Internet Sustainability in 2018 [Infographic]

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Ecograder hero image

Launched on Earth Day 2013, our free website sustainability tool Ecograder has graded nearly 1.7 million URLs on usability, efficiency, and use of renewable energy. Here’s what five years of crawl data tells us about the state of internet sustainability.

With the internet’s carbon emissions pushing one billion tons annually and its environmental impact larger than that of the airline industry, it is important now more than ever that we create planet-friendly digital products and services powered by renewable energy. According to Mozilla’s 2018 Internet Health Report:

…global communication technologies will be responsible for more carbon emissions in 2025 than any country except China, India and the United States.

Mightybytes is a team of environmentalist designers, strategists, and developers who build the internet for a living, so naturally this makes us a little uneasy. It should you too, but the good news is that there are things we can do!

An Internet Sustainability Infographic 

Check out this infographic on internet sustainability to see how you can help us build a greener internet. Click to enlarge and share or scroll down for more detailed information.

Infographic: Ecograder + Internet Sustainability


An Internet Sustainability Guide for 2018

Don’t want to check out the graphic above? Here’s a version that’s friendly for search engines, assistive technologies, and people who prefer to read text.

Internet Sustainability: 1.7 millions URLs crawled by Ecograder

Total Number of URLs Crawled by Ecograder = 1.7 Million

In five years, Ecograder has crawled 1,682,202 URLs from all around the world. That’s a lot of web pages.

Internet Sustainability: Average score of URLs crawled by Ecograder = 52 out of 100.

Average Ecograder Score = 52 (Out of 100)

Of those 1.7M URLs, the average score was 52 out of 100 possible points, which leaves plenty of room for improvement.

1.25 Average SEO Rank for Ecograder Crawled URLs.

SEO Rank = 1.25 (Out of 10)

SEO Rank is an indicator of how ‘findable’ your website and content are. Content that is easy to find uses less resources and less energy. A score of 1.25 out of 10 in this category tells us that SEO is not a priority for most website owners, even though it offer significant ways to improve your business and marketing goals while also reducing the energy needed to find content. Get optimizing, people!

Internet Sustainability: 46% of URLs crawled by Ecograder employ responsive design.

Responsive Design = 46%

Responsive websites offer better user experiences across devices and platforms, reducing the amount of pinching and zooming needed to accomplish tasks or view content. This uses less energy. With less than half of the URLs crawled employing responsive design, there is definitely room for improvement here.  

Internet Sustainability: 5% of URLs crawled by Ecograder still use Flash.

Use of Flash = 5%

Flash doesn’t work on mobile devices. Over half of total web pages viewed in 2017 were via mobile devices. And that doesn’t include tablets. This is progress.

Internet Sustainability: Average page speed score of URLs crawled by Ecograder = 30.6

Average Page Speed Score = 30.6 (Out of 100)

Customers will abandon a site that doesn’t load quickly. Plus, Google has added page speed as an indicator for search results on both desktops and mobile devices. Faster pages also use less energy. It doesn’t seem like this is a priority for most website owners, however.

Internet Sustainability: An average of 45 HTTP requests are made from URLs crawled by Ecograder.

Average Number of HTTP Requests per URL = 45

Fewer server requests mean less energy wasted and faster page load times, which makes for a better user experience.

Internet Sustainability: % of shared resources used in URLs crawled by Ecograder.

Average Shared Resources = 57%

By hosting common scripts and site assets in shared libraries or via content delivery networks, you increase the likelihood of users already having those assets cached in their system. This uses less energy and supports faster load times.

Internet Sustainability: 14% of 21.5 Million website are powered by renewable energy.

Renewable Energy Use = 14%

Of nearly 21.5 million sites crawled, The Green Web Foundation reports that only 14% are powered by renewable energy. We can do better!

Creating A More People- and Planet-Friendly Internet

The message this data sends is clear and unambiguous: there are significant opportunities to improve our websites and digital products, not only to make them better for users but also for the planet:

Sites that are clear, concise, simple, and light on extraneous images and code are both better for the environment and better for the people using them. User-centric design, it seems, is good for the planet.

— FastCo.Design, The Rise of Green UX 

This is our call-to-action: Website owners, and the agencies that serve them, should take responsibility for creating efficient digital solutions that improve the metrics above. According to Agency Spotter, there are at least 120,000 agencies in the United States and 560,000 agencies worldwide.

We owe it to our clients, ourselves, and the planet to improve the digital products we own, design, build, and manage. On a per capita basis, this is not a huge lift. It just requires a shift in priorities and how we talk about sustainable web design during projects. Collectively, this would have a huge impact. 

120,000 agencies in the Unites States; 560,000 agencies worldwide.
560,000 agencies around the world can significantly reduce the internet’s environmental impact.

Improving Internet Sustainability (And Your Own Digital Products)

Here are some simple steps you can take to improve your own digital products.

  1. Find a green web host: Host your website on servers powered by renewable energy. We use Google Cloud Platform, but there are many others. Try The Green Web Foundation for a list of renewable energy-powered providers. 
  2. Invest in SEO: By regularly creating high-quality content that is helpful to both people and search engines you reduce the amount of time it takes users to find your content. Similarly, if you don’t already have a search feature on your own site, add one.
  3. Invest in UX: Test features and functions with real users before building them and take the time to ensure they offer lean, useful experiences across devices and platforms.
  4. Speed up your website: Make sure images, scripts, and other assets are as optimized as they can be. Run your website through Google PageSpeed Insights to get a full report of things you can do to improve it.

While there are dozens of other things you can do to improve usability, efficiency, and renewable energy use for your digital products and services, the list above can serve as a good start. Our book Designing for Sustainability: A Guide to Building Greener Digital Products and Services contains a full breakdown of all the things. For a quick report, run your site through Ecograder. See below.

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Tim Frick founded Mightybytes in 1998 to help mission-driven organizations solve problems, amplify their impact, and meet business and marketing goals. He is the author of four books, including Designing for Sustainability: A Guide to Building Greener Digital Products and Services from O'Reilly Media. Connect with Tim on LinkedIn.