You might think that everything digital like a website is eco-friendly. Well, I’ve got some bad news for you. That’s not the case. There are so many aspects of the digital world that require energy. There are around 4.6 billion people using the internet and that adds up to a lot of carbon emissions. The manufacturing of digital gadgets, the servers, the powering of your smartphone and laptops, sending emails, the cloud, and more all require energy. Currently, the majority of this energy is produced through burning fossil fuels.
If you have your own website, it is your responsibility to ensure that it has a minimal impact on the environment because if you have a lot of traffic, every time someone clicks on your website, it increases its carbon footprint. But don’t worry, making your website eco-friendly is not hard.
What Is Sustainable Web Design And Why It’s Important
Sustainable web design is essentially a way to make your website more eco-friendly. There are various ways to do this, as explained below.
The internet has brought countless opportunities for us and has changed the world forever. But now, we need to stop it from being so polluting. As with everything else, our aim should be to reduce our carbon emissions and our impact on the natural environment in order to protect it from any future irreversible harm. Climate change is the single biggest threat humans have faced.
Making the internet more ‘green’ is part of the solution and you as a digital creator can play your role in this. Our creativity and love for design, should not harm the environment. If anything, we should try our best to use our creative skills to protect it.
If you need another reason as to why you should make your website more eco-friendly, how about the fact that you improve customer loyalty and trust. Without a doubt, if you showcase the fact that you are actively trying to make your website more sustainable by reducing its carbon footprint, they are more likely to come back to your website. It also makes your stand out from the crowd.
How To Create An Eco-Friendly Website
01. Switch To A Green Host
One of the best ways to make a website eco-friendly is to switch it to a green host. The internet is a big contributor to climate change. Servers are one of the ways in which your website emits CO2. These servers found in data centers require energy but also need large amounts of energy to cool them and stop them from overheating. Green hosts run of renewable energy or offset their carbon emissions.
Green Greeks is definitely at the top of my list when it comes to green hosts but there are others too. It just depends on your own preferences and budget.
I recently switched to Green Geeks myself to make this website more environmentally friendly and I don’t regret it. I’m glad I made the switch and it also feels good that now my website does not contribute to the increase of greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere. Not only does Green Geeks offset the carbon emissions produced but they offset it three times more making it not only carbon neutral but carbon negative.
Find out more about Green Geeks and their commitment to sustainability here.
02. Delete Unwanted Content
Any media or pages that you don’t need anymore, delete them.
Content takes up space on your server. Go through your website and files and delete pictures that you are not using, pages or posts that are not relevant anymore, and any plugins that you don’t use or need. Keep the backend of your website clean. Otherwise, they will keep using energy to store files that you don’t need.
Also, there might be files or code left behind after uninstalling plugins. So take the time one day and take a look at the backend of your website and find any of these files and delete them. (But remember to back up your site before you delete anything just in case anything goes wrong)
03. Lazyload Images
Lazy loading images is essential for faster loading times. It basically means that images are loaded as the user scrolls down instead of loading all of the pictures at once when the user lands on the page. Once you enable lazy loading (which can be done through a cache plugin or an image optimization plugin), pages will load faster and will therefore produce fewer carbon emissions.
04. Choose A Light Theme
Not only is this better for the environment, but it also creates a better user experience. Heavy themes take longer to load and are likely to drive viewers, or customers, away. Choose a light theme such a Neve, Astra, or OceanWP. There are some themes that promote their countless features and fonts but think about if you really need those features. Most of the time having so many features is not necessary.
A lightweight theme has cleaner code and usually are designed better from what I’ve seen. Choosing a heavy theme could really impact your SEO too. Don’t get lured in with unnecessary features. Choose simplicity and good design if you wish to have an eco-friendly website.
05. Optimize media
If you don’t want to use a plugin to keep your website light, there are other ways in which you optimize your image like using Photoshop or by using a website that compress images.
This is important because it reduces their size and therefore how much space they take on your website and server. Optimized media again help speed up your site.
When it comes to videos, use them carefully. Don’t overload your website by using too many. Do they help your viewers or do they add some value? If the answer to these questions is no, then remove them. If you do need to use a video, here are some tips to optimize them:
- Embed the video instead of uploading it directly onto your server
- Use a plugin to optimize videos
- Compress the video
- Replace with a preview image
- Enable lazyloading for videos
06. Minimalistic Design
This is perhaps one of the most important points when creating an eco-friendly website. Don’t overload your website with images, videos, and pop-ups. Simple is always better in my opinion and this is no exception. Having loads of different elements on your pages will use up more energy and slow down the loading time too.
