Drive digital sustainability with carbon neutral websites

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The term carbon footprint is quickly catching up and helping us understand the levels of gas emissions that cause global warming and impact climate change.

The world is becoming digital and more and more activities, tasks and functions depend on digital content. The concept of digitization, over the past 40 years, has been the result of convenience, experience, the need to access information, saving time and many other possibilities. The world without digitization is unimaginable in multiple dimensions.

The top three assets of any digitization setup are hosting centers, networks, and devices. Data centers host the content and transmit that information through network connections, and finally push the information to different devices (end users). Now, it is interesting to note that “going digital” is not without carbon, but rather like using “very less carbon”. Various studies estimate the contribution of web technologies to the carbon footprint between 2.3 and 3.7% of global CO₂ emissions.

The term carbon footprint is quickly catching up and helping us understand the levels of gas emissions that cause global warming and impact climate change. To foster sustainability, it is imperative to understand the underlying contributors of carbon sources, regardless of the size of their contribution.

A carbon footprint is a measure of the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organization, service, place or product expressed in carbon dioxide equivalent. Research from 2018 estimates that the IT sector’s carbon footprint is 1.4% of overall global emissions, and the sector uses 3.6% of global electricity for its operation. Carbon emissions from this sector come from user devices, such as phones, tablets, computers and modems, followed by communications networks for fixed and mobile access, and from data centers, including network networks. business and operators’ activities.

In India (778 million) and China (988 million) alone there are around 1.76 billion internet users. Now, doing the math of one hour of internet use per day and 100 days per year would lead to an astronomical figure of 200 billion hours of computer / mobile use per year. The digital chain of all digital content consumes energy and has a direct impact on global CO2 emissions.

As of January 2020, global statistics suggest that there are around 1.74 billion websites operating on the internet with over 4 billion estimated daily visitors. There are also 8.9 million mobile apps according to a report, and it all adds up to the carbon footprint scores.

Consumers and businesses are placing more emphasis on green and sustainable operations. With organizations committed to achieving net zero emissions and sustainability goals, the decarbonization of digital assets is gaining ground across all industries. Reducing the carbon emissions associated with a website comes down to reducing the amount of electricity used to charge, send and display a web page, and then ensure that the resulting electricity required comes from clean, renewable resources.

A 2016 study showed that data centers around the world consume more than 400 terawatts per year, or about 3% of global consumption. Going forward, internet transaction volumes are expected to continue to grow, in part because more of the world’s population will be connected, and also due to the expansion of Internet of Things (IoT) devices..

This requires a process to study the flow of information through the components of the web infrastructure and compare the current level of carbon footprint to identify areas for improvement, which are then followed by definitive actions and validation of changes. as part of continuous improvement cycles.

As part of the digital initiative, CSS Corp began to expand its capabilities to include carbon neutral strategies for websites and meet the growing demand for sustainable services for existing and new clients. CSS Corp has conducted extensive research into assessing the carbon scores of over 500 websites, and analyzed the factors that impact scores and designed optimization approaches for greener websites. .

Main conclusions of the data analysis

Although over 780 URLs are accessible for review, only 723 pages were accessible due to authorization, security, or disability issues. Data mining was performed using custom automated methods and passed through open source tools.

The breakdown of URLs by domain is shown in the graph above, with ecommerce and tech websites and the ‘other’ category of websites breaking the 100 mark.

Main observations and analysis

Carbon footprint scores range from 0 to 100, with 100 being the best. These scores are generated by ecograder (Ecograder.com), a publicly available carbon footprint website score. This website calculates scores based on search capacity, page speed, responsive design support, and hosting membership.

  1. Only 18 URLs received high search scores (> 90 or more). These scores reflect the ease of finding information on search engines.
  2. 167 URLs scored high (> 90 or more) on response time. The universally accepted benchmark is 3s, and these websites have response times between 4s and 1s. Most of these websites are tech or e-commerce portals and have over 100 URLs.
  3. 142 URLs appear to have embraced green hosting, and this is a critical factor for high carbon footprint scores. The average carbon scores for these green hosted websites are 67 with the highest being 82.
  4. In websites where pages are not hosted on green servers (581 URLs), scores ranged from 8 to 57, with an average score of 35.

Line labels

# of URL

Speed

(0 to 100)

Ease of research

(0 to 10)

Green hosting

(0 to 1)

Ecograder

(0 to 100)

E-commerce / Consumer 307 56.60 3.72 0.07 31.82
Government / Education 37 79.54 7.49 0.14 48.41
Informational 33 80.85 7.45 0.15 43.48
Media / Entertainment 73 58.33 7.43 0.12 39.00
Social / Collaborative 21 77.52 7.81 0.29 49.81
Technology 119 84.15 7.53 0.52 58.38

Observations also indicate that the majority of websites have sustainability issues with mobile and general websites (www.abcxyz.com vs. m.abcxyz.com). The carbon scores appear to be in a 2% range.

The same seems to be true for global brands with multiple regional websites. The poor site scores were consistent across regions (US region site vs. UK region website).

Home page scores versus child pages also appeared to be below 10%, and therefore determined by content, page speed, and search options.

Additionally, to explore the green hosting factor, an exercise was conducted to redesign sample URLs and host them on green servers. This experiment was run on lighter 5-domain pages, and the carbon score results dropped from 10 points to 20 points. These results may also indicate that regardless of all UX design and page structure factors, green hosting is the dominant factor in improving carbon scores.

Basic Guiding Principles For Website Design

  • The purpose of a webpage is to connect with end users, so it’s best to keep it light, simple, and user-friendly for a wide range of audiences.
  • The search optimization design should be part of the page development. Whatever the design of the first page, it is best to follow the standards.
  • Web pages need to be fast and responsive across multiple devices, channels, and networks.
  • Testing and verifying a 100 page vs. 1000 page website is going to be tedious and expensive.

However, following user journeys can reduce risk and improve the right pages to cover first.

  • Adopt 100% automated surveillance with a combination of optimized algorithms to effectively improve coverage and datamart test principles.
  • Last and most important of all is the need to move to green hosting servers.

(Dr. Kiran Marri is a leader in software testing, industry consultant, educator and passionate researcher with over two decades of software and systems experience. He is currently Vice President of CSS Corp Limited in Bengaluru, India)

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