This article first appeared in our summer ’18 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Natural Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 03 Aug 2018. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
The exponential growth of online business – in the UK and elsewhere – isn’t limited to retail: the vast majority of UK businesses have an online presence, whether it’s a basic website or an entirely digital operation with a fully integrated social media strategy.
Going digital should be great news for the planet: it means less ‘stuff’ in the world and gives people the freedom to work from any location that has wifi. When a whole team or business goes digital, it creates huge opportunities: in an ideal world, the vacation of power-hungry offices would allow the space to be retrofitted and converted into new housing or more efficient work hubs.
But the online world isn’t as clean as it appears. The internet as a whole has roughly the same emissions as global aviation, but it’s growing much faster and could reach 3.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions within 10 years. It uses more energy each year than the whole of the UK – a staggering 416.2TWh. That amount of electricity production accounts for 2% of global CO2 emissions, equivalent to the sixth-highest polluting country in the world – Germany.
Despite all best intentions, web-based businesses around the globe are finding they’re now part of one of the world’s most polluting industries.
The average size of a webpage is currently 2.9MB, over 30 times the size of the average web page in 2003. Considering the transmission of 1GB of data uses an estimated 5kWh of electricity, designers and developers could have a huge impact on emissions by designing more efficient websites.
Wholegrain Digital is doing just that. The B Corp certified company designs WordPress sites that help to drive positive change. Wholegrain Digital has set itself a goal to reduce carbon emissions from operations (CO2/£ revenue) by at least 10% every year, and become a truly zero carbon business by 2026. But as a client, what’s in it for you?
As well as being a green company, Wholegrain Digital actively promotes green web design – and screens potential clients to ensure their work is making a positive impact. If you meet the criteria, you’ll benefit from some incredible new technology that might just save the world.
Wholegrain Digital has pledged to switch all its clients’ websites to web hosts powered by renewable sources by 2026. But the really interesting part is the company’s commitment to reducing the CO2/page view of all new websites by 20%, compared with the previous website or nearest competitor (whichever has lower emissions).
You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and until recently it hasn’t been possible to get a grip on the real impact of specific websites or individual web pages. Now that’s all changed; Wholegrain Digital has created a tool that calculates a site’s carbon emissions. It works on any website, and has revealed a huge spectrum of efficiency.
So far, the most efficient website tested is MuskFoundation.org, which is the brutally bare bones website for Elon and Kimbal Musk’s non-profit foundation. It comes in at 0.009 grams of CO2 per page view.
The least efficient website tested to date is www.royal.uk, which has a staggering 21.57 grams – more than the weight of a wedding ring – of CO2 per page view. The emissions would have stacked up following public interest in Meghan and Harry’s wedding on 19 May.
Clean up your website
Using native fonts and SVG icons and avoiding photos, videos and unnecessary scripts will all help lower your website’s emissions. Other tips include:
- Don’t autoplay videos
- Compress images using a tool like TinyPNG
- Use caching to reduce server load
- Lazy load content that’s out of sight
- Delete unused files, pages and websites
- If in doubt, leave it out
As well as working in shared office space powered by renewables and hosting all its own websites on servers that use 100% renewable energy, Wholegrain Digital uses secondhand equipment where available and donates used computers to Computers 4 Africa. It applies a voluntary tax of £30/tonne CO2e and uses the money to support the work of SolarAid.
As a member of 1% for the Planet, the company also gives 1% of its annual sales to support non-profits focused on the environment. Members of this global network of businesses, non-profits and individuals – which has together given more than $175m back to the environment – are able to select non-profit partners and provide financial donations, volunteer time and other in-kind donations directly, offering the long-term support that helps the organisations to deliver greater impact.
The non-profits Wholegrain Digital chose to support through 1% for the Planet are B Lab, 10:10 Climate Action and Do Nation. B Lab is the non-profit organisation that serves B Corporation, and 10:10 is a small, London-based charity that runs positive, practical projects with a focus on tackling climate change at local community level, which in turn acts as a catalyst for bigger changes.
Do Nation is a fellow B Corporation; its goal is to start a movement by encouraging people to change their behaviours and help to create a better world. Its online pledging platform is easy to use and engage with as it breaks big commitments down into smaller and more manageable pledges. Powered by years of research around behaviour change, Do Nation’s platform encourages people to make small and sustainable short-term changes, and many keep their new habits for the long term.
Like all B Corps, Wholegrain Digital is using business as a force for good; it has committed to a Declaration of Interdependence, which includes a pledge to aspire to do no harm and benefit all through its products, practices and profits.
Wherever your website sits on the spectrum of efficiency, a few simple tips (see ‘Clean up your website’) can help you clean up your online presence. We all want good companies to attract traffic and business, but thanks to Wholegrain Digital there’s now a way to do it without leaving a trail of emissions behind you.
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