The Ideaction Blog

Hidden ways your web presence harms your sustainability & what to do about it

Posted by Tim Frick on November 14, 2013

You’re a conscious company. You recycle. You use LED lighting. You manage your HVAC system and turn off your computers at night. You may even compost. And if you work with Ideaction Corps, you might even be a Certified B Corporation, which means you’ve undertaken their rigorous assessment process to ensure your efforts will result in a smaller environmental impact for your company or organization. My hat’s off to you!

There’s one area, however, where you may not have considered your company’s environmental impact: your web presence. While there are dozens of sustainability assessments focused on components like your supply chain or office, the web is one place where most sustainability and life cycle assessments fall short. They may cover the electricity use of internal servers, printers, and so on, but they don’t typically take a company’s website or social media activity into consideration. You may not know it, but your organization’s website and content marketing efforts could be leading to a greater environmental impact.

Consider these stats:

These are sobering stats, sure, but it is well within our reach to make the internet more sustainable. Where life cycle assessments and sustainability certifications fail, site owners and web designers can prevail. If we collectively consider sustainability when making decisions about our websites, we could significantly reduce the internet’s environmental impact. Of course, there’s not much you personally can do about social network energy use other than to perhaps think twice about posting that kitten video (but it’s sooo cute!). There are, however, many things you can do about your website.

Here are five:

  • Switch to a hosting provider that uses 100% renewable energy to power their data centers. It’s the most significant thing you can do, because the energy used to host your website is where most of its carbon footprint comes from. Here’s a comprehensive list of green web hosting services from The Green Web Foundation or try fellow B Corp Canvas Dreams.
  • Ditch the bells and whistles: Flash, Java (not JavaScript), photo carousels, sharing widgets and other bandwidth-intensive features can add significant weight to your site pages. There are viable low-bandwidth alternatives. Use them.
  • Make your site easy to find: publishing keyword-rich, SEO-friendly content regularly will help people find what they need quickly, resulting in small bandwidth savings that add up.
  • Make your site mobile-friendly: the number of devices on the internet will only grow. Making sure your site offers an experience optimized for these devices will save a lot of finger-scrolling time . . . and resources.
  • Make your site easy-to-use: optimize every task that a customer completes on your site for the least number of steps. If a person can purchase something in three steps rather than six, your site users will thank you and they’ll use less resources in the process.

To see how sustainable your website is, check out Mightybytes’ free tool, Ecograder, or review the sustainable web design resources on our blog.

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