It’s not as hard as you think to be a climate crisis influencer

The internet is currently producing 2-3% of global emissions which is roughly the same as the climate crisis top baddies the aviation industry. We need to change this now or people will never forgive us.

With my websites I am committed to having them on web hosting which uses 100% renewable energy – already done as I host with 34sp.

But that isn’t enough.

It feels like every few years websites become excessively bloated and large in terms of page size and loading speed. Some designers take for granted that everyone has a web connections as fast as theirs and websites have become more complex with full-page videos and high res images becoming more prevalent.

But even in the UK one of the worlds richest countries, large sections of the country do not have access to broadband speed internet connections. Friends regularly tell me they have to wait several seconds for a standard page to load with streaming something on BBC iPlayer or Netflix being the stuff of fantasy.

There’s a chance of a double win here. If we design and build our websites to be smaller, and use less energy we will be both making them accessible to more people and scorching the earth a bit less. carbon emissions
Results for this blog – low emissions and green hosting.

The London based WordPress agency Wholegrain digital have become my role models for both their leadership on reducing their environmental impact of the internet but also their ethical approach to their business.

While using the Wholegrain website carbon checker one day I decided to use it on the homepages of some of our foremost environmental organisations.

Friends of the Earth was particularly shocking. The hosting was powered by fossil fuels and the huge page size was producing 26.16g of CO2 per page view, was worse than all but 2% of websites.

Friends of the earth website carbon 26.16g
Checked on 27/08/19

I posted the result on Twitter and copied in Friends of the Earth.

To their credit they replied within a couple of days.

Friends of the earth twitter response carbon footpint
Tweet response from the Friends of the Earth account

A couple of weeks later I retested their homepage. The CO2 per page view was reduced by almost half to 12.91g but still worse than 17% of websites. The chief culprit was the full-size video which they had binned off. Still fossil fuel powered.

Friends of the earth website carbon 12.91g
Checked on 18/09/19

A few weeks later I checked again. This time the hosting had been moved to renewable green electricity and the CO2 per page was now two thirds smaller than when I first tweeted them.

Friends of the earth website carbon 7.72g
Checked on 18/10/19

If I can make a major international charity make changes like this doesn’t this make me an ‘influencer’? I hope my sarcasm is detectable.

Wholegrain Digital has excellent advice for people and organisations trying to make their websites more efficient.

Note: Since this happened Wholegrain have updated the website carbon website so that the results are calculated slightly differently but I still reserve the right to claim I gave FOTE a gentle push in the right direction.


James Mullarkey

I write about the web and digital, mediocre sporting performances and places I've been, for this blog and only this blog.