Five tips for creating fast, eco-friendly websites

When a website is built well, it’s not just speedy—it’s sustainable. Here are a few tips to help you improve your website’s performance and reduce its carbon footprint.

May 4, 2023
Alex, Director of Technology, has 10+ years of development expertise, innovating on projects with tech industry leaders.
4 min read
4 min read
May 4, 2023
Alex, Director of Technology, has 10+ years of development expertise, innovating on projects with tech industry leaders.

Even before the rise of energy-intensive technologies like blockchain and cryptocurrency, the BBC reported that the internet was responsible for approximately 3.7% of global carbon emissions. Websites and how they’re delivered comprise a portion of that figure, and even small changes can make a big difference.

In that spirit — and with the belief that every designer and developer has a role to play in creating a more sustainable world — here are five ways to to lessen the carbon footprint of your website (and make it more performant, too).

Two people looking at code on a laptop screen

1. Simplify and reuse code

Clean, reusable code not only saves time during a site build, but it also contributes to faster load times and reduces carbon emissions by minimizing the amount of electricity needed to load a site. There are a few helpful guidelines for writing clean code, which are: ensure the code does what it’s supposed to do, communicate your intention in the code, don’t duplicate things you don’t need to, and use the fewest elements possible.

These rules originated from the book Clean Code by Robert Martin, which was one of the earliest resources on the topic. Even with all the time gone by since its publishing, it’s still a great read for beginners who are looking for principles that will help them in whatever coding languages they use regularly.

2. Collect only the data you need

Intensive targeting and tracking elements can consume considerable energy and often slow down a site’s load time—not to mention run the risk of compromising user privacy.

In lieu of adding a host of trackers to your site as standard practice, think first about each piece of data that will be collected and why. Then, implement only those tools or scripts that track stats that will genuinely impact your organization. Above and beyond legal standards like GDPR, the best sites will always let users know how their information will be used and give them the chance to opt out entirely, further reducing environmental costs.

3. Compress where you can

Data compression is a powerful means of reducing the things that comprise a site — from fonts to images to videos — helping it to load with less energy. And when each asset is smaller, browsers spend less time loading each one, which results in a faster experience.

Most managed platforms handle compression automatically, but you can still be mindful by prepping files carefully and only uploading as large of a version of any given asset as you need to match the design.

4. Incorporate video mindfully

While videos add visual appeal to a site, they are also energy-intensive and can make your site heavy. To avoid negatively impacting site performance and user experience, carefully consider the use of videos and animation and, where possible, allow users to choose to have a video play versus autoplaying it.

Where you want to present video previews, consider using lightweight elements like GIFs. And where autoplaying videos are necessary, at least ensure they are optimized to minimize energy consumption and provide maximum value to your users.

5. Choose green hosting

Selecting a hosting provider committed to green energy is one of the highest impact things that you can do to significantly impact your website's carbon footprint. If you’re building a new site, using an energy-conscious provider from the get-go will reduce your site’s lifetime emissions. Or if you already have a host, reach out to inquire about their environmental practices and energy policies.

If you’re looking for a new host, the Green Web Foundation's directory contains over 500 eco-conscious hosting providers.

Building covered overgrown greenery

Put these tips into practice, and you’ll soon find yourself with a more efficient and environmentally-friendly website. Track how your site is doing on both fronts using the Website Carbon Calculator to estimate your site’s carbon footprint and Google’s Page Speed Insights to chart your site’s speed as you work towards a website that benefits both your customers and the planet.