Sustainability is one of the key elements for the survival of future generations. There will be a time when we will run out of resources, our Sun won’t warm our planet as it warms now, and life ceases to exist. However, we still have millions of years to find another planet and inhabit it.
If this expectation is true in our reality, the human population can grow up hundreds of generations. They may find a solution, how to travel in space faster, how to colonize a planet, and so on. This brief story seems just a fairytale since scientists have found proof of the existence of global warming in the early 20th Century.
But what exactly does sustainability mean?
“Sustainable development meets the needs of the present, without forcing the next generations for a compromise.”
It is a long-term goal. A goal that we have to fight for to avoid the worst scenario.
Many people believe that sustainability only exists in the offline world, everything which belongs to the online space can not be more sustainable. However, that’s a false claim.
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The energy wasting
First, let’s see what most of us think:
- Using sites will always be more environmentally friendly than advertising, making magazines, or just informing people in the offline world.
- Offline, real-life activities are usually associated with a lot of waste consumption: for example, the amount of paper the companies use for advertising, or the amount of CO2 they produce, when going from one place to another.
If we only examine these values and resources, this whole interpretation can be right.
However, in terms of energy waste, the situation is a little different.
A recent study showed that the Internet uses 15% of all the available energy resources all over the world. But there are some more: in the next five years, this number can go up to 25%! The number of sites has increased in recent years, but only some of them try to decrease their carbon footprint. Why? Because they believe it is already a good start to change their method to online instead of offline.
Also, maybe in a short period, these consumptions are just irrelevant. However, if you constantly send approximately 35 emails, and receive 58 daily for a year (that is an average number) the energy consumption can be equal to a 13-round trip between Paris and New York. The consequence is the following: if you try to maintain a sustainable planet, this is too much.
Issues that are connected to energy waste and how they can be solved
There are certain kinds of issues connected to energy waste in the online world. In this part of this article, I will mention the most important ones, and I will also provide some solutions on how you can cease or at least decrease your carbon footprint in certain situations.
One of the largest problems is the appearance of data storage. Many years ago, people could only save their files on their own desktops, laptops, or mobile phones.
There were simply no other solutions. But then the sizes of these devices drastically decreased, and developers started to think about which part of these devices are irrelevant. They chose to decrease the size of the storage, which is responsible for saving data inside your computer. So these people have been urged to find a place where they can store their important data.
After just a few years, the solution has arrived. “Cloud”, as people usually refer to it, or cloud storage, is a model, where the digital data is stored in specific servers owned and managed by hosting companies.
Amazon was one of the first companies which have developed a widely used cloud storage service in Dropbox and Pinterest. The main issue with this whole interpretation is that although it can erase some of our problems, it also generates other ones.
Maintaining a huge system like this requires a server park with many-many computers. May I have to mention that it uses a lot of electricity? The other consequence is that it creates a large carbon footprint. Just for the comparison: the hard drive of the computer only requires a fraction of a kilowatt to save a piece of information, to save something in the cloud costs seven kilowatts instead.
Companies most often use these types of storage, as it is so much more practical than storing it at a random computer. However, as you can see, this method won’t be the symbol of sustainability. Always keep in mind, when you use the cloud: a single data center uses the same amount of electricity that can power up to 50,000 homes!
Do you know that eco-friendly clouds also exist? It is called green cloud storage, which is available on some providers. To reach that status, they have to pass many criteria. They have to use their energy efficiently, they have to use renewable energy to maintain their servers, and the whole building where the servers are located must be also eco-friendly.
It is not that obvious which server provider has green cloud storage, as this metric is like a scale. There is no exact answer to the question of whether the XY provider is green or not. You have to compare which one passes more criteria.
In recent years, both Amazon and Google have taken steps to improve this segment of their server parks. Google recently became one of the greenest server providers in this whole market, so if you want to store your data on the cloud, their cloud system is one of the most eco-friendly ones. They also stated that by 2030, all of their server parks would become eco-friendly entirely.
Another possibility of how you can take care of your site’s emissions but also avoid paying an enormous amount of money is by using website carbon footprint calculators. These calculators can always track a few things about your website emissions.
It can indicate how your site accomplishes some of its criteria: for example, the amount of CO2 emission, every time someone visits your site, or whether it is running on a sustainable energy hosting server or not.
The app also gives you advice on how you achieve better accomplishments. From my point of view, it is very important to check your site month to month with one of these applications, because there are no better ways to report your progress in connection with site sustainability than these.
Online ads and unnecessary things
Do you know that the ads appearing at sites increase the carbon footprint there? There was some research on this topic, and the overall conclusion is very devastating: between 32% to 70% of the overall emission a site can create is from monetization.
So, if a visitor goes to your site, and ads are enabled, the emission is way bigger than an upside-down situation. I won’t encourage anybody to use AdBlocker, as it usually steals the earned money from sites, but it is undoubtedly that filtering these ads can help you build a sustainable environment. Also, I think this issue needs to be solved on the side of the websites, not the potential buyers.
Also, websites are usually full of unnecessary elements, which are never used by any customers. However, these are increasing the energy demand of the website as well. You must find and select these elements, then delete them from your site.
