Why Clean Websites Matter and How to Achieve Them

eco friendly websites graphic

By Ed Nicholson, Brand Experience Director at Organic

Ever wondered how much CO2 your website emits? Thought not. It’s a pretty under-discussed topic but it’s time that changed. Brands need to take stock and clean up their sites and we’ve built a nifty tool to help.

Consumers are increasingly conscious of the type of brands they interact with. A 2021 survey by Deloitte revealed almost a third of people have stopped buying certain brands because of environmental concerns. But although ethics and sustainability are important, transparency about the action companies are taking in these areas is even more so.

On the surface, brands may appear to be ticking the right boxes. Recyclable packaging, giving back to the community and using environmentally friendly resources sound great, right? But, if you dig a little deeper, other issues are often unearthed.

It’s time brands address their dirty websites… and we don’t mean the content. The average website produces 1.76 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) for every page view. That means a site with about 100,000 page views per month emits 2,112 kilos of CO2 every year. And while you may think the solution is complicated, luckily there are clear ways to clean these websites up.

Seeing the Results

At Organic, we recently surveyed 1,000 consumers to uncover how they feel about the carbon emissions generated from well-known brand websites. Over half (51.7%) really care about their online carbon footprint and if a brand offered a version of their site that reduced its carbon impact, 70.2% said they’d use it over the normal version and nearly two thirds (62.8%) would choose to shop with another brand over their preferred choice if its website produced less carbon emissions.

However, over a quarter (27.8%) of people don’t even realise that using electronic devices to access digital content has a carbon impact. Clearly some education is needed and brands can very much lead the way on this.

Additionally, our research highlighted that even though consumers aren’t necessarily fully aware of their CO2 impact, they’re willing to change for the better when it comes to improving their online carbon footprint.  Moreover, when we asked again at the end of the survey if the carbon footprint of a website matters to them, over twice as many people (25%) said yes, up from the 9% initially. It’s clear that once people start thinking about the carbon impact of their online activities, priorities begin to shift.

And rightly so, because the CO2 impact of the internet is substantial. Estimates place it on a par with the aviation industry. Just because we don’t hear much about it and don’t physically see emissions pouring out of our TV when we binge on Netflix the internet’s carbon impact still exists. What’s more, carbon emissions from the web continue to grow by around 9% a year, meaning the problem is going to worsen as the world uses more digital services and products.

But change is in motion. For example, tech firms like Google are taking the lead by introducing eco-friendly features such as ‘green tags’ in search results and carbon emissions per seat when using Google Flights. Other companies and brands don’t want to be left playing catch up, so action on their part is required too.

Uncovering CO2 Impact

To estimate the CO2 impact of a website, there are five assessment areas:

  1. Data transfer
  2. Energy intensity
  3. Energy source used by data centres
  4. Carbon intensity of electricity
  5. Website traffic

Using Google’s PageSpeed API and a CO2 module developed by the Green Web Foundation (an organisation committed to transitioning to a fossil-free internet), it’s possible to perform a web page audit and calculate the emissions given off by the page. Once that’s known, it’s time to take action to reduce CO2 impact across these areas by looking into factors such as code efficiency, green hosting and energy-heavy features such as videos.

Leading by Example

As a B Corp agency, we know the importance of staying true to our word – so we were shocked to find out our own homepage created a whopping 2.2 grams of CO2 per visit and was 81% dirtier than other websites on the internet. With this in mind, we’ve pledged to clean up our own website in 2022 (and beyond), to demonstrate the importance of being environmentally responsible.

We’re sharing our knowledge to raise awareness and encourage brands to follow suit by greening their websites. As part of that, we’re building our carbon emissions tool, so people can assess the CO2 impact of their sites. There are several initial steps businesses can take to help reduce their carbon impact, from switching to a green host and using dark mode by default, to minimising energy-intensive elements such as large videos and images.

Achieving Clean Websites

Concern for the environment is increasingly on people’s minds, with brands taking note of that.

Not only are we reducing our own CO2 emissions but we’re also proving websites can be effective, aesthetically pleasing and offer a top brand experience, while also being clean.

We’re keen to show what’s possible, raise awareness and encourage brands with an online presence to feel the same.

Now’s the time for brands to lead by example, making websites greener and cleaner, not only to attract more customers but to be part of the change.