Environmental Impact of Websites
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across an article that talked about the environmental impact of websites. As someone with a website, I had never considered this before!
While it’s easy to think of the internet as some kind of ethereal cloud floating around in the air, it’s actually dependent on millions of hard-wired servers that require energy to run. Most often this energy comes from fossil fuels. And, of course, burning fossil fuels releases CO2 into the air, which contributes to pollution and climate change.
We can thank human industry-related CO2 for much of the earth’s warming, which has contributed to extreme temperatures, wildfires, flooding, and more severe storm systems over the past several years.
How much of an impact do websites make?
According to Wired:
the average website produces 1.76g of CO2 for every page view; so a site with 100,000 page views per month emits 2,112kg of CO2 every year.Source
In order to make sense of these numbers, let’s compare them to something we may have more familiarity with. 2,112kg is equal to 2.3 US tons. The average Americans household produces about 7.5 tons of carbon dioxide a year, a number that includes electricity, water use, and transportation.
That means that three modest sized websites are just as environmentally damaging as an entire household! Multiply that by 400 million active websites (and 2 billion total sites) and you’re talking about a giant polluter that is hardly talked about at all.
This is why Jack Amend, the co-founder of Web Neutral Project, says that:
“The internet is essentially the largest coal-fired machine on the entire planet.”Source
How much of an impact does your website make?
If you own or manage a site, there are a couple ways to check the impacts. I used Avant Grade to check my site’s environmental health. The good news is that they ranked my site as environmentally friendly!
Check your site with Avant Grade here.
The Website Carbon calculator is another popular tool that provides several helpful comparisons to help you understand the numbers. You can also add a badge to your website that will calculate carbon use for each page.
Cleaning Up Digital Clutter
If you have a website, there are a few ways to reduce CO2 impacts:
- Stop streaming video
- Properly size and compress images
- Delete unused or outdated page and posts
- Use AMP pages for mobile visitors
- Consider green website hosts
Websites aren’t the only digital platforms that contribute to climate change. Video streaming and overflowing email inboxes are other large contributors, as is merely using the internet.
It’s a good idea to clean up your digital clutter periodically, and download longer videos instead of streaming them from the web.
Of course, hardware matters, too. Opt for secondhand computers and phones when possible. You can read more about the ethics of tech in my recent post.
Are there other things you’ve done to reduce your digital footprint?
Leah Wise is the founder of StyleWise Blog. She has been writing, speaking, and consulting on sustainable fashion, the fair trade and secondhand supply chain, and digital marketing for over ten years. An Episcopal priest, Leah holds a B.A. in Religion from Florida State University and an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School. When not working, you can find her looking for treasures at the thrift store.