Nowadays, everyone prefers simple websites anyways. Be to the point and don’t confuse. Choose a simple layout that looks good and that does the job. This will ensure your website has a lower carbon footprint.
Minimalistic design also improves user experience because everything on the website is clear and concise.
07. Good User Experience
Make sure everything is easy to use and clear. Don’t have many ads all over your site and don’t create confusing buttons because people will end up clicking on the content they don’t want to see. As I said before, keep it simple.
Good user experience is not only a key point for an eco-friendly website, it attracts more customers and increases returning users. Make it easy for people to find what they are looking for. In addition, check if your website is mobile responsive. Since most individuals using the internet are on their phones, it also makes sense to have a good user experience on mobile devices too. If your website doesn’t look good or if it’s hard to navigate through a phone, no one will return and it’s going to take them twice as long to find the information they searched for.
08. Faster Loading Time
You can use websites like GT Metrix and Pingdom to test your website and find out what you can do to speed it up. These give you accurate data and information on how to specifically speed up your sire. Here are some things you can do:
- Use a CDN such as Cloudflare to speed your website up even more. A CDN is a system of servers around the world. Using a server that is physically closer to the user speeds up loading time which is why having a system of servers spread around the world ensures all your users in all countries can get on to your site faster.
- Optimize images
- Don’t use too many plugins – Is there something that can be achieved through coding or externally. Don’t overload your website with plugins and delete any that are not activated.
- Don’t have too many redirects – Redirects slow down the loading time of a page because a URL needs to be redirected to another one. Limit these as much as possible.
- Having lighter colours also improves the performance. So avoid using a dark background.
Speeding up your website should be a priority anyway because it affects your Google rankings and traffic too as well as the eco-friendliness of your website.
09. Easy to navigate
Easy to navigate goes along with good user experience. Make sure your website is easy to navigate so the user doesn’t waste unnecessary time trying to find a page or a product. The more pages the user clicks on, the more carbon dioxide is released.
Some ways to make your site for navigatable is to add a search bar, have clear categories and labels, and link to relevant pages where needed. Having a well-designed footer, header, or side header also helps make your website easier to navigate.
10. Offset Your Carbon
This could be an alternative if you can’t switch to a green host right now. Or you could offset other areas of your life that are indirectly connected to your website. Such as your domestic electricity consumption.
There are many organizations that can help you offset your carbon. Carbonfund.org is just one example. There are many organizations emerging to make it easier to go carbon neutral. Whether that is as an individual or a business.
11. Donate To Good Causes
How about create an initiative and donate part of your profits to an environmental charity? There are so many out there. I prefer donating to smaller organizations or local ones instead of large organizations because I feel like they need it more. But that’s a personal choice. If you find a small organization that you truly believe in its values and ethos, support them.
Showcase this fact on your site and be transparent about where these funds are going exactly to gain even more respect from your users. It’s a great back to give back and a way to make your website more sustainable.
12. Good SEO
Along with good speed, good SEO should be another priority of yours. If you improve your SEO, it will make it easier for more users to find your website again instead of going through every page on google trying to find a specific page they want.
It’s not just websites that produce carbon emissions, search engines like Google also need energy to pull the data together and every time you click to go to the next page, it produces carbon emissions.
Good SEO is not only vital for a successful website, but it’s also essential for the environment. Small changes do add up especially when billions of people are using the internet daily. Make it easy to people to find your content.
Finally, take the time to educate those entering your website about the importance of eco-consious decisions.
Sustainability is usually not the first thing that web designers think about but that needs to change. Educate others about the importance of having an eco-friendly website and other important sustainable practices creatives can follow. Let’s use our talents to make the world a better place.
Creating an eco-friendly website doesn’t have to be hard. Follow these steps and you will be well on the way to having a website with a very low environmental impact. Slowly, slowly try implementing these on your website.
The key to an eco-friendly website is simplicity and minimalism. That doesn’t mean your website needs to be black and white and boring. No, it means only having the important elements on your page and remove everything else.
Besides, all of these are not just green practises, they improve user experience and will increase your traffic too.
Sometimes it’s difficult to understand how websites produce this much carbon dioxide and how doing these will do any difference. But, remember that small actions multiplied by everyone can lead to big change. Trust that you are part of the change. Don’t ignore this problem. Simply because we don’t see these emissions and the data centers, doesn’t mean they are not there.
Choose sustainable design above all else and reduce the impact of your business on the environment.