparing the energy cost of regular data transfers.
- What Is DNS?: Learn more about the caching process and the domain name system with our handy guide.
5. Improve Your SEO
Improving your SEO is all about making your site easy to find, meaning visitors are satisfied quickly. But why is this important? Well, it reduces the number of searches and sites people are loading in one go, which means less energy will be used each time they land on a new page.
The best tactic is to give users what they’re looking for so they don’t have to keep searching and loading pages over and over again. This creates happy customers, and less energy used overall!
To reduce the number of people bouncing off your site and back to Google, you can:
- Prioritize key information – make it easy for readers to find what they want in as few clicks as possible
- Make your site mobile-friendly – 63% of Google’s US organic search traffic comes from mobile devices
- Structure your pages – break up your text with headings and subheadings to avoid overwhelming visitors
- Target keywords – connect with users by producing content that targets terms people are searching for
- Link building – make sure your internal links are relevant and seek out external sites to link back to your pages
- Optimize your pages – use title tags, meta descriptions, and image alt text to keep your site accessible
A lot of the tips we share in this article will benefit your site’s SEO too, such as optimizing your pages for improved site speed and removing clutter.
We’d also recommend choosing a website builder that recognizes the value of SEO, such as Wix or Squarespace. Wix, for example, provides its users with a suite of SEO tools and tutorials, including keyword support and URL customization.
- Best Website Builders for SEO: It’s important that your website builder supports your SEO efforts.
- SEO Basics 101: Read our complete beginner’s guide to ranking well.
- Video Optimization Guide for SEO: Learn how to use videos to boost your site’s rankings.
- SEO Mistakes To Avoid: Stay away from these rookie SEO mistakes.
- How to Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly: Our easy step-by-step guide will help you optimize your website for mobile devices.
6. Make Sustainable Design Choices
These changes to your website’s backend, from green web hosting to improving your overall site speed, are all well and good – but what about your website’s appearance? Your site’s design has an impact on the environment too!
Say you load up your website with bright clashing colors and tons of elements – your website will inevitably be less-responsive and slow. We’d recommend keeping your website as simple as possible with only essential information and basic colors.
For example, stylish options like custom fonts can actually be damaging – downloading and implementing them on your site will slow your website down and increase your energy consumption. We’d recommend you stick with system fonts.
One sustainable website example is Elon and Kimbal Musk’s Foundation – it’s simply a white background with a few lines of text on it. Sure, it’s a little boring, but it’s also one of the cleanest websites out there, only producing 0.39kg of CO2 per year. To compare, the average website with 10,000 monthly page views produces 60kg of CO2 each year!
For your website, it’s probably best to jazz it up a little more, but keeping these sustainable design tips in mind will help make your website more eco-friendly.
- How To Design a Website: Get clued up on the basics with our detailed guide.
- Website Redesign: Looking to revamp your site with more eco-friendly practices? Check out our redesign tips.
- Web Design Trends and Statistics: We bring you up to speed with the latest web design trends.
- Top 10 Best Practice Tips for Website Design: Make your website the best it can be with our web design advice.
- 10 Best Fonts for Websites: We walk you through why fonts are important and how you can choose the best font for your site.
7. Declutter Your Website
Spring cleaning our houses and lives is a pretty common practice for many, so why not carry that over to your website? When we’re looking to be eco-conscious, the idea of being less wasteful and becoming more thoughtful comes to mind. If we apply this to our websites, this takes the form of decluttering pages and removing unnecessary content.
To get you in the cleaning spirit, you can:
- Review your pages – condense information into a single element or page where possible
- Remove outdated content – is every element and page still relevant to your business?
- Reduce clicks – streamline the user journey with a clear linking strategy between pages
- Embrace white space – make your website easier to scan with fewer elements
These steps should improve the user journey and ensure your website is completely up-to-date.
Not only is decluttering beneficial for SEO purposes, but it minimizes the need for readers to click around your website unnecessarily which requires data to be transferred – important information should be easily accessible.
8. Streamline Your Navigation
With a tidy website in place, you can turn your eyes on your website’s navigation. A complicated menu or navigation will just leave users confused, resulting in more time spent on your website.
What’s bad about that? Of course, page views and traffic are great, but they’re also a drain on the environment. It’s better if a user finds what they need on your website quickly to avoid consuming too much energy. And one way to do that is by streamlining your navigation!
Restructure your website’s menu to direct users toward the important pages, and don’t overwhelm your navigation with too many options. We’d also recommend adding a search bar to your site if you don’t already have one since this helps users find the content they need.
9. Adopt Eco-Friendly Practices
If you want to build and manage an eco-friendly website, you should consider how your business, values, and customers can go green too.
It’s all about educating your visitors and minimizing your website – and business’ – impact on the environment as best you can. For example, you can:
- Encourage customers – share informative content with your site’s visitors, and let them know how their actions can support the environment. You could suggest they use public transportation to visit your business in person or advise them why a slower delivery option helps reduce carbon emissions.
- Update your business values – showcase how your business works to minimize its environmental impact. Add eco-friendly practices to your brand values or mission, such as sustainability, diversity, and community efforts.
- Rethink your products – can you reduce waste on your existing and future products? You could replace plastic with more eco-friendly materials, for example, or use a print-on-demand supplier to avoid waste and leftover products.
- Update shipping options – giving your customers a range of shipping options is always wise, but we’d recommend sharing the impact of each option on the environment ahead of checkout. You could use sustainable packaging or even offer carbon-neutral shipping!
- Donate to environmental causes – another great way to make your website more eco-friendly is to give back to environmental causes that matter to you and your business. It’s a good strategy for balancing out any damage done by your website.
These are all helpful steps toward building a low-impact, sustainable website. But there’s one final tip we want to talk about.
10. Get Certified
To round out our list of the top 10 ways you can make your website more eco-friendly, we recommend getting the green stamp of approval with a website certificate. Make it official with organizations such as Web Neutral Project – if you’ve proven your site is committed to sustainability, you can display the certification on your pages.
People are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious, especially as the climate crisis becomes more pressing with each passing day. It’s impacting day-to-day life, shopping decisions, and more. If customers know your website aligns with their values – thanks to the green website certification – it can be a powerful way to build trust and strong relationships.
Websites can be a huge drain on the environment, from energy-sucking data centers to heavy design elements. Now, we’re not saying you should avoid building a website or stop using the web altogether – that would be very hypocritical of us – but with these 10 tips, you should be able to make your site more eco-friendly.
And a lot of these tips, such as improving your SEO, are good practices for any website, climate crisis or not. It’s just a bonus that they’ll help reduce your digital carbon footprint at the same time. Turns out, what’s good for your visitors and site is good for the planet too!
Let us know in the comments if you have an eco-friendly website – we’d love to know your strategies and tips for minimizing your environmental impact.