Is Digital Transformation killing the environment

As we move as a society more and more towards digital solutions, the more we start polluting our environment. Our digital life carries a very physical cost. From image files to colours to coding languages to servers, the choices we make in our web work consume electricity and create carbon, and as the internet grows, so does the cost to the environment.

The average website produces 1.76g of CO2 for every page view, so a site with 100,000 page views annually emits 2,112kg of CO2. The more complex a website is, the more energy it requires to load – and its climate impact greater. Scale that up to the internet, and you’ve got a big problem. This data comes from the carbon calculator Website Carbon.

In my calculations, taking the number of websites worldwide tracked by Statista of almost 1.9 billion websites worldwide, if you take the average website emission per year of 2,112 kg multiplied by 1.9 billion, you get an emission from websites of 4012800000 Kg CO2, let’s turn that into a metric ton 401280000/1000 equals to 401280 metric ton of CO2 per year.

Your website is killing the planet

Calculating carbon footprint is not easy, there are many variables to consider.

  • Datacenter fossil fuel emissions
  • Datacenter grid electricity-based emissions
  • Employee travel emissions
  • Embodied emissions from data center hardware and construction of a data center

If you already have a website, accordingly to Website Carbon, they look at the following in calculating how green your website is:

Data transfer over the wire

When a website is loaded, the energy used is roughly proportional to the amount of data transferred.  Measure the data transmitted over the wire when a web page is loaded and multiply that by the energy usage data. Then adjust to repeat visitors who may have website assets cached on their devices.

Energy intensity of web data

Energy is used at the data center, telecoms networks and by the end user’s computer or mobile device.  Of course, this varies for every website and visitor, an average figure is used.

The energy source used by the data center

To gauge the energy source, we assume that all websites use standard grid electricity for the telecoms network and end-user since it is hard to determine otherwise. For the data center energy use, The Green Web Foundation (TGWF) database is checked to see if the data center is using green energy.  If so, the calculation reduces the carbon emissions attributed to that portion of the energy accordingly. The Green Web Foundation database includes data centres that purchase standard grid electricity but offset their emissions.

Carbon intensity of electricity

The carbon intensity of grid electricity is based on the international average for grid electricity. For calculation, the data center uses a lower carbon factor for renewable electricity.

Website Traffic

When all this information is put together, the emissions associated with an average user visiting any given website are known. Multiply carbon per page view up by the typical number of annual page views, and we can estimate the total annual CO2 emissions.

Carbon Footprint reports are prepared according to the widely recognized Greenhouse Gas Protocol carbon reporting and accounting standards.

Google Carbon Footprint reporting methodology

My Website data

How Environmental Friendly is Programming Languages

Hosting on google

I am hosting on Google and I get information in the Google Cloud Console about my carbon footprint, it is based on the location I have chosen to use to host my website.

What can you do

What I learned to be more sustainable is that you would need to find a Green Web host that uses sustainable electricity supplied to the server, I choose Google Cloud Platform for my hosting.

Selecting the right cloud platform is imp[ortant. I use WordPress it is not the most sustainable as it is based on Apache + MySQL + PHP. I programmed my own web platform using Python + Firestore, deployed as. Docker container to Google Cloud Run, I then got a much better result:

When running a WordPress site, it is essential to understand the complexity of the website. The more complex, the more CO2 your website produces, and with WordPress, make sure not to use too many plugins. So think like this the more active plugins, the longer it takes to load.

It is all about experimenting with hosting, web platform, and theme design to get to your most sustainable website. The more we help reduce our footprint, the more we also help reduce the time the webserver is running and using electricity.

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