Climate change is no joke, and many people are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. You might try eating less meat, going paperless for your billing & invoicing, taking your bike to work instead of driving, or bringing reusable totes to the grocery store. But there’s a new way to reduce your impact on the environment… and all it takes is a line or two of code.
We often associate everything digital with being “environmentally friendly”. If you’re like me, you signed up for paperless billing with your cell phone and internet companies. And it’s true – having a website, sending out email newsletters are much more environmentally friendly than printing paper brochures and newsletters. But as with everything else, there is ALWAYS room for improvement.
If you market your business digitally, you’ve probably heard of Mailchimp, and if you have a website for your business you might even be using WordPress (a personal Surf Your Name favorite, and arguably the most popular CMS on the market). If you’re a user of both platforms, chances are that you have the plugin Mailchimp for WordPress installed on your website. Danny Van Kooten is the developer behind this popular plugin & he recently made a change that greatly reduced his carbon footprint – and it all took place digitally.
Plugins like Van Kooten’s add awesome functionality to WordPress websites. But they also add thousands of lines of code to the sites that they’re installed on. Every time someone visits your website – your server has to send that data to the visitor’s browser. This communication, as with anything electronic, uses energy. So, the larger the code – the more energy needed to serve your website properly. Van Kooten knew he could do better, and just 5 months ago he decided to “refactor” his plugin, reducing its footprint by 20 KB.
This results in your website’s server using less energy every single day.
Now, 20 KB is really not that much data. But when you look at the fact that over 2 million websites are using this plugin, it quickly adds up. Overall, trimming his code was able to reduce our global CO2 output by almost 60,000 kilograms. That is about the same CO2 output as flying from NYC to Amsterdam and back 85 times! So a pretty big deal for just a few hours of coding!
Van Kooten’s eye-opening discovery is being shared by designers and developers all over the globe. We’re all calling it “sustainable” software design – and so far it has propelled the way technologists measure the carbon footprint of all our swipes and clicks on the web. Because we are constantly using websites & apps small changes like these can be truly transformative. Changing the code of our digital world to be more conservative when it comes to energy used and it often can make things a little more enjoyable (and accessible).
When you go to a website, there is code put in place to track your journey – this is known as ad code. It is one of the most common types of code that bloat popular websites. Yes, we hate it for spying on us, but it also makes websites load MUCH slower than they should. The constant pinging of servers is not efficient at all, all the information living on the backend of those websites truly adds up. For example – when the EU recently forced US companies to remove tracking code from their websites for European visitors, the USA Today website shed around 90% of its data and was shown to load a whopping 15 times faster!
Our throwaway habits add up. How many times a day do you shoot an email that says
Of course, focusing on just individuals to reduce the world’s carbon footprint is just a drop in the ocean. To really target carbon reduction, we need to examine huge infrastructure. After all, over half of all online activity comes from video streaming services like Netflix & Hulu while Bitcoin has annual emissions that match Sri Lanka. But look at artificial intelligence – the CO2 needed to train a single AI model can generate up to FIVE times the CO2 of a car. These areas need efficiency overhauls, and they need them soon.
But, as Van Kooten has shown, a small change can make a huge impact. And at Surf Your Name, we’d love to help you reduce the carbon footprint of your website by examining your plugin and data usage! We’ve performed numerous plugin cleanups for clients in the past, and not only does it make your website more