The environment is a hotly debated topic, especially when it comes to human impact. Did you know your online presence can contribute as an influence in environmental change? With that in mind, let’s discuss how we can help reduce those influences, both online and off, and the importance of having an eco-friendly website.
The size of your website matters.
The size of your website can influence the environment and matters in more ways than realized. By “size,” I am not referring to the amount of pages you have or overall content amount in your database. Size, instead, refers to the amount of information a visitor has to download and render a given web page.
Web pages are considerably heavier than they were years ago, and while that allows a more rewarding user experiences, it can come at unseen costs. Every image, script, stylesheet, and served ad add up to a website’s overall size.
In addition to that, changes in page reactions and interactions with the user contribute and impact an eco-friendly website. It all takes processing power to serve the visitor. When you multiply that by, hopefully, many visitors, the numbers add up quickly. All of this processing uses up battery power quicker, especially on mobile, resulting in a need to charge your devices more frequently and consume more energy.
Doing what we can to keep our web pages small without diminishing experience helps everyone and gives you the control you need to have an eco-friendly website. We already know search engines like Google favor fast, efficient websites. So, small footprints not only help your ranking, but they help users and the environment. Like I said, it really does help everyone.
If you are curious to see if you have an eco-friendly website, you can use a tool like Website Carbon Calculator which offers some interesting statistics and comparisons.
Ways to reduce page load and size
If you have ever researched this yourself, many items will sound familiar. If you are new to the topic, or have yet to seriously consider it optimization, hopefully we will provide good information to ponder.
Whenever possible, site owners should try to optimize images before adding to the website. This work helps make sure that file sizes are as small as possible without losing the intended quality. If a page on your website only needs a 500 pixel by 500 pixel image, it should not be providing a 3000 pixel by 3000 pixel image to scale down to that needed 500 pixel dimension. That larger version is more to download, more to process, and not as efficient.
Caching is one of the most popular ways to help optimize your site and manage visitor page load. There have been many WordPress plugins throughout the years and many hosting companies have out-of-the-box, optimized, caching methods for their platforms and customers. Some of the more popular WordPress plugins include WP Rocket, W3 Total Cache, and WP Super Cache.
With well-cached websites, return visitors do not need to download all of the same resources and content again, or get already-generated static copies, which are much lighter and easier to download.
Routine plugin evaluation of installed plugins, their purpose, and added value is worthwhile time to schedule. Perhaps you have forums that aren’t being used as much as envisioned and you’re willing to let the idea go.
Maybe some plugins offer more functionality than really needed and alternatives exist now that only do the things needed and nothing else. Every plugin potentially adds their own resources to pages and those resources may not even be used on the page being viewed. Hopefully, resources are loaded only when needed, but it must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Evaluate your theme
Much like our plugin evaluation, your chosen theme could be making the same resource offenses. I am not saying that all premium themes are bad, but there is tendency for those to try to be everything for everyone. You may have heard the phrase “theme bloat” before. This is an example of that with many extra never-used resources being loaded. They could be, though, all depending on your theme settings.
If you’re lucky, your hosting provider offers server configuration file access. A majority of the settings are likely not needed to be tweaked, but it’s nice to know that you could. Unless you’ve been told to make specific edits, or generally know what you’re doing, they are best left alone.
More often than not, though, managed hosting does not offer extensive access. This is because settings should already be pre-configured. This is partly why you chose managed hosting, after all. When needed, there may be settings available for further refinement to your site’s needs, and their support staff can probably help with other requests.
The most common methods offered by most hosts, to tweak configuration, would be tutorials instructing you on how to edit what’s called a
.htaccess file. If you have “pretty permalinks” enabled for your site, and you should, chances are you’re already making use of this file. It allows for setting custom values and overrides that your server can then use.
Regardless of which levels of access are granted, hopefully there are resources that allow for your website to serve optimized content. If you’re finding no such luck, and their support technicians are reluctant or refusing to make edits, it could be time to start shopping for new hosting.
That’s a lot to process.
If you are curious or worried about any of the parts above, please feel free to reach out to the Maintainn staff and we can discuss a review of your site and see where we can improve to optimize it and make it a more eco-friendly website.
Green web hosts
Hopefully, I have piqued your interest on striving to have an eco-friendly website. Not only can you utilize the tips above to reduce your footprint, but you can also use an environmentally responsible host, too. I recommend the Green Web Foundation. There, you can search your current domain to see if your website is presently hosted on a platform that they have determined to be environmentally friendly. Or, you could find a new hosting company that is environmentally responsible. Green Web Foundation has a directory listing of them separated by country.
Offsetting your own carbon footprint
I imagine there are many similar services like one I will discuss in a moment, but this is one that I had become aware of the past few months. I signed up for a service called Offset Earth.
For a small monthly fee, I personally contribute money that goes towards planting trees around the world. These newly planted trees help absorb and reduce carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere. The site also provides other efforts I can pledge to in order to try and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that gets introduced in the first place. My chosen pledges include aiming for more frugal living, limiting plane travel, and washing clothing only when needed. At the time of this post, I have contributed three months of carbon control, and have helped fund the planting of 39 trees. You can see my profile over at Michael on Offset Earth.
Below are some extra resources that you can check out. First up is an episode of the “IRL Podcast” produced by Mozilla, who provide the Firefox browser. This is an episode that inspired this blog post today, and it covers some other surprising carbon footprint topics that didn’t fit in the post: IRL: The Internet’s Carbon Footprint.
Some of my bullet points above were borrowed from this post, but I do not go over each, so there’s more to explore: 9 ways to make your WordPress website more environmentally friendly.