The internet uses a lot of power, creating around 0.6% of global emissions. Of course, it's not just the laptops, tablets and phones we use, the main power consumers are the web servers and the networks that keep the internet running.
According to some estimates, the internet as a whole uses around 416TWh per year which is more than the annual electricity consumption of the entire UK. A large part of this energy use is due to streaming video and playing games. In 2018, Fortune reported that Netflix alone was using 15% of the internet bandwidth.
As concerned business owners, is there anything we can do to reduce the energy used by our websites? Well, the answer is yes, however, the overall effect we can have is very small. I would argue that it's still worth doing as much as we can, as many small changes, taken together, will have a larger effect - so the more businesses that take this approach, the less carbon dioxide produced.
Here are some ideas for reducing the energy usage of your site:
- Use fewer videos. Videos are increasingly popular on websites for good reasons, so set autoplay to off and keep the length of the videos to only what is necessary. Reducing video content is likely to have the largest effect in bringing down the energy usage of your website.
- Optimise images. To keep energy usage low, don't load images that are larger than necessary. There are excellent tools available to compress images to and minimise the number of bytes they use without sacrificing quality. Also, please ensure that your site doesn't load images whose dimensions are larger than needed for the space they occupy on the web page.
- Keep special fonts to a minimum. Each special font has to be downloaded from the server to a user's device, so the more fonts, the more data is transmitted.
- Caching. Ask your developer to make sure that website data is cached wherever possible, i.e. it's not downloaded from the server every time it's used, but can be stored locally for speedy access.
- Hosting. Some hosting companies have more efficient data centres than others. It obviously helps to choose a more efficient one. To their credit, Google are leading on this but bear in mind that many hosting companies do not have their own hosting but use other company's data centres. For instance, Siteground (a popular hosting company) uses Google servers.
- Search Engine Optimisation. This may seem surprising but if all websites had good SEO, people would be able to find what they needed on the internet more quickly. That would mean fewer searches so less internet traffic and so lower energy usage. Having your site optimised for search not only helps you get found more easily, it can, in a small way, help reduce electricity consumption.
I want to emphasise that making these changes on one site will only make a VERY SMALL difference to overall energy usage. However, the more websites that make the necessary changes to reduce their energy usage, the better and so the difference we make becomes more significant.
This site is hosted on Netlify, who continue to work to reduce their energy impact. You can read more about this on their sustainability page.
If you're interested in reducing your website's energy usage, please get in touch.
Some excellent articles here about sustainability and energy usage.