It’s easy to assume that all websites are eco-friendly because they use pixels instead of paper. Online information distribution is much less resource-intensive than “dead tree” publishing, but websites do have an environmental impact, and it’s growing. US data centers, which store and distribute web site data, used 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2014. That’s not quite 2% of the country’s total electricity use for that year. The good news is that data centers and individual site owners are looking for ways to cut power consumption. Here are a few ways you can green your site to save resources.
Look for an eco-conscious hosting service
If you’re already a HostGator customer, your hosting service is already green. HostGator switched to wind power in 2008 with the purchase of Renewable Energy Credits equal to 130% of the power needed to run and cool our shared and reseller servers. The move allowed us to reduce our carbon emissions and provide green hosting services to more than 1.3 million customers without raising rates.
Green your electrical power
The equipment you use to create and maintain your site runs on electricity that may be produced by burning coal. Why not make that power green, too? Most utility customers in the US now have at least one green option available through their local electricity provider, according to the Department of Energy. (A clickable US map makes it easy to see what’s available in your area.) Depending on where you live, you may be able to opt in to wind, hydroelectric, solar, geothermal, or biomass electrical generation.
You may also want to buy carbon offsets to counterbalance your power consumption, especially if green electricity isn’t yet available through your utility company. Carbon offsets were trendy a few years back and there were questions about how effective they are. Now, the National Resources Defense Council has a detailed guide to choosing high-quality offset programs.
Run a lighter site
Besides your hosting service and your hardware, you’ll want to look at your site elements, such as your code, your graphics and animations, and even your palette. Sites that are slow to load due to inefficient code or heavy graphics are essentially idling during the wait time. Frequent or large server requests draw power, too. Mashable points out that dark colors in your site design, such as a black background, require LCD monitors to use more electricity to display them. The ideal “green website” is optimized for fast loading and has a color scheme that doesn’t send visitors’ monitors into overdrive.
Offer print-optimized content options
If you’ve ever tried to print a web page and ended up with a multi-page, multicolor, poorly formatted mess, you know why this matters. Check out this printer-friendly page tutorial from Jennifer Kyrnin at About.com. Streamline your content so it prints right the first time, using as few pieces of paper as possible.
Spread the word about green web hosting and design
Share your eco-upgrade news with your readers. They may have other resources to share with you, and your efforts might inspire some of them to green their own site design, hosting, and electricity sources, too. ClimateCare UK has an infographic explaining more about the Internet’s carbon footprint.
Green your website with HostGator green web hosting!
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.