Sites must implement a subscription-free strategic model, so they can avoid showing ads to everyone. Here, they also earn the money that is needed for maintaining the site and improving it, but they can also make something for a more sustainable environment.
In case of unnecessary things that may appear at sites, there are some solutions too. For example, it can be a good method if you try to track each of your consumers’ events, knowing when energy consumption can occur. With the help of event analytics, it can be done in a matter of a minute.
The main task of an event analytics system is to track how your consumers behave at your website. Where they click, what they download, and how to emigrate from one sub-page to another. It is a very timesaving process. It can also track the number of individuals who appear at your site, but also we can aggregate the number of sessions these individuals make. This may help you measure where your potential customers get stuck in their buying process, and it can determine what functions are meaningless to have with us.
There are many sites that provide you with a function like this, for example, Capturly.com.
Let’s go back to the meaningless functions. Ask yourself, are these relevant? No! They will be relevant? Probably not! Then take them out of your site! First of all, these things can distract your potential customers and your conversion funnel won’t be as clean as it should be.
That is one thing. But do you know that there is another big issue with unnecessary elements of a website? They are not too energy friendly. Event analytics can help you determine which parts of your site are relevant and which are irrelevant. The fewer click your customers make to navigate themselves to a specific part, the less important it is.
Another issue associated with energy waste is the web images that you upload to your site. You upload them for the purpose of making contexts, making your site fancier, or increasing understanding. However, there is a huge issue in connection with them: energy waste. The larger the file, the bigger the emission.
Always try to focus on optimizing your images before you put them on your site. Luckily, there are many sites on the internet that can provide a solution to this problem.
These image resizers usually have one and only task: decreasing the sizes of your uploaded pictures. It means a lot: sometimes after the process is taken, the size can reduce to a quarter of the original one. This method not only helps us to save the world, but it can lead to faster loading times, which is also very practical.
Did you know that in 2022, 40% of all web traffic was from bots? It really shocked me at first, when I read this information.
For those who never heard about them, bot traffic means all the non-human site visitors. We can distinguish two types of bots. There are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ones.
Good bots usually exist to increase the quantity of the number of visitors who travel to your site. Here, this method can boost your numbers and the probable outcome can be that the algorithm of Google puts your site in a better place in the search engines.
However, bad bots also exist. They spam your site with meaningless comments and backlinks, to redirect your customers to a suspicious site. It is very dangerous. Also, in terms of sustainability, the first is also concerning. Just think about it: every site click means energy wasting and if those are also irrelevant you have to avoid them at a very long distance.
Ignoring good bots is usually a harder task. These bots are created to help you. However, you can accomplish your predicted numbers without them as well. You only need some kind of creativity. There are many different ways to generate some publicity: Using SEO methods, making entertaining content on a social site, writing questions and answers on Reddit and Quora, or making a well-built email marketing strategy.
Ignoring bad bots is a little easier, but it is essential to prevent them. The exact moment they started to appear at your site, you can’t do anything about the situation. One of the first solutions to barricade their usual route is implementing CAPTCHAs. It is an abbreviation that refers to the Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. There are many CAPTCHA tests, including analyzing the clicking route, analysis from image picking, and so on. You must know that these are not as effective as they were sooner. They also have improved a lot in recent years, so you need other practices too.
For the long term, you may need a particular software that can prevent you from harmful bot attacks. There are plenty of types in the market, however, most of them are pay-to-use ones. From my perspective, you’d better pull out some money from your wallet than be a victim of a harmful bot attack.
What benefits can sites earn if they replace those negative impacts?
I think it always means a little benefit in a very tight competition if you came up with something new. The issues of websites, in connection with sustainability, are quite obvious nowadays. However, the public hasn’t spoken enough about this topic yet. But it will definitely change. There was far more research about these problems last year, than in any other previous year. 2023 can be the year where the whole online scene has to adapt to avoid these issues. But the earlier you adapt, the more you can gain from the situation.
Also, there was some research which showed that not just the customers will be more loyal if you take steps towards becoming sustainable. Your workforce also gains some loyalty, if they feel that your company goes the right way. They tend to become more productive and creative after a positive impact like this.
It also improves your efficiency. Just think about it a little: making your site more sustainable also means that you have to fix your old-time mistakes. Optimizing your website codes, faster load times, and using efficient server configurations will all help you both increase your conversion and become energy-efficient. Later, in the event analytics, you can also check whether those mistakes are still with you or not.
As you can see, there are many types of issues in how today’s digital marketing world is working in connection with sustainability. 2023 may be the year where these partly undercovered negative impacts will be spread all over the media, and many environmentalists obey for a change.
From that time, there will be no time to change your site’s policies, and no time to reintegrate your budget. You have to take action now!
I hope that this article was a good start to rethink everything. I certainly believe that you can use some of my tips to your own benefit to create an environmentally friendly website!
Do not forget: implementing these tips not only means that it can bring humanity one step forward in saving the world, but it may also increase your sales, increase the number of happy customers and decrease conversion funnel friction.
The article contains information from the source:
Smith, J. (2022). Impact of Digital Marketing Practices on Energy Consumption, Climate Change, and Sustainability. Journal of Sustainable Marketing, 10(2), 30-45.