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Sustainable Website Design: Improve your website's carbon footprint

Date: 05/12/2023

Stuart Watkins


As the world grapples with environmental issues, it’s our responsibility as digital natives to reduce our websites’ impact on the planet. Sustainable website design involves creating digital products that minimise the environmental footprint, conserve resources, and promote responsible behaviour. This article will delve into the strategies and best practices for creating a sustainable website.You can estimate the carbon footprint of a website by using our website c02 calculator.

The Environmental Impact of Websites: A Concern for All

Websites consume a significant amount of energy and resources, and the internet’s carbon footprint grows with every page view. The web significantly impacts the environment from the energy used in data centres to the manufacturing of electronic devices. Fortunately, steps can be taken to reduce the carbon footprint of websites, including using eco-friendly hosting, optimising images, and utilising less resource-intensive technologies.

website carbon calculator

Current and Predicted Carbon Footprint of the Internet

Current Impact: As of April 2023, the internet, including web and social media traffic, accounted for about 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This percentage is comparable to the airline industry. This significant impact is mainly due to the energy required to run data centers, networks, and the devices we use to access the web.

Predicted Growth: The carbon footprint of digital operations is expected to grow, mainly due to the increasing demand for data and more sophisticated, energy-intensive processes like streaming high-definition videos and the use of emerging technologies like blockchain. Some estimates suggest that the internet could be responsible for up to 14% of the world’s carbon emissions if current trends continue by 2040.

Factors Contributing to Growth: This growth is driven by several factors, including increased internet users worldwide, more data-intensive applications, and the rise of technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT), which require significant computational power.

It’s important to remember that these figures and predictions can vary depending on the methodologies used and the assumptions made in the calculations. However, they highlight a significant and growing concern about the sustainability of our increasing reliance on digital technologies. 

Reducing this impact of greenhouse gases involves improving energy efficiency in data centres, using renewable energy sources, reducing your website carbon footprint with our website carbon calculator and developing more energy-efficient devices and networks.

How much C02 do websites create?

The average website produces 1.76g of CO2 for each average web page view. This means a site with 100k page views/month emits 2,112kg of CO2/year.

To put 2,112 kg of carbon dioxide/year into perspective, let’s compare it with emissions from flying and driving:

  • Flying: The carbon emissions from flying vary depending on the distance and type of plane. A commercial flight emits about 90 grams of CO2 per passenger per kilometre. For example, a round-trip flight from New York to Los Angeles (about 3,940 km one way) produces roughly 708 kg of CO2 per passenger. So, 2,112 kg of CO2 is equivalent to about three round-trip flights on this route per year.
  • Driving: The emissions from driving depend on the vehicle’s fuel efficiency. A typical passenger vehicle emits about 404 grams of CO2 per mile. Assuming an average car, 2,112 kg of CO2 is equivalent to driving approximately 5,225 miles (or about 8,410 kilometres) in a year. This is roughly the distance of driving from London to Edinburgh and back 14 times!
  • Electricity Usage: The carbon intensity of electricity in the UK is lower than in the United States due to a higher share of renewables and nuclear energy in the energy mix. Our latest figures show the UK’s grid carbon intensity was around 0.233 kg of CO2 per kWh. Therefore, 2,112 kg of CO2 equates to about 9,060 kWh.  To put this into perspective, the average UK household uses around 3,800 kWh of electricity per year. So, 2,112 kg of CO2 is roughly the same as the annual electricity consumption of about 2.4 average UK households.
  • Offsetting with Trees: Trees absorb CO2 as they grow, but the rate of absorption varies by species, climate, and age of the tree. On average, a young, healthy tree can absorb about 22 kg of CO2 annually. To offset 2,112 kg of CO2, you would need about 96 trees growing for one year. However, it’s important to note that this is a long-term commitment, as trees take time to reach their full carbon-absorbing potential.

These comparisons provide a tangible sense of the amount of emissions 2,112 kg of CO2 represents in everyday activities. Reducing such emissions is crucial in our efforts to combat climate change.

