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How to make your website better for the environment

Happypath is a website development company in Melbourne. We build great websites for small businesses.

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    Back in the olden days it used to make me smile when the very nice people in HR got the very nice people in IT to add a sentence to the company email footer.

    ‘Help the environment by not printing this email’

    My assumption was that this was trying to educate a particular office mindset, someone who liked to print out their emails so they could pretend they were back in the even older olden days where they could have piles of paper on their desks as a signifier for how busy/important they were.

    A well meaning message, but the thought crossed my mind that actually it probably was better for the environment to print out the email and delete it from your email inbox and recycle bin. I wondered how much power was being used to store these emails, in a corporate environment they were never fully deleted just moved, occasionally archived but always still sitting on a server somewhere, probably more than one as data was continually backed up.

    Of course these things are never quite that simple, printing the email required paper and ink. Was this more or less environmentally damaging than indefinite digital storage? If I deleted the single email would this make any difference or would a single amount of power be required for a much larger amount of emails? Would I have to print and delete all my emails, and if so would this still be negligible when the rest of the organisation were still doing it? To be honest I never found out. I just got on with my work, producing more and more data. Most of it is probably still there somewhere, just in case.

    Roll on 20 something years and our digital footprints are enormous. Our emails are still there, plus messaging, social media posts, fitness data, music and video streams, and billions and billions of photographs. All living happily ‘in the cloud’, an ethereal, mystical place. Distant and instantly reachable at the same time. Sometimes we don’t even know where our files are, files live in spaces owned by Microsoft, Google, and Apple. To us they are just on our phone or laptop. We can barely distinguish.

    No wonder then that Data centers consume 4% of global energy consumption, and this is increasing year on year. In fact now increasing at an unbelievable rate as AI services become more available. AI uses huge amounts of power.

    Storing all this data is hugely costly so the big players in the data center industry are keen to move to renewable energy sources to power and cool their server farms. Without getting into the wormhole of how damaging the actual servers, cabling and infrastructure are to the environment (in terms of manufacturing - metals, minerals and plastics), a server that runs on green energy has got to be better than one that doesn’t. All the big tech players are already, or aim to be powered by renewable energy.

    As website developers we can contribute to this. A side effect of optimised, SEO friendly code is a reduction in the amount of energy required to show the webpage. This is miniscule on an individual level but for a very high traffic website this is going to make a difference in consumption and cost. For smaller sites the individual benefit is seen on aggregate.

    Optimising your website is better for everyone. Google ranks efficient sites higher, they load faster so your customers aren’t kept waiting, and they use less energy and resources.

    Choices of hosting are also important. At happypath we use a Content Delivery Network powered by renewable energy sources. Combined with our optimisation efforts we aim to have all our websites reaching an A, or A+ rating for their carbon footprint.

    If you are looking for a website developer that builds highly performant websites that are also more environmentally friendly get in touch. Book a free discovery call to discuss how we can help your business with an energy efficient website.

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