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Your website’s carbon footprint

Your website’s carbon footprint is created by server use, search engine crawling, and clicks. Here's how to reduce your energy consumption.
Your website's carbon footprint; Reduce it! A graphic depicting a computer, a cell phone, and a tablet, each with a Net Zero graphic on the screen. A cheeky seagull stands in the corner admonishing energy wasters.

The internet uses lots of energy

Streaming services, gaming, online retailers, and search engines consume power with every byte.  Compared to sites with thousands of pages, the websites I build are small potatoes but they do contribute to the overall usage.  What’s that old adage?  Think globally, act locally.  Let’s do that.

Energy-saving websites reduce their carbon footprints in a variety of ways.  Writing copy efficiently to reduce redundancy, making sure images and media are correctly sized and compressed, and optimizing crawl settings to reduce search engine bot activity; each step you take will help decrease your website’s emissions.

Internet power consumption

Website data centers, search engines, and website content are three things we can control.  Let’s look at each of these, how they use power, and how you can have a green website.

Website hosting companies

Choosing an efficient website host is a good place to start.  Internet hosts use electricity in their data centers to power servers.  The buildings those servers live in use a lot of air conditioning, and storing and delivering data all over the world expends electricity.  Energy-efficient hosting companies have data centers scattered throughout their audience’s geographical footprint so they can send data shorter distances.

A graphic depicting a server sending data to laptops, tablets, and phones near and far. It symbolizes a centralized system of data banks.
Central distribution wastes energy
A graphic depicting the world wide web logo surrounded by servers sending data to laptops, tablets, and phones. It symbolizes a distributed system of data banks.
Global distribution saves energy

They way hosts schedule their servers’ power consumption also affects how much energy they use.  Do they power their servers 100% 24/7 even though there are periods of lower usage?  That can make a difference in how much energy it takes to serve your web page.

The Green Web Directory is a listing of hosting companies that use energy-efficient practices.  Happily, my host (SiteGround) is listed.  Their post, Green Web Hosting And SiteGround’s Commitment To Sustainability discusses their efforts, which include keeping their software lightweight and updated, running backups at times when there’s less internet traffic, and building partnerships with other environmentally-minded organizations.

Search engines

Search engines use a lot of energy to constantly crawl the web.  When a search engine crawls your site, it uses fuel.  Of course: the larger your site, the more it uses.  You can reduce this consumption by streamlining your settings. 

WordPress is a powerful tool, with options for many website scenarios, but not all websites need all the tools.  In fact, many websites don’t use most of WordPress’s tools.  So, you can hide the code you’re not using so search engines don’t spend their time on it.  Shortlinks, various types of feeds, and media pages are a few things you can (normally) safely disable.  With each feed you disable, you decrease the code search engines crawl, and reduce the carbon footprint of your website.  I’ll talk more about his in a bit.

How web content can affect power usage

You can streamline your data to lower the amount of work search engines have to do on it. 

Write efficient copy to avoid redundancy.  It’s tempting to post more and more, thinking that it’ll increase the chances of being noticed but that can easily backfire on you.  If your copy is watered down, readers may get frustrated by how vague it is and move on to other sites.  Also, if you have three posts on the same subject you’re competing with yourself for attention.  Tighten it up: make your content worth spending time on.  It’ll reduce your footprint and be more attractive to readers.

Optimize your media.  Don’t use images that are 3000 px wide, as there are few scenarios where that’s needed.  Choosing the appropriate size and file type can significantly decrease your site’s database.  Host videos on another platform and link to them instead of storing them in your database.

Turn off feeds for crawling efficiency

The Yoast SEO plugin allows you to turn off feeds and features, telling search engines to ignore those parts of your site.  Every site is different, and knowing what your site needs is imperative.  For example, if you have a blog site with only one author, you can safely turn off author feeds.  But if your site has multiple authors, you’ll want to keep that feature enabled. 

Use the Website Carbon Calculator to see your site’s efficiency rating.  I tested mine while writing this post and got a B rating.  This is without turning off feeds for crawling efficiency.

A screenshot of Being Freed's website carbon rating from the Website Carbon Calculator. The site received a carbon rating of B, claner than 78% of web pages globally.
A carbon rating of B isn't bad, but it could be better - looks like I have some work to do

Summing up

There are plenty of things you can do to make sure your website is as green as possible.  Choose a green host, generate quality content, and optimize crawl settings.  When I build your website, I’ll help you with all of these.

Vocabulary

Carbon footprint – the amount of carbon compounds emitted by a person or entity, based on their activities

Data center – a building where servers are stored which, in turn, store data

Shortlinks – a condensed version of a URL; a shorthand of sorts

The Green Web Directory –  an index of hosting companies that use energy-efficient practices

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I’ve completed Mailchimp’s Fundamentals training, so you can feel confident about my skills with contact hygiene, templates, customer journeys, and other Mailchimp mysteries.  In coming blog posts I’ll elaborate on various aspects of the marketing platform such as tags, segments, and groups.  I’ll go into depth about customer journeys and why it’s important to design forms such as sign-up and update user preferences.  I’ll talk you through templates and how they can save you time and help reinforce your company branding every time you send a campaign.

Mailchimp Certification

Did you know I'm Mailchimp Certified?

I’ve completed Mailchimp’s Fundamentals training, so you can feel confident about my skills with contact hygiene, templates, customer journeys, and other Mailchimp mysteries.  In coming blog posts I’ll elaborate on various aspects of the marketing platform such as tags, segments, and groups.  I’ll go into depth about customer journeys and why it’s important to design forms such as sign-up and update user preferences.  I’ll talk you through templates and how they can save you time and help reinforce your company branding every time you send a campaign.

Mailchimp Certification