Sustainable web development is something that I have researched and am now implementing into my web development projects. The need to work as efficiently as possible and reduce the carbon footprint of the websites I build became apparent to me once I knew the below fact:

If the Internet were a country, it would be the world’s 6th largest polluter

The internet currently accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions which means that if it were a country, it would rank 6th in the list of polluters. This shocking fact seemed to me to be overlooked by most people and businesses when trying to improve their ecological footprint.

So, with this in mind, I decided to research everything I could do to help people and my own company to produce eco-friendly websites and came up with a 7-point action plan which I work to, listed below.

1. Using a Sustainable Web Hosting company

Data centres use a huge amount of energy and a lot of the time that energy comes from coal-fired power stations for their operations and the associated cooling. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Many web hosting companies now run on renewable energy, one of which is Green Geeks, which I use for all the web development projects that I undertake through my company.

Green Geeks are a 300% green hosting platform, meaning that for every unit of energy they use, they match it 3 times in the form of renewable energy.

2. Sustainable Web Design and Development

Using efficient coding practices, such as lazy loading and responsive image sizes, I have been trying to reduce the size of the websites I build. This reduces the amount of energy that the websites I build will consume when they are in use.

I also try to use a sustainable web browser, Ecosia, wherever possible.

3. Using a renewable energy company

Both my office in Bristol and my home office run on 100% renewable electricity through Bulb. Bulb is UK’s biggest green energy supplier providing 100% renewable electricity to their customers. Using a renewable energy company for the premises in which I work is a huge part of maintaining a sustainable method of building websites.

4. Donating to environmental non-profits

I donate at least 1% of my sales to environmental non-profits through 1% for The Planet. This is an initiative set up by the Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard in order for companies and individuals to protect the planet. Last year I donated to the Avon Wildlife Trust in my home town of Bristol, which went towards conservation work on a local nature reserve.

5. Sustainable travel

I am very lucky to have a relatively small amount of travel associated with my job.

Day to day I cycle to and from work instead of driving or using public transport, which is actually quicker, therefore doubly efficient.

I undertake meetings via online meeting platforms, such as Skype or Zoom, thus reducing the need for unnecessary travel.

6. Volunteering

As often as I can, I volunteer for environmental charities in order to clean up the mess that humans create. One such charity is Surfers Against Sewage, with whom I have been involved in the Spring and Autumn beach cleans in Bristol for a number of years.

This usually involves picking up a wide variety of plastic in huge quantities (everything from plastic bottles to Christmas trees) from the River Avon underneath the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

7. Carbon Offsetting

Even with all of the above methods for working sustainably, I also offset my actions to further eliminate any negative externalities of my actions. To do this, I make a tally of my activities throughout the year and then at the end of the year I submit them for carbon calculation which I then offset through proven offsetting methods such as mangrove planting.

 

I am always looking to further my environmental commitments, so if you have any suggestions on how I can do this please get in touch.

Want to know how much carbon is being released by people using your website? Well, now you can with the website carbon calculator.

Visit websitecarbon.com and enter the address of your website and get some insights into how the website can improve its environmental performance including coding practices and hosting the site using renewable energy.

As a web developer I feel it is a duty of mine to improve the efficiency of the websites that I build in order to limit their environmental impact. This also feeds into web design and, therefore, by educating web designers and developers on sustainable web design principle, environmental damage can be reduced on a large scale.

To put this into perspective, this article in Nature states that:

ICT’s carbon footprint on a par with the aviation industry’s emissions from fuel

A large part of that is due to websites being constantly loaded and the ever increasing size of websites, which uses a sizeable amount of electricity each time you load a page.

3 key ways to reduce a website’s impact are:

  1. Switching to a green hosting company – this will usually mean your website will run purely on renewable energy
  2. Make websites as efficient as possible
  3. Offset any emissions that remain

To find out what I am doing to improve my ecological footprint, head to my other post about sustainable web design.