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🕶️ The environmental benefits of privacy-focussed web design

For ethically minded web designers, there’s plenty to get worked up about when it comes to tracking scripts.

These shady little files sit in the background of most websites, collecting data about visitors. Even the smallest of business websites now seems to have popups simultaneously telling us they ‘value your privacy’ while harvesting data about who we are, where we are, what we’re looking for and what we were doing online before we landed there. It’s become a real challenge to browse the internet without having to cede our personal data to the highest bidder.

And while the privacy issue is bad enough, there’s an environmental impact to consider too.

Tracking scripts add (often considerable) weight to web pages, increasing the time it takes to load and thereby the amount of energy required.

Cookie technology on the top 1 million websites has been calculated to generate more than 11,500 tonnes of carbon emissions every month. But these unethical, energy-guzzling scripts and analytics tools have become pervasive to the point that many website owners don’t even know which tracking scripts they have installed.

Here at Root, we believe we need a shift in thinking that begins to prioritise people, privacy and the planet equally.

By using privacy-focussed web design and being more thoughtful about the data we collect, how we collect it and what we do with it, we can better protect not only our customers, but the environment too.

For more thoughts on how practicing digital privacy can make your website better for the environment, head over to our blog: The environmental benefits of privacy-focussed web design

🎞️ Using video considerately on sustainable websites

There’s no denying the popularity of video with the modern consumer. As a format, video is responsible for an estimated 82% of all consumer internet traffic. This obviously requires a massive amount of energy.

In the sphere of sustainable web design, there’s a clear argument against ever using video. But when there’s such a clear demand for it from web users, can we really swear off it altogether?

Probably not. But there are certainly steps we can take to make our use of video as less harmful as possible. This includes things like:

  • Turning off the autoplay function
  • Right-sizing video files
  • Keeping editing tight so our videos are more succinct
  • Compressing our files using a tool like Handbrake
  • Choosing ethical streaming platforms for video embeds, thereby avoiding bulky tracking scripts
  • Setting a right-sized poster image
  • Converting files to WebM format

We’d always advocate a less-is-more approach to video, but these steps will all help minimise the environmental impact for those times when you simply need to use it.

For more tips on optimising videos for the web, check out our blog: Using video considerately on sustainable websites

🍄 Unearthed

~ Digital sustainability news, insights and tips from around the web.

Low-carbon colour palettes

Last issue we spoke about how implementing a Dark Mode colour palette can reduce the amount of energy required to display your website. Since then, we’ve come across this interesting article by Consider Digital on Low-carbon colour palettes. Research carried out by Google in 2018 found that red and green use 50% less energy on an OLED screen than blue. Fascinating stuff!

How green is your country’s energy?

It’s generally considered most energy-efficient to host your website in the same country where your visitors are located, as this requires less energy to transfer data from the server to their device. But what if the data centre is in a country that uses primarily fossil fuels?

This intriguing Electricity Map shows how various countries around the world power their national grids in real time! Would hosting your site in Iceland, which uses 100% renewable energy, be a good trade-off for the extra distance the data must travel? It’s an interesting thought, and maybe something to consider if green energy isn’t available in your neck of the woods.

Sustainability design for WordPress websites

More than 45% of all websites on the internet use WordPress. If we can design and develop WordPress themes that are inherently more sustainable, it will go a long way to reducing the impact of the internet more generally. This limited series podcast from freelance WP developer Nahuai Badiola offers invaluable insight into the issue of digital sustainability, as well as tips from guest experts about how we can design a greener web.

🪴 Grow your knowledge

~ You ask the questions, we find the answers! This month, freelance journalist Joe asks…

“I use Google search constantly in my work… How bad is this for the planet?”

We all know that every time we use the internet, we generate emissions. Every time we load a web page or stream a video or check our Facebook feed, we’re contributing in a small way to a global digital carbon footprint that is growing by the year.

And of course, Google searches are no different.

According to Google’s own calculations, every Google search generates 0.2g of CO2. And there are 3.5 billion of them carried out every day.

So constant Googling isn’t great.

But, as with most things digital, there are things we can do to limit the impact of our activities.

First of all, you could try switching to a sustainability-minded search engine like Ecosia, which plants trees and champions reforesting according to how many searches users are performing.

You could also try reducing the number of searches you perform, either by targeting your searches with more specific terms, or finding other sources of information.

It’s also worth bearing in my that, when we’re sat at our computers all day, it’s easy to get distracted by the sheer scope of the internet. It’s like the world’s best and shiniest toy has been set down in front of us, and we’re expected to just ignore it and work diligently until playtime.

Not many of us have that level of willpower though, so you could also consider using a browser extension like StayFocusd, which will block ‘time-wasting’ websites and help you stay productive.

☀️ Other news

  • This month we are really pleased to welcome SEO specialist Matt Tutt to our group of trusted Root Collaborators, providing Search Engine Optimisation and strategy to ethical businesses.
  • We are currently taking bookings for new web development projects starting in the spring.
  • Web design consultancy sessions are also available if you’d like to make your website more energy-efficient.

💚 Thank you for reading

This issue of Beneath the Surface was written by Becky Thorn and Paul Jardine. We’ll see you for issue 4 in May! ✌️

beautiful websites,
rooted in good ethics

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