There is no doubt that the speed of the Internet has increased dramatically over the last decade and so has the amount of data that is transmitted. Web sites that once were less than 50k in size are now ten times larger than that. One reason for this is the inclusion of multimedia elements such as audio and video clips that are intended to give the viewer a richer content and user experience. The environmental cost of this expansion is often lost, until you begin to understand the concept of green web design.
The design direction of enriching the user experience comes at the cost of a higher carbon footprint for each web site. It is ironic that being an active participant on the Internet to bring awareness about issues such as global warming and climate change may be negatively contributing to its own cause. What seems clear is that people will continue to use the Internet more globally, as mobile devices allow people from all around the world to participate in the digital culture.
Web designers can be at the forefront of reducing the carbon footprint of the Internet beginning with their own individual web site. A web site called CO2stats has created a way for web developers to examine the carbon footprint of their own web site and then use the tools provided by CO2stats to clean up their site and connecting servers when allowed. This can be a starting point for a continued effort to keep a web site’s CO2 emissions to a minimum.
Unused files that remain on servers and occupy space on hard disks are another problem because they need to be kept cool. This is one of those smaller issues that, when multiplied by the total number of servers connected on the Internet, creates a significant and unnecessary carbon footprint. Basic file maintenance can solve this problem as long as there is a mechanism in place to provide continual maintenance.
If a web designer is using a web hosting site to conduct their business, there is a list of environmentally conscious web hosting companies that can be used to reduce the carbon footprint. Once such list is at Treehugger.com.
There are many other ways to make your web design greener, but what is reasonable for one website design agency to do is often unreasonable for another. The simplest way to approach the problem is for web designers to establish their own standards of multimedia use within a web page. This allows for maximum flexibility in the design aspect of the business.
The combination of small and large efforts made by web designers can make a difference in energy consumed and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Admittedly, it is not the first priority of web design, but better ways to achieve the same result can be found if they are sought.