Sustainability online could reduce 3.7% of greenhouse gas emissions, but what is sustainable web design, and why is it now crucial to online business operations?
Far from being just another buzzword, sustainability is the concept on which our futures rest. For businesses that by proxy often use more than their fair share of resources, sustainability that’s deemed to be a key focus priority for as many as 60% of consumers emphasises the need to do better. Unfortunately, while we all now understand this in terms with areas like materials, energy consumption, etc., one section is increasingly falling under the eco-friendly radar – our online presence.
After all, the web collectively accounts for as much as 3.7% of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s a percentage which is only looking to rise as online data continues to evolve, requiring everything from excessive data stores to cooling units, supercomputers, and more. Not to forget the sheer amount of energy that the 3.5 billion existing web users consume on a personal level when browsing.
With this in mind, businesses claiming to care about the planet face increasing pressure to apply this same eco-forward thinking to what they’re doing online. Sustainable website design makes that possible, but what exactly is it, why does it matter and how to create a sustainable web design can you implement right now?
Table of Contents
What is Sustainable Web Design?
Sustainable web design is a design approach that puts the planet first by always using the smallest amount of energy possible. This ultimate goal can be achieved in several ways once a company dedicates itself to making it happen, and should ultimately lead to increased sustainability on both a server and a user’s device.
While this doesn’t change the ultimate aim of your website, it does facilitate the use of techniques including simplified navigation, fast loading, optimised imagery, and reduced data collection in general. A sustainable website should especially adhere to the ‘Sustainable Web Manifesto’, which calls for an internet that is –
- Clean: Powered by renewable energy
- Efficient: Using the least amount of energy
- Open: Accessible and private
- Honest: Never misleading or exploiting
- Regenerative: Supporting an environmental economy
- Resilient: Always functional when needed
Why Does Sustainable Web Design Matter?
Ultimately, understanding why sustainable web design matters is as simple as considering the damage currently caused by unchecked online operations. As mentioned, web activity alone accounts for almost 4% of all greenhouse gas emissions as it stands, and that figure is only set to increase as online activities like eCommerce continue to gain momentum at a fast pace. Further, even, to this worrying reality is the fact that –
- Every internet user produces an average of 414kg (912lbs) of carbon dioxide a year
- Internet emissions are currently similar to those seen across the aviation industry
- If the internet were a country, it would be the world’s 6th largest polluter
With all of this in mind, sustainable web design should matter on even a basic human level, just like ocean pollution and agricultural emissions are now a part of all of our public consciousness. From a solely business-based standpoint, however, sustainable web design runs even deeper than a basic need to do our best for the planet we’re living on. In fact, as can be seen from the companies already implementing a sustainable web-based focus, a vast multitude of benefits can very quickly be felt, including –
- Cost-saving due to energy reductions/reduced storage requirements
- Improved UX through simplified navigation, improved load times, etc.
- Reputational boosts as 60% of consumers favour sustainable businesses
As general knowledge surrounding the potential environmental damage of heavy internet usage grows, companies who make a point of putting sustainability at the forefront of their ethos should especially take moves to practice what they preach across online infrastructures. Otherwise, the negative reputational impact of inaction here could lead to significant losses and even a complete cessation of consumer trust at a time when more companies than ever are taking steps to ensure it.
What Makes a Sustainable Website?
Even if you understand its importance, sustainable web design can remain out of reach unless you take the time to truly understand what makes a website sustainable in the first place. We touched briefly on this in our definition, but the reality is that implementing a sustainable web design that truly serves this purpose requires some pretty delicate handling. After all, many different elements must be taken into account to make your page as sustainable as possible, and just a few of the things you’ll want to consider in this sense include –
1. Image Optimisations
High-resolution images are one of the worst website offenders for eating up energy, not to mention that they can significantly slow all-important page load times (which we’ll discuss in more detail in a little while). As such, one of the simplest things you can do for sustainable web design is to simply optimise the images you’re using by reducing size or resolution.
2. Reduced Page Load Times
When pages are loading, they’re sending a whole load of information around the web and are creating their highest energy outputs as a result. As such, reducing page load times using techniques like researching the best hosting solutions or browser caching can make a huge difference overall.
3. Renewable Energy Sources
Website hosting requires a lot of energy, predominantly because of the storage needed to collect that all-important data. By choosing green hosting solutions that run on renewable energy sources like the many centres now located in countries such as the Netherlands, you can therefore significantly reduce your website’s environmental impact.
Save Your Website With Sustainable Web Design
As more consumers than ever start to sit up and pay attention to the environmental damage caused by small and large corporations alike, even hidden damage like that of traditional websites is likely to come to the forefront. When this happens, companies who have struggled to stay ahead with sustainable web design will inevitably find themselves falling out of favour, and for good reason. Make sure you never compromise your company’s ethical focus in this way by getting on top of sustainable web design at last!
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