Every business has a responsibility to lower its carbon emissions to meet sustainability targets, and that includes all of us involved in the building, maintenance and use of websites.  The world’s computing and information storage sector has a larger carbon footprint than the airline industry, and since 2010, the number of internet users worldwide has more than doubled, while global internet traffic has expanded 25-fold. It’s now widely accepted that meeting the increasing demand for digital services requires a more environmentally mindful approach, if we are to get on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario.  

Every website is part of a digital ecosystem that uses a lot of energy. End users burn device energy in all their interactions with its content; networks require energy to transmit  data across cables, routers, and other devices; data centres use energy and lots of water for cooling to store, optimize, and serve data as it is requested by users; and of course it takes energy to create and run all the hardware and software needed to manage digital products and services. 

Methodology from the Green Web Foundation has been used to generate percentage estimates of the above activities:

  • Consumer device use (52%)
  • Network use (14%)
  • Data centre use (15%)
  • Hardware production (19%) 

This helps highlight where we can make an impact through choices made when designing and building websites. At Embrace, we include sustainability factors as part of our free website audit and take an environmentally considered approach to website design and development. In this article we’ll look at some steps you can take to reduce the carbon footprint of digital platforms.

1. Choose greener hosting

This is the single easiest thing you can do to make your online presence more eco-friendly. Green hosting providers use renewable energy to power data centres, prioritise the use of energy efficient hardware and software, resulting in better website performance. So making this choice can help meet ESG goals, and also improve search rankings. There are many to choose from and they vary in their energy sources used and emissions released. The Green Web Foundation has compiled a list of verified green hosting providers by country, which meet their criteria.

2. Optimise user experience

Having a well-conceived user interface makes sense not just for people, but also for the planet. The fewer steps people take to get to what they need, the less data is  transmitted and the lower the carbon impact. Consider how users can get to what they need using the smallest possible amount of page and content loads. ​Focusing on a user-friendly interface can reduce bounce ratesand the overall energy consumption by decreasing the time users spend on the site.

3. Embrace a darker colour palette

It makes sense to embrace darker colour palettes in today’s websites. Early computers had cathode ray tube monitors, which used less energy to display dark colours. The 1990s saw a shift to Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) monitors and laptops, which were much more energy efficient, but ran with a single backlight that was always on, no matter what colour was displayed. The idea of dark websites saving energy became irrelevant and was mostly forgotten until the current era of OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) technology. Each pixel is itself a tiny LED lightbulb that lights up individually when it is needed, and now the using dark colours to save energy makes sense again. Using Dark mode has been shown to reduce battery usage up to 63% on OLED displays. In a pioneering move for a large technology firm, Cisco recently added the option to toggle to Dark mode on parts of its website.

When designing a website, choosing a colour palette with darker hues consumes less energy when illuminating the screen. Black consumes the lowest amount of energy, while white and blue colours are power-hungry. In fact, blue pixels use approximately 25% more energy than red and green pixels. It’s also good practice to use high contrast colours to avoid the need for users to increase the brightness of their device. ​

4. Choose lighter content and use lazy loading

When designing a site, use fewer images of a smaller size, and use video sparingly. And be aware that by using external fonts you are also adding additional requests to the servers running a website, requiring further storage space and energy expenditure. We tend to use system fonts for body copy and save unique typefaces for logos and headers.

Most websites pre-load images, code, and other assets before users reach them, which is unnecessary. Instead, we recommend using the lazy loading technique, where web pages load only required content at first, and wait to load any remaining page content until the user needs it. It’s called lazy as it ‘procrastinates’ on tasks, but in this case putting off initialisation of page objects is a good thing! It improves site performance, reduces bandwidth usage and is better for the environment.

 And when it comes to resolution, rather than automatically going for the highest, it’s possible to use ‘exact loading’ to for a smaller footprint. This technique checks how big the user’s screen is, before loading the image or video to almost the exact size of the space. The result is perfect display but a smaller file size. It’s also important to serve modern image formats – WebP or even better AVIF. 

5. Minify coding and use of tools mindfully

Website code itself can be minified – compressed from the original size to the smallest size possible without affecting its functionality. And it’s important to delete elements that are not needed, such as unwanted themes and plugins, old post revisions, unused media and broken links.

Many third-party tools, from Google Analytics to HubSpot to Facebook Pixel, require external code to be loaded onto a website. Being mindful of which tools are of value and removing those that are not needed makes for a more energy efficient and optimised site. A new alternative to Google Analytics is Plausible, with a script 45 times smaller. It only collects anonymous user data, and does not use cookies, so it’s possible avoid the cookie banner disclaimer


Owning a website leaves a carbon footprint through the compound effect of lots of actions. From requests to the server; to responding with the necessary information; to browsers processing data and presenting the page to the visitor. As we create and run digital platforms, we can play our part in reducing carbon emissions by making more considered choices, from choosing green hosting to following good practice to reduce unnecessary data transfer.  

If you’d like to find out how your website scores for sustainability, you can take advantage of our free website audit.