Carbon-cutting creativity: 7 tips for designing “green” websites

By Morgan Sims

You may not have known it already, but the design of a website has an impact on how small or big the Internet’s energy footprint is. Whether it’s drawing wireframes or writing code, website designers and developers affect the environment. Electricity is the most wasted resource in the world, and many designers and developers overlook the fact that they waste a lot of it themselves, not to mention the ways in which they cause users to waste it.

Being that the average person thinks about how much energy they consume for only nine minutes per year, it’s not surprising that most people never consider how their website design affects the environment. While the problem of energy consumption isn’t going away any time soon, there are ways to design and develop a website so that it’s as eco-friendly as possible.

With that being said, here are seven tips to consider when creating a website to make it more environmentally conscious.

Embrace mobile-first design

If you’ve already decided to take a mobile-first approach to designing your website or are taking advantage of responsive web design methods, then you’re already taking the initial steps to creating an eco-friendly website.

Essentially, what’s best for the environment is also what’s best for your website users. By using mobile-first and responsive web design methods, designers and developers create faster, lighter website that load quicker. Once you reduce page sizes, you reduce the CO2 emissions.

Create good content

Everyone knows how important content is to your overall website, but it’s also important to carefully consider the effects it has if you’re trying to minimize your website’s carbon footprint. Without content, a design is just a decorative page.

By taking content into account, you can make critical decisions about certain page elements and their sizes early enough in the creation process to make changes if needed. This ensures that you make good choices about text, images, and videos that are eco-friendly.

Optimize your images

Images are one of the biggest causes of the carbon footprint for most websites, being that large and un-optimized images can account for more than 60 percent of the total CO2 emissions for a single site.

To combat this, designers and developers can optimize their images so they’re better suited for the Internet. Adobe Photoshop is a great program for optimizing images, providing users many formatting options that reduce the energy the image uses while loading on the website.

Avoid using fancy features

Not only do third party plug-ins and interactive site feature affect your site’s size, but they also cause users’ computers to consume more energy than simple screen elements. Any page elements that involve embedded maps, large carousel sliders, auto-play videos, or flash all come with a lot of bulky data overhead. Once you slim down on the extra add-ons and eliminate any unneeded features, your website will run faster and will have less of a negative impact on the environment than before.

Choose green web hosting

Being that rates have steadily increased in recent years, many web hosting companies have started offering their clients a variety of green hosting options. Green web hosts have begun using natural sources of energy, generating their own renewable energy, operating an eco-friendly office, using energy-efficient hardware, purchasing energy credits to offset their use of dirty power, and planting a tree for all new clients.

If you want to be eco-friendly, use a green web host. And this can pay off for you as well if you’re hosting your own site — combine green techniques with shopping for affordable electricity prices, and you’ll see significant savings.

Buy carbon credits (offsetting)

If you can’t find a way to create your website using eco-friendly solutions, consider buying carbon credits to offset your website’s energy use. Also known as carbon calculations, carbon credits were first introduced after the Kyoto Protocol on climate change took effect in 2005 and are a way of measuring carbon emissions so that countries can estimate how much pollution they generate. Being that one carbon credit is equal to one ton of emitted carbon dioxide, caps on emissions are standard.

Make everything available in PDF format

If you have a lot of documents on your website that people may want to print, consider transferring them into a PDF format so people can easily download them and read them on their computers instead. Being that the design of your website is already enough of a burden on the environment, it’s important to cut out any other variables that may contribute to negatively impacting it. Lessening the amount of paper that’s printed on and used is part of this solution.

It’s easy to overlook the fact that using the Internet and accessing websites on it is detrimental to the environment, no matter direct or indirect it may seem. By using some of these methods, you can cut down on the carbon footprint you leave behind and impact the environment in a positive way.

Have any other ideas on how to green your website? Leave a comment below.

About the author

Morgan Sims is a writer and recent graduate who loves all things tech and social media. When she’s not keeping up with the newest technology trends she spends most of her time with her dog, cooking and staying active. Follow her @MorganSims00.

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