05 Jun 2022
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How to measure your website's carbon footprint
Being able to measure how big an environmental impact your website has is a great tool when trying to make it more eco-friendly. But making a correct and precise measurement is not as easy as it might be portrayed by some of the services you will find online.
In this article, we will talk about why your website pollutes, why it is hard to measure the exact carbon footprint, and where you can get started measuring your own website's carbon footprint.
Why your website is polluting
When you built your website you most likely didn't give it a thought that your website might be a polluter and cause carbon dioxide to seep into our atmosphere, but that is actually what is happening at this very moment.
When a website is live it will be running on a server that is placed in a data center somewhere in the world and these servers have to be powered on 24 hours 7 days a week. A data center can be running on traditional coal energy which causes great pollution or it could be running on renewable energy which would be either water, solar, or wind power. The amount of pollution depends on which data center you have chosen.
Every time a person or a bot is visiting your website you force the server to use more energy so it can meet the demand and serve the requested data to the visitor. This means if the data center is running on coal energy it will be using more energy every time your website has one or more visitors.
The data center is only one aspect of how your website pollutes the world. If you for example make use of CDN links on your website and these aren't hosted by 100% renewable energy, the request your website makes to the CDN can cause another server somewhere in the world to pollute as well.
Why is it important to build sustainable websites?
The internet has come to stay, but the way we use it today is causing great pollution. You have probably heard it before, but if the internet was a country it would be the 6th biggest polluter in the world, and it is expected that by 2025 it will be the 4th biggest polluter unless we change our course. We can do that by simply being aware of the content we add to the internet. By using certain sustainable techniques and setting rules for our design we can lower the impact that our individual websites have on the environment.
We need to lower the environmental impact that the internet has because the internet is such an important part of our day-to-day life. With the internet, we can get important information within seconds, keep connected to our loved ones and make our lives easier. Sustainable websites not only lower the environmental impact but also plays an important key role in making information more accessible to people living in areas with low bandwidth (slow internet).
Measuring a website can be done in many ways
As the headline says, measuring a website can be done in many ways. This means that measuring the carbon footprint of a website is not only done by measuring the amount of electricity the server hosting the website is using. Underneath you will find a list of some of the categories that can be taken into consideration when measuring the footprint.
- Is the website being hosted in a data center or on-premise?
- Is the server hosting more than one website at a time?
- Is the server running on 100% renewable energy?
- Degradation of the server.
- Amount of visitors per month.
- Server location vs. visitor location.
- Visitors devise.
- Battery degradation of the visitors devise.
- Light mode vs. dark mode.
- Size of the website (Pictures, dependencies, etc).
The list is long, and if we really went into details about things that could be changing the outcome we would probably end up with hundreds of lines. The purpose of this is just to show you that simply measuring a single aspect won't give you a precise result.
Services that measure your website's carbon footprint
It is time to reveal some of the services that can help you calculate your website's carbon footprint (as promised in the headline). But before we start we simply want to point out that these measurements only might scratch the surface. Services like these can only measure some aspects, so the reading you get might not be the actual outcome. When that is said: Please don't hold back from using these services as they might give you in the right direction when trying to build a sustainable website.
The first on the list is WebsiteCarbon.com and they provide a great service measuring every single page on your website. It is very easy to get started and in only a matter of seconds, you will receive the result.
With WebsiteCarbon you not only get the chance to measure your website's carbon footprint for free. You can also add a script to your website which automatically displays a batch to your visitors bragging about your page's carbon footprint. If you don't like the traditional look of the badge you can also choose to use their API instead.
EcoGrader is another carbon dioxide service that can help you measure your carbon footprint for free. It is made by MightyBytes and by taking a look at the report it seems like EcoGrader might be looking at slightly more aspects than WebsiteCarbon. We don't know this for sure but EcoGrader seems to list more details about how they grade you. EcoGrader for example tells you about page rendering, page interactions, optimized content, accessibility, media, green hosting, and unused code.
We hope that you have gained a bit of knowledge from this article about how to measure your website's carbon footprint and that the result should be taken with a gram of salt. Measuring your footprint is great and is definitely leading you on your way, but we just want to make sure you understand that these services might only scratch the surface.
We would like to thank you for reading this article, and we hope that you will share it with your colleagues, friends, and family so that we can spread awareness and together make the internet more sustainable. Lastly, if you have anything to add to this article or simply want to say hi, please feel free to comment below.