Sara Fraguas

Sara Fraguas

UI/UX Designer

Creating a Greener Web: The Importance of Sustainable Websites

10 November 2023
4 min

By now, you’ve surely heard the term “sustainability.” It’s a concept that should be applied to all human practices – including websites. The Internet has become a vital tool for economic growth and societal development, significantly impacting our daily lives. However, it’s not exactly a clean technology.

The Environmental Impact of the Internet

The Internet has a considerable impact on people’s development and daily life. To achieve sustainable development as outlined by the 2030 Agenda, we must harmonize economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection. These elements are interconnected and crucial for the well-being of individuals and societies.

So, what does sustainability have to do with the use of the Internet? A great deal. While the Internet is an indispensable facilitator for economic growth and human progress, it’s not as green as we might hope. With the operation of devices and the dependence on servers (the true heart of the Internet), substantial amounts of energy are used and CO2 is generated.

Here are some startling statistics:

    • The Internet represents approximately 10% of global electricity consumption.
    • If the Internet were a country, it would rank as the sixth largest consumer of electricity on the planet.
    • The Internet produces around 2% of global CO2 emissions annually, equivalent to the aviation industry.
    • An average web page produces 1.76 grams of CO2 for each page visit.
    • Streaming Netflix for one hour a week requires more electricity than the annual production of two new refrigerators.
    • Data centers alone consume approximately 200 terawatt-hours (TWh), that is, more energy than the entire country of Iran.

In addition to these, consider the excessive water consumption in data centers, necessary for their cooling systems and proper maintenance. Most of this water is potable, with non-potable water making up less than 5%. This can cause serious problems for populations and agriculture, especially in the increasingly common scenario of drought.

If this data doesn’t concern you, maybe Google’s penalty will. Google uses metrics called Core Web Vitals to score your website and index it in its search engine more or less favorably. Among these metrics are accessibility, loading speed, and now, sustainability.

How can I build a more sustainable website?

The most basic tips would be to take care of the load time, font and image optimization, js and css rendering, using clean code and simple designs. This it’s just a complement of the good practices that all companies need to apply to reduce their carbon footprint, including the use of clean and renewable energy sources.

The “Sustainable Web Manifesto proposes certain rules that all digital products and services should follow:

  • Clean. Digital products and services must be powered by clean, renewable energy.
  • Efficient. The products and services provided digitally will use the least amount of energy possible, as well as the minimum material resources.
  • Open. Digital products and services must be accessible, allow the free exchange of information, and allow users to control their data.
  • Honest. The products and services will not deceive or exploit users in their design or content.
  • Regenerative. The products and services will support an economy that takes care of people and the planet.
  • Resilient. The products and services will work at times when people need them most.

The Role of Large Companies: Democratizing Green Websites

Do large companies really take sustainability into account? Undoubtedly, Google’s focus on sustainability is starting to influence designers, developers, and companies worldwide to do things better and apply sustainable practices. Companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple still have to set a better example and be responsible for the high social and environmental impact they have. A good example of this is Apple’s recent campaign “2030 Status: Mother Nature“. Some see it as an aspirational, emotional, and hopeful campaign, while others see it as pure greenwashing, especially when considering the company’s blatant planned obsolescence practices and its closed ecosystem that didn’t adopt the USB-C connector until the iPhone 15 (2023). This change was forced by a European Parliament resolution that will require a unified smartphone charger by 2024 to enable reuse and reduce electronic waste.

Conclusion: Towards More Sustainable Websites

Sustainability in web design is more than an emerging trend; it’s a necessity. As the digital world continues to grow, so does its environmental impact. At Making Science, we strive to be part of the solution, not the problem.

Our team of expert back-end and front-end developers, teamed with specialized UI/UX designers, work together to create digital solutions that are not only functional and user-friendly but also sustainable. We leverage our collective expertise to reduce the digital carbon footprint, demonstrating our commitment to making the web greener, one website at a time.

Interested in building a more sustainable web presence?