When we talk about having a slow website, we usually mention how it will negatively affect your users’ experience and bottom line.
But did you know that the cost of a sluggish website extends beyond just losing sales?
It actually pollutes the environment!
Yes, you read that right.
And in this article, we will discuss how that is even possible, what tools you can use to monitor and measure your site’s carbon emissions, and most importantly - how to reduce them.
Given its immaterial nature, it’s hard to comprehend how our websites or doing anything online can negatively impact the environment.
When we talk about carbon emissions, footprint, and pollution, the last thing we’d mention is the Internet. We discuss burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and heavy industrial processes — all things we can see and have seen with our own eyes.
Well, you might be surprised by the next sentence:
Every action we take online produces a carbon footprint.
How is that possible?
The answer - electricity.
The internet's energy consumption and emissions are massive. It powers data centers, telecommunication networks, and the devices we use to browse the web.
To understand how much electricity is used:
The internet consumes 416.2TWh per year. That's more than the entire United Kingdom.
But let’s zone in a little bit. How does a website contribute to this astonishing number?
Well, every interaction with your website results in electricity being used. Just think about it:
Each of these processes uses electricity. And that’s just one user loading a single page. Now multiply this by 10, 100, 1000. You get the point.
Also, let’s not forget the data centers where all your site’s information is stored. The amount of energy they need to operate 24/7 is HUGE.
In fact, according to NowVertical:
For reference, the aviation industry is responsible for around 2.5% of global CO2 emissions. That’s how impactful the Internet is.
We should make something clear:
Not all websites are equal. Depending on their size, traffic, and level of optimization, the CO2 footprint can vary.
But one thing is for sure:
The slow-loading websites are the worse.
One of the main reasons slow websites are problematic is because of their page weight.
Page weight refers to the total size of a webpage, including all the files, images, scripts, and other content downloaded when a user visits a website.
The larger the page weight, the more data needs to be transmitted. In turn, the site takes longer to load, and more electricity is used.
Unfortunately, Page Weight is a metric that has continuously grown in the last ten years, and it doesn’t seem to stop any soon.
According to the HTTP Archive, a website's average page weight has steadily increased over the years.
From 524.4 KB (desktop) and 202.5 KB (mobile) in 2011:
To 2361.1 KB (desktop) and 2076.9 KB (mobile) in 2023:
Another issue with slow websites is that because they take forever to load, users often refresh the page multiple times, trying to get it to load faster.
Each refresh sends another request to the server, using more data and electricity. This not only wastes time and resources but also puts unnecessary strain on the website's servers and infrastructure.
So what we’re trying to say is:
Reducing a site’s carbon footprint goes hand-in-hand with improving its performance.
But before doing that, you need to know how much CO2 emissions your website emits.
Searching for “website carbon calculator” will bring up all kinds of results.
To calculate the energy and emission of a web page, they use the following data points:
But all of this is happening in the background.
On the front, all you have to do is input your site’s URL, and in a couple of seconds, you get all the information presented with beautiful graphics:
But these stats could be hard to understand when they are nothing to compare. Luckily, Wholegrain Digital thought about that, so when you scroll, you will see all kinds of real-life comparisons:
Of course, there are other testing solutions you can try:
Regardless of your choice, the most crucial part comes after you test your website - how to reduce your site’s carbon footprint.
It’s a two-fold strategy:
You already know that the majority of the carbon emissions produced by the Internet originate from the extensive data centers that support websites worldwide.
The need to consume a lot of energy to operate the servers and maintain their cool temperature, among other things. And this energy consumption is unavoidable.
Nevertheless, selecting a hosting service that employs environmentally friendly energy sources to power its data centers is one way to diminish your website's carbon footprint. This approach ensures that the energy utilized by your site will have a less damaging effect on the environment.
And 434 more. So there’s plenty to choose from.
Switching to a green hosting provider is a massive step toward fewer CO2 emissions.
But the most environmentally-friendly solution is to ensure your site uses less power in the first place.
You can achieve that by optimizing your resources so that the next time a user visits your site, your servers and their mobile device use less electricity. And here are some web performance techniques that can help:
It’s up to you to find the most environmental-friendly hosting provider that best suits your needs.
For everything performance-related, you can use NitroPack.
NitroPack is a web performance solution that provides your with 35+ speed optimization features:
But the best part is that all optimizations are applied automatically. All you have to do is install it, and shortly your site’s carbon emission will drop like a stone.
Don’t believe us?
Here’s our website with and without NitroPack enabled:
And these are the results of one of our clients:
With NitroPack, businesses reduce their impact on the environment massively.
Niko has 5+ years of experience turning those “it’s too technical for me” topics into “I can’t believe I get it” content pieces. He specializes in dissecting nuanced topics like Core Web Vitals, web performance metrics, and site speed optimization techniques. When he’s taking a breather from researching his next content piece, you’ll find him deep into the latest performance news.