Today, the digital sector’s share of greenhouse gas emissions is estimated at 3.5% worldwide and 3.2% in France (according to The Shift Project [FR] and Green IT [FR], the figures vary depending on the source). This share may seem insignificant in comparison with electricity and transportation (respectively 25 and 14%). Yet with an annual growth rate of around 6%, it is expected to represent 8% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, more than the global civil aviation sector.
I was curious to know our environmental impact at TeamMood, so I contacted the company Webvert to get a diagnosis and see how they could help us decarbonize our website. And I had an insightful chat with Youen Chéné, founder of Webvert.
Discussing the environmental impact of the web with Youen Chéné (Webvert)
Nicolas: What is expensive in the digital industry in terms of carbon impact?
Youen: When we talk about the digital industry, the bulk of the topic in terms of carbon impact is on the resources and energy used to manufacture devices, and more specifically to manufacture user terminals. 3/4 of the resources (excluding fossil fuels) used in the digital sector is used to manufacture the 50 billion or so devices in the world, the remaining quarter being used to manufacture data centers and networks.
Manufacturing new terminals is costly in terms of resources, energy, and water, and results in increased greenhouse gas emissions. But why do individuals and companies renew their hardware? They mostly do so because of the obsolescence of the devices both on a technical and psychological level.
The psychological level is quite obvious: to urge to buy the new iPhone or the latest Surface Pro is the result of marketing tricks that are quite obvious – yet still devilishly effective. But for those who are not sensitive to these arguments, the trend to complexify applications and to quit supporting old phones still forces them to buy new devices.
In conclusion, to keep using the terminals as long as possible, we need fast websites and fast applications, which requires implementing regulations.
Nicolas: What are the avenues for web optimization?
Youen: In the past 10 years, web page sizes have more than tripled (and multiplied by 7 on mobile). Yet 10 to 40% of the bandwidth of websites is useless (based on an analysis conducted on over 600 websites in France). But what we don’t always realize is that this content obesity negatively impacts the efficiency of websites. Indeed, 1 extra second of loading time increase the number of visitors leaving the website by 10% [FR].
So if you are considering decarbonizing your website and/or application, the first thing you need to do is to monitor the bandwidth of your websites and the CPU and I/O of your applications. This will help you identify areas for optimization.
Another simple action is to choose your suppliers carefully and dig a little bit further than the “green” label some wrongfully brandish. Indeed, carbon offsetting is by no means comparable to real emission reductions (which furthermore imply money savings).
Nicolas: What are the benefits of decarbonizing their website and digital app for companies?
Youen: Lightening a website have positive impacts on several levels:
- Carbon emission: - 48kg CO2 equivalent in average
- Costs: lower hosting costs
- User experience: - 10 to 35% loading time
- Search results: + 25 % of SEO traffic
- Conversion: + 20% conversion
If all sites were optimized, we estimate at 36% the total gain in CO2.
Decarbonizing the TeamMood website
I never want to be this guy who gives pieces of advice and doesn’t follow them, and I was curious to see how Webvert could optimize the TeamMood website. In 4 days, Youen and his team were able to de-carbon 12kg of CO2 equivalent on the 92 pages of our website.
In addition to the environmental impact, this led to:
- faster loading time: - 24% on the blog, - 40% on the main website
- increased SEO performances: +3 pts for the blog, +17 pts for the main website
So, are you going to test your own website and app?
Photo by Edgar Castrejon on Unsplash