10 Steps to Sustainable Web Design

  1. Optimise Images and Videos: Large images and videos can significantly increase the energy required to load a website. Optimise them by reducing file sizes without sacrificing quality. Use formats like WebP for images and compress videos effectively.
  2. Efficient Coding: Write clean, efficient code. Minimize the use of JavaScript and CSS, and avoid unnecessary plugins and widgets. The more streamlined your code, the less processing power is required to load and run your website.
  3. Visit the Green Web Foundation and choose a web hosts that uses renewable sources or are committed to carbon neutrality. This can significantly reduce your website’s carbon footprint.
  4. Enable Caching: Caching reduces the amount of data transferred for subsequent visits and lowering energy use.
  5. Mobile Optimization: As mobile devices use less energy, ensuring your site is mobile-friendly can indirectly reduce its carbon footprint.
  6. Implement Dark Mode: Offering a dark mode can reduce energy usage, particularly on devices with OLED or AMOLED screens.
  7. Reduce HTTP Requests: Each element on a page (like images, scripts, and CSS files) requires an HTTP request to load. Reduce these requests by simplifying design elements and combining files where possible.
  8. Eco-Friendly Fonts: Some fonts require less energy to render. Simple, clean fonts typically consume less power than decorative or complex ones.
  9. Monitor and Optimize Performance: Use Google PageSpeed Insights or our website carbon calculator to monitor and improve.
  10. Sustainability Messaging: Incorporate sustainability into your website’s content and design. Encourageing visitors to consider the environmental impact of their digital habits.

How Green is Social Media?

A key factor to consider is the energy consumption due to data transfer, storage, and user devices accessing these platforms. A recent analysis by Compare the Market found significant variations in emissions per minute of use. TikTok generates the most emissions/minute at 2.63 grams of CO2, followed by Reddit (2.45 grams) and Pinterest (1.3 grams)​​.

Social media platforms have made notable strides in adopting renewable energy and striving towards a greener digital world. Here’s a summary of the top 10 social media sites and their efforts towards renewable energy:

  • Facebook: It announced using 100% renewable energy for its operations and aims for net-zero emissions by 2030​​.
  • WeChat: Owned by Tencent, it uses hydro and wind power, along with waste-to-energy recovery, for its data centres. Tencent has been recognised for its efforts in clean energy​​.
  • Snapchat: It has developed solutions to minimise the app’s battery drain, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of user devices. Snapchat also supports forestry and renewable energy projects, making the company carbon-neutral​​.
  • Netflix: Netflix aims to be net-zero by 2022 and invests in natural ecosystem regeneration​​.
  • TikTok: Despite having a higher carbon footprint than YouTube, it hosts content that educates users on environmental topics​​.
  • Reddit: Former CEO Yishan Wong is now working on environmental restoration, indicating an awareness of environmental responsibilities​​.
  • Instagram: It allows climate-conscious activism among users but lacks green credentials compared to its social media rivals​​.
  • YouTube: It focuses on educating users to live more sustainably and has key partnerships for content with a sustainability focus​​.
  • LinkedIn: It is moving towards zero-waste and uses 80% wind and solar power for its office footprint​​.
  • Twitter/X:  is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and fostering sustainability projects​​.

These rankings reflect various factors, including green energy adoption, initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint, and effort to improve sustainably. Each platform has a different approach, but collectively, they highlight a growing awareness of the importance of sustainability.

Frequently Asked Questions About Sustainable Website Design

How does website design impact the environment?

Websites consume significant energy and resources, including the energy used to power data centres and manufacture electronic devices. The impact of website design on the environment is significant.

What is sustainable website design?

Sustainable website design is creating digital products that minimise the environmental footprint, conserve resources, and promote responsible behaviour.

How can I make my website more sustainable?

You can make your website more sustainable by:

  • reducing page size
  • choosing eco-friendly hosting
  • optimising images,
  • utilising green web technologies
  • minimising resource-intensive plugins
  • applying green web design principles.

Make sure you check your website on our website carbon footprint calculator.


Sustainable website design is a critical aspect of creating a greener web and requires the collective efforts of all. Implement best practices using our website carbon calculator so you can understand and reduce your website’s carbon footprint. This will help you conserve resources and contribute to a more environmentally responsible digital product. It is not just about creating a greener web; it’s about creating a better world for future generations.

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