5 Ways To Reduce Your Digital Carbon Footprint

Is your website ‘green’?

Did you know that your online presence contributes to global warming? We chat to director and digital producer of Mulholland Digital, Rebekah Mulholland, who explains why we should all have ‘green websites’.

When we think about climate change and limiting our carbon footprint, we often think of walking instead of driving, catching trains instead of flights, eating less meat etc, but have you ever considered that your daily digital activities, such as e-mailing, browsing the internet and watching Netflix is part of the problem? According to climatecare.org, over 4 billion people use the internet regularly, and this requires a lot of energy. From production of hardware, to powering and cooling devices, to servers and even e-mailing, our internet activity accounts for 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions.

An average person’s e-mail activities over one year (including sending, filtering, and reading) creates a carbon footprint of around 135kg. To put this into perspective, a flight from Sydney to Melbourne creates a carbon footprint of around 170kg. Add all the video streaming, online shopping, and simple search engine activity you do daily, and you’ll soon realise that the internet is a much bigger problem for the environment than you might have thought.

But besides improving your own online habits, what about your business’ website? Have you ever questioned the server you’re using, or whether your website was coded efficiently? We know IT isn’t everyone’s thing, but
if you’re focusing on selling sustainable skincare and using green energy, taking a look at your own website should be on your to-do list.

Rebekah Mulholland is working with Waterlily on a mission to be as sustainable as possible, this includes the skincare brand’s website.

“Sustainable web design is a real passion of mine. Working with Waterlily is about adopting a clean, green digital and web design ethos, ensuring we’re considering sustainability in the digital work we do, which is our website, our learning education hub and our soon to be launched partner ordering website. We’re so excited to be working on a green web strategy for Waterlily, one that is taking into account things we can do right away and also processes we put in place now to move forward and ensure our digital presence is clean and green,” says Rebekah.

The first step Rebekah is taking is making sure Waterlily’s web host’s data centres are run on renewable energy, not coal. “This goes a really long way to helping minimise the detrimental impacts our internet usage has on the environment. Data centres are one of the fastest growing demands for energy, and unfortunately the majority of them are run on coal and or/coal seam gas,” according to Rebekah.

“…until we start to consider the internet as part of this mission for sustainability, we haven’t truly adopted a green approach to our businesses.”

Rebekah Mulholland

But there are so many more steps you can take in order to achieve a green website, according to Rebekah:

1. Prioritising and having clean code on your website, doing a review and seeing what you can clean up. You can always write better, cleaner code. The cleaner the code, the faster the site loads and less energy is used.

2. Block bots! A big user of energy on the web is actually bots. Some reports say it’s up to 50%. Some bots
we want to crawl our sites, for example Google for search. But there are so many we don’t want or need and blocking them can really go a long way to helping implement sustainable web design practices. Some ways to block bots include via your host, or with Cloudfare or Malcare. It also adds extra security for your sites too.

3. Decoupling your CMS from the front end user experience.

4. You can cache a website, which is what we do, so instead of having a new server request every time, it’s conserving energy by having the code/content ‘stored’ and ready to deliver from memory, using something like a CDN (Content Delivery Network). Waterlily has a global audience, however at present, over 90% of our website traffic is from Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific. As our northern hemisphere audience and web traffic grows, I will be researching CDNs. CDNs are an excellent choice for websites who have lots of international traffic, because what it does is help reduce the need for loads of processing every time say, a visitor from Amsterdam visits the Waterlily website, the server is loading all our content and essentially sending it from Sydney, as this is where our server, and data, is located. But, like hosting, you have to choose carefully, as many have not committed to energy efficiency and carbon offsets. Cloudflare is one that has.

5. Resizing images! Something really, really simple, but has huge implications, is actually resizing your images to be small file sizes, it reduces load on energy, makes websites faster, and ensures a better end-user experience.

“[Founder of Waterlily] Michelle and I are so excited to be looking at the processes we implement digitally at Waterlily, and plan on publishing a guide for our Waterlily clients later this year/early next year on really simple things they can do to start their clean, green content/digital/web offering journey,” Rebekah explains. “We know so many people in the spa, wellness and beauty industries care about the planet. We see it in their partnership with us, and with other brands they stock. But, until we start to consider the internet as part of this mission for sustainability, we haven’t truly adopted a green approach to our businesses.”

This article was originally published in SPA+CLINIC 86, read the full issue below.

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