How can a website reduce your school's carbon footprint?

In an increasingly digital world, our day to day lives have transformed with the use of technology, as of January 2020, global statistics suggest there are approximately 1.74 billion websites running on the internet with 4 billion+ estimated daily visitors. Such massive usage of the internet suggests that we may have progressed towards a greener society by drastically reducing the usage of paper, and consuming information online. However, this doesn't mean that we've become carbon neutral. Every minute spent scrolling a newsfeed, browsing the internet, streaming a video all contribute to our digital carbon footprint.

' A digital carbon footprint is the CO2 emissions resulting from the production, use and data transfer of digital devices and infrastructure.” But why is this important and what can a website change to reduce their carbon footprint?

The use of the internet alone causes emissions of approximately 2,330,041 tons of CO2 and consumes 2,339,400 MWh of electricity every day. This is a significant amount of energy being used to just for browsing through the internet, and you may a think what's a few grams of carbon dioxide on your website? But if you think about the number of people using your website every day, every week, every year - the number of page views, documents downloaded, and videos watched - then you realise that it all adds up. Imagine how many students, teachers and parents must use your website, that's a lot of scrolling. Don't you think?

Though it is difficult to calculate the full energy chain of internet usage because everyone has different devices, are operating in different temperatures and are all in different locations, it is incredibly important to lead the way to creating a sustainable website. One of the key factors to consider when calculating your overall digital carbon footprint is your website hosting. This includes where the data centre is located in relation to most of your users, and the type of energy used by that data centre. If your website has been around for a few years, it's likely that you'll have published hundreds or thousands of pages so its best to build up for a sustainable website from the pillars of the website rather than changing it years later.

The energy requirements from websites can, approximately be broken down into three types of activity:

  • Data storage: the servers on which your website is saved available to be served up by anyone visiting your website
  • Data transfer: the retrieval or sending of data - a staff member/student/parents loading your website on their computer
  • Processing power: the energy used by your computer to generate dynamic page elements.

There are other considerations such as the website design, the colours used and the subsequent energy usage of each screen, but it is important to prioritise what we can and what we have most power over. Changes such as caching, font files and minifying code to reduce file sizes by removing any unused code or formatting will not only save your carbon footprint but also enhance the user experience. Your material should become more effective as a result.