Sustainable Web Development – Building carbon neutral websites
Sustainable web development is essential to reducing the internet’s contribution to climate change – an environmental impact which is on a par with the aviation industry and still rising.
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 – the UK’s biggest green energy supplier.
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.
I have also partnered with Tree for Life, who are working to regenerate the Caledonian forest across Scotland through native tree planting and rewilding. I have a grove of trees which I add to with every project I undertake.
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.
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.
I also volunteered a significant amount of time to designing and building a website for environmentalist Rob Greenfield in order to support his cause of educating people in how to lead a more sustainable life.
7. Buying second-hand and recycling
I tend to buy my hardware second-hand wherever possible. So my laptop, monitor, keyboard etc are all previously used rather than new. Apple have a refurbished area in their online store which means you can buy used items and use less resources in the process.
Also, eBay is a great place to find used items, which are often in perfect working condition.
At the end of a piece of hardware’s life I always recycle it. There are various ways to do this and it makes whole lot more sense than throwing perfectly usable components away.
8. Sustainable Banking
Banking is an often overlooked aspect of any business or individual’s environmental impact. The BBC reported that 35 of the world’s major banks have provided $2.7 trillion (£2tn) to fossil fuel companies since the Paris Agreement, which is clearly not in line with any responsible business.
Due to this I am in the process of transferring to a sustainable bank. Bristol-based Triodos are my bank of choice due to their support for companies that focus on people, the environment or culture.
9. 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.
So, in conclusion – from start to finish, my process is environmentally focussed:
– Firstly, I cycle to work
– Then I use renewable energy to build your website
– Your site is then hosted on servers using renewable energy, which keeps the site from emitting greenhouse gases throughout its usage
– Lastly, I also contribute to environmental causes, through donations and volunteering. Thus, the project goes beyond carbon neutrality and can actually have a net positive impact on the planet.
Podcasts are a good source of information and I have listed a few of my favourites in this post on environmental podcasts.
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.
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