What is Sustainable Web Design and How Does It Help the Environment?
All too often, environmental damage seems little more than an afterthought for some of the world’s leading companies. It’s nearly impossible to discuss environmental degradation without mentioning research of the 100 businesses that contribute nearly 71% of total global emissions since 1998. The same study credits more than half of all global emissions to just 25 companies.
With an increased demand for sustainable business practices on an international scale, companies are continually seeking opportunities to increase output while minimizing environmental impact. No matter the size of the business itself, sustainable business practices help improve a company’s public image, while, more importantly, helping the environment and preserving resources for future generations.
Some of the more identifiable sustainable business practices include recycling, sustainable supply chains, and chemical management. A lesser-known practice — sustainable web design — can also yield positive dividends for the environment, and conserve digital and print resources.
How Can a Website Impact the Environment?
Successful conservation and sustainability are based on dematerialization, or reducing the number of resources used for each project. However, even the most efficient digital tasks can create real-life waste.
When internet users interact with an online video, news article, or web page, a data transfer delivers information from the server housing the website. One study estimates the internet’s total carbon footprint at approximately 830 tons of CO2 dumped annually into the atmosphere each year. Larger websites, lightning-fast load times, and high pixel counts may entertain visitors, but can also compromise sustainability efforts.
However, sustainable website development can mean increased sustainability. Website elements like responsive design, optimized images, minified back-end code, and custom fonts can allow website developers to reduce a website’s carbon footprint, without compromising a website user’s online experience. Green website hosting — hosts which prioritize renewable, sustainable energy sources to run servers — further help by implementing a more sustainable practice for everyone involved, from web design and developer to consumer.
Examples of Sustainable Web Design
The best website developers can build sustainability into a website’s identity, from design through development. For example, Seattle-based firm Miller Interior Design uses a website that puts sustainable web design practice into use, featuring a responsive homepage design and images optimized for size and pixel count.Similarly, Half a Sorrow Foundation — a mental health advocacy group that improves patient outlook through awareness — offers a minimalist website that conveys information across one, dynamically-loading page. These websites and others succeed by bringing sustainable website design to life.
How to Implement Sustainable Web Design
Implementing sustainable website design first means trusting a website developer with a firm grasp of the issues and priorities that matter to you. Since it can be more difficult to make a website sustainable after it has been created, companies seeking new website design should find developers who share their vision for website look and feel, but also for environmental conservation.
Today, this can mean optimizing for 5G internet access — technology that offers quick load times, industry-leading image resolution, and simultaneous website use across the world. Helping to implement sustainable website development practices for your website can include any of the following options:
Use lazy loading images and content, to avoid loading unnecessary website media onto the page until the user needs it;
Leverage browser caching for reduced file load sizes and times when visitors return to familiar sites;
Minimize website navigational features with search bars and reduced drop-down menus;
Trust website hosts that operate with environmental sustainability measures;
Remove unnecessary ads or pop-ups;
Embed safe images and video from other reputable online sources, instead of hosting media on your website;
Launch fast-loading mobile pages with reduced features for easy navigation and use.
Many of these tips and others are already considered website design best practices, and will help web developers build custom websites that prioritize both user experience and sustainability.
Other Ways to Promote Sustainability
Website design is only one way that technology-heavy companies can work to reduce their carbon footprint. Simply trading in used smartphones for a new phone or properly recycling them can go a long way toward positively impacting the environment. Here are a few other ways that modern companies can help pursue sustainability and environmental conservation:
Trade in used tablets and wearable devices to avoid unnecessary waste;
Use energy-efficient lighting and appliances in the office;
Take steps to source workplace energy from renewable sources;
Recycle devices at the end of their lifecycle;
Audit corporate energy use to continually identify new ways to conserve resources.
Additional Benefits of Sustainable Web Design
Companies that implement environmentally-conscious business habits can also see concrete benefits in the workplace. Specific benefits for businesses that enable sustainable technological use include:
Reduced monthly utility bills;
Reduced comprehensive carbon footprint and fossil fuel use;
Reduced overall waste of used technological devices;
Select reimbursements and tax cuts for enacting energy-friendly business practices;
Improved overall business efficiency and productivity;
Streamlined compliance with energy use and climate change regulations;
Satisfied shareholders and improved public image and opinion.
No matter the size of your business, enabling environmentally conscious business practices — including sustainable web design — can help to yield a wide variety of benefits including environmental, financial, and public image interests.
Are Search Engines and Platforms Addressing This Issue?
As the avenues consumers use to access online resources, search engines and platforms share responsibility in limiting environmental damage. For example, Google Custom Search launched Blackle in January 2007, an energy-saving search alternative to other search engines. Newly-proposed search engine processors like the Predictive Energy Saving Online Scheduling Algorithm (PESOS) could further limit how much energy is used each time a consumer searches online.
Social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, have also taken steps to address sustainable web use. Facebook has committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2030, while Twitter launched a 2019 partnership with the Earth Day Network (now EarthDay.org) to address climate change on a global scale. In committing to sustainable web practices and following through on promises for positive environmental change, all companies can take steps to limit carbon footprint and protect the world we call home.