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Digital transformation is helping businesses change the way they operate, however, our online habits are having a surprising effect on our environment. The production, use and data transfer of digital devices is causing more CO₂ emissions than you might expect. These emissions are more commonly known as your digital CO₂ footprint or digital carbon footprint. 

Did you know that internet use accounts for 3.7% of global emissions – equivalent to all air traffic in the world – a figure that’s expected to double by 2025. That’s a huge amount of CO2 emitted just by surfing the internet, and that’s excluding the effect Covid-19 has had. Since working from home has become the new normal following the pandemic, our internet usage has also increased – which is likely to emit more CO2 into the environment.

Wondering what you can do to lower your output? Fear not, there are steps you can take to help reduce your carbon output. Here’s some insightful tactics and strategies you can easily implement and develop into your strategy.

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How do digital solutions produce a carbon footprint?

A digital carbon footprint is the CO2 emissions that result from the production, use and data transfer of digital devices. Hosting, transporting and viewing digital services can all contribute to this output. Power usage across all three of these channels is then amplified by the number of pages, requests, volume and file size. The impact can be huge – data from Science Focus and OVO Energy suggests “global email usage generates as much CO2 as having 7 million extra cars on the road”. This stat shows just how much a digital carbon footprint can impact the world we live in.

Activities such as internet traffic, sending emails, streaming video content, video conference calls and voice over VoIP all use this power. Every minute spent scrolling a newsfeed, browsing the internet, streaming a video, joining a conference etc. all contribute to your digital carbon footprint.

Data from even stated that “if the internet was a country, it would be the world’s sixth-largest polluter”. Here’s how you can audit your website to make a start with reducing digital carbon footprints.

There are three main ways you can start with a website audit to check your output and see where you can make necessary changes: inbuilt browser tools, page speed insights and Google Analytics. A page audit can remove out of date, unnecessary and largely duplicated pages and help you put a plan in place for ongoing website content population, using data to make the right decisions.

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How can you measure a website’s carbon footprint?

There are a few ways you can measure the carbon footprint of a website, known as hard measures. The first hard measure is page size. If you reduce your homepage from 10mb to 7mb, the carbon it takes to the server to transmit and view your website will also be reduced. 

Soft measures include page speed insights and hosted carbon calculating tools such as Page speed impacts carbon output because the energy used to power servers isn’t clean, so it contributes to global CO2 emissions. The more efficient your website, the less energy it will use, lowering carbon footprint. Customers will still get to access information quickly, reducing bounce rate and increasing engagement.

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What can you do immediately to reduce the carbon footprint of your website?

There are tactics you can do right away to help reduce the carbon footprint of your website which are low cost and easy to implement. Review image sizes and look for any oversized images that can be resized and/or compressed.

Ensure any documents uploaded are not saved for print but instead saved for web. As well as this, use auto playing video only when it’s strictly necessary. Consider changing to ‘on demand’ by adding a play / pause button. Make sure your website is telling the browser to cache fixed resources – an object that remains fixed or stationary.

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The bigger picture

What are some longer-term solutions to reducing carbon footprint? You can move your hosting (and IT infrastructure) to a carbon neutral provider – companies that aim to maintain a balance over the amount of carbon they emit. A carbon negative company’s goal is to emit less carbon from the atmosphere than it removes. 

Using a provider located closer to your users is another way to reduce transportation emissions, lowering the overall carbon footprint. There’s also a sleep mode equivalent you could add, which is offered by some hosted web and IT solutions.

Reviewing your search engine optimisation and content can help audiences land on the right page, hugely reducing your website’s carbon footprint as 68% of users start their journey through search.

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What are the other benefits?

There are other benefits to reducing the carbon footprint of websites outside of the environment. For example, user experience can be improved by a simple site structure that executes well-defined user journeys.

A lower page footprint increases Google page speed score. This is an important ranking mechanism for search engines, so your website could appear higher in search rankings, helping your readers find the information that’s important to them.

What’s next?

So now you’ve learned the ins and outs of sustainability and the digital dilemma, what can you do next to help with the issue?

You can help by raising awareness across the relevant departments, take some of the baseline measurements we’ve discussed in this blog and begin your journey to becoming more carbon neutral!

Get in touch to see how we can help to lower the carbon output of your website.

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