How “digital emissions”—the energy consumed by using the internet—has skyrocketed, and how we can fight it.
Though there’s been a measurable drop in the emissions we usually think about since the beginning of COVID-19, the amount of “digital emissions”—that is, the energy consumed by using the internet—has grown astronomically. Currently, the internet consumes as much energy as the entirety of the UK, between 2% and 3% of global energy usage. And every ambient video, CMS, full-bleed hero image, and complex design and animation humans put out there contributes to this usage.
But there is another way. A more sustainable way to create for the web. You may have seen HZ’s homepage yesterday, the 51st anniversary of Earth Day. (If not, check it out here.) We turned off our own website and instead created a low-impact website to bring awareness to the environmental impact of a growing digital footprint. For this website, we eliminated animations, photography, and custom fonts, and built the site using the Jamstack methodology (more on that below). Only live for 24 hours, we were able to reach 902 unique visitors.
Jesiah McCann, HZ’s Director of Technology, explains how and why it’s important to consider the sustainability of your brand’s website.
Digital sustainability is no longer a nice-to-do, but a must-do.
Digital sustainability is going to be a way to get ahead of the sustainability game. If you’re trying to be green as a company and trying to move toward a healthier carbon footprint, have you thought about your website? While many companies are moving from physical office space to virtual, they may be reducing their carbon footprint by less travel and real estate space—but they are increasing their digital footprint by using more online sites, tools, software, and programs to run businesses remotely. Due to the world we now live in, there is definitely more responsibility on digital sustainability.
The key to building sustainable websites at HZ? Jamstack.
At HZ, part of how we approach web development is much more sustainable than traditional methods of development because we use Jamstack—a methodology of building sites that has been popularized, especially in the agency world, in the last three years. This methodology takes us back to the good old days of web development, where we are actually generating a static website. However, these websites are anything but static—they are living and breathing and wonderful. Static web development simply means that we can serve our website in an easier way, without a dedicated server or service that needs to be powered with electricity. Jamstack builds a website instead of dynamically serving the website, and then rebuilds only when things change.
The great thing about Jamstack is it’s geared toward a more performant web, so it can get to the user faster. There are two sides here: first, a more sustainable way to serve the website, and second, less energy expended on the user’s device to load the website. It also results in happy users since sites take less time to load. There is a relationship between the speed in which a site loads for the user and its sustainability.
There are other ways to go green digitally.
We partner with Netlify, a serverless platform, to serve our websites. Serving less over the wire reduces the energy output used on the user’s device. It’s also worth taking a look at your website’s bells and whistles. Animation, video, and even images all use energy. If your website has a content management system, does it really need one? Does it need to be run on a bunch of servers somewhere? These are all points worth considering in going green online.
Yes, it really does make a difference.
If you’re curious how much of a difference, check out the Website Carbon Calculator. HZ’s normal homepage, for example, generates 9.79g of CO2 per visit. On Earth Day, it generated only 0.06g of CO2 per visit. In addition, our low-impact Earth Day site scored 100 on lighthouse performance on mobile and 99 on desktop.
Want your own low-impact website? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how HZ can help you with your digital needs.