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Designing a Sustainable Website

Nicla Marino

3 min read

Going paperless is often presented as an eco-friendly alternative to junk mail. The internet is considered more sustainable, but in reality, internet surfing generates about 3.7% of global carbon emissions. That’s on par with the airline industry! It makes you rethink all that junk mail, doesn’t it? When thinking of sustainability, web design isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind, but UI and UX design play a central role in creating a sustainable web, and help reduce our carbon footprint. Applying a sustainable approach to web design can help decrease some of those carbon emissions.

The Environmental Cost of the Internet

A single email emits about 4 grams of CO2e. In comparison, driving a car for one mile emits about 710 grams. It doesn’t seem like much initially, except that there were approximately 306.4 billion emails sent and received each day in 2020. As a result, those billions of emails generate a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions, causing major harm to our planet’s well being.

How does the Internet Generate CO2?

How does the internet generate waste, anyway? All of the devices we use to surf the internet-smartphones, laptops, and smart tv’s-require energy. They need energy to work, after all. And building them requires more energy, or fuel. And when that fuel is burned, carbon dioxide is released.

In addition, the internet needs physical elements to operate. It’s not exactly a “cloud,” it still needs servers, data storage units, satellites, cables, etc. in order to work. Those require energy usage, too, like cooling systems so nothing overheats. In addition, everything needs to be built, housed, and shipped somewhere. There are so many different components that are related to each other when it comes to the internet and web usage.

What does Sustainable Web Design Look Like?

Some best practices for sustainable web design include:

No Time to Waste

It’s 2021. There’s no time to waste. Sustainable web design reduces our carbon footprint, which helps the environment. But it also helps to improve the user experience. A sustainably designed website runs better, is more cost efficient, and overall, is better for everyone, including the planet.

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