Making The Web A Better Place: Guidelines For “Green” Web Design

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Last month the first International Conference on Green Computing took place. The conference agenda included a broad range of topics but, in essence, was eagerly addressing issues surrounding the carbon footprint of computing and how computers can contribute to the well being of our world. So what better time to raise a few questions about green web design. What is our role in contributing to a greener computing world?

We are, after all, steering the Internet1 towards being a safe storage of every kind of data. Every now and again it is good to step back and look at where we fit into this bigger picture of a green computing world. We as web designers and developers are the lead architects of the Web. We are the ones carrying the main blocks and putting them in place. Layering and cementing the blocks of information together. Brick by brick. The new Rome!

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Image credit3

But who is actually making sure the outer walls of our construction run true? Do we have our eyes on the bigger picture? Are our processes as eco-friendly as they could be / should be? And this is not just about optimization for speed of delivery. Are we true to ourselves in considering the energy efficiency of our web constructions, or are we more concerned for aesthetics? Are these relevant questions for a web designer?

So, How Much Does The Web Cost?

What a complex little question. Discovery Magazine has already asked the question: How Much Does The Internet Weigh?4 (if you are one of those designers/developers who love a little reading about the science behind your work, you’ll find this interesting). In another reference to this question, apparently the Internet weighs 56grams (two ounces), but takes fifty million horsepower to run.

Someone has actually also published some back-of-the-napkin figures for How much energy per Tweet?5. According to Google’s own published comparisons of how Google Searches tally up against everyday activities in terms of CO2 emissions, a five mile trip in the average U.S. automobile is equal to 10,000 Google searches.

One web page carbon footprint measured

One crucial irony in this relatively new global concern for energy efficiency is that as broadband internet technologies improve speed of delivery, web designers and developers seem to be designing and building more cumbersome websites.

According to statistics, since 2003, the average web page size has quintupled. That is to say it has increased five-fold. “From 2003 to 2009 the average web page grew from 93.7K to over 507K”. While performance has improved, it seems we have forsaken basic compression logic for increased quality, hence larger files behind our web pages.

Author note: Heaven knows I have been guilty of throwing in a 180kb full-screen image on a web page thinking simply, what the heck, my target audience is in Germany, broadband services here can handle it! Five years ago I can remember aiming for no more than 20kb per graphic.

So what needs to be highlighted here is the fact that the richer and more interactive website experiences we are creating are not going unnoticed. The files we create to build websites are “stored on servers, viewed by personal computers, and connected via networks”. This all requires energy to then house, cool, power and deliver the data that makes up a website.

Dr. Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist and Environmental Fellow, has researched the environmental impact of computing and calculated the CO2 emissions caused by individual use of the internet. His research, published in 2009, indicates that viewing a simple web page generates about 20 milligrams of CO2 per second. This rises to about 300mg of CO2 a second when viewing a website with complex images, animations or videos.

“So, when you are sitting in London viewing a website hosted in California, there are power plants on at least two continents actively pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in order for you to watch that video or read that online newspaper…

Since millions of people are surfing the web every hour of every day, that carbon footprint adds up to an astounding 2% of international emissions each year. In fact, according to the American research firm Gartner, the carbon footprint of information and communications technology exceeded that of the global aviation industry for the first time in 2007.”

Now while scientific measurements of CO2 and kilowatt hours are, to the average person, still a foggy area to get our heads around, what is important to consider is simply that every website we produce has a consequence. According to figures from worldwidewebsize.com, as of the 31st August 2010, there are at least 15.26 billion indexed pages. A very simplistic analysis here would be that, contrary how fast my broadband service is, because we make our graphic files larger together with the fact that we are producing more web pages, any new efficiency is counteracted. As noted, this would be a very generalized conclusion to draw.

One measuring tool

Dr. Wissner-Gross has co-founded CO2Stats86, an online “environmental trustmark” calculator, designed to allow web designers and bloggers make their sites greener in an accountable way. CO2Stats says that it automatically monitors and neutralizes the end-to-end carbon footprint of websites — “not just the servers, but the visitors’ computers (while they are on your site) and the networks that connect them”.

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CO2Stats86 allows web designers and bloggers to analyze their websites and put in place greener measures. It monitors and neutralizes the end-to-end carbon footprint of websites.

The changing face of an average web page

Results of various web optimization studies published at websiteoptimization.com9 in July 2010 state that:

“In 1997, 90% of videos were under 45 seconds in length (Acharya & Smith 1998). In 2005, the median video was about 120 seconds long (Li et al. 2005). By 2007, the median video was 192.6 seconds in duration (Gill et al. 2007). The median bit rate of web videos grew from 200Kbps in 2005 to 328Kbps on YouTube in 2007. So by late 2007, the median video weighed in at over 63MB in file size. On YouTube, the average video size is 10MB, with over 65,000 new videos added every day”.

The conclusion of the report is:

“Within the last five years, the size of the average web page has more than tripled, and the number of external objects (EO) has nearly doubled. While broadband users have experienced faster load times, narrowband users have been left behind. With the average web page sporting more than 50 external objects, object overhead now dominates most web page delays. Minimizing HTTP requests10 by using CSS sprites11, combining JavaScript or CSS files12, reducing the number of EOs, and converting graphic effects to CSS while still retaining attractiveness, has become the most important skill set for web performance optimizers”.

The Long-Term View

The World Wide Web Consortium13 (W3C) is, for all intents and purposes, the one central point where responsibility for the future development of best practice web design can be attributed. The W3C points out quite clearly and early in its Mission Statement14 that “long-term growth of the Web” is of utmost importance. The key individual areas of its Mission Statement then address:

W3C Principles

  • Web for All
  • Web on Everything

W3C Vision

  • Web for Rich Interaction
  • Web of Data and Services
  • Web of Trust

The consortium also has a dedicated section for web design standards and applications15:

  • HTML and CSS
  • Scripting and Ajax
  • Graphics
  • Audio and Video
  • Accessibility
  • Internationalization
  • Mobile Web
  • Privacy
  • Math on the Web

It would appear that we are successfully delivering the W3C’s vision of a world wide web for rich interaction. And we have the creative licence to produce visually stimulating content. In its definition of “What are Graphics?” it states: “Web graphics are visual representations used on a Web site to enhance or enable the representation of an idea or feeling, in order to reach the Web site user.

Graphics may entertain, educate, or emotionally impact the user, and are crucial to strength of branding, clarity of illustration, and ease of use for interfaces”. It goes on to say that “Graphics are used for everything from enhancing the appearance of Web pages to serving as the presentation and user interaction layer for full-fledged Web Applications”.

So Let’s Do Our Part

Consider offering your clients green web initiatives

It can be a valuable collateral marketing tool for your design business if you promote the fact that you encourage green website initiatives. There is, for example, a Danish project – CO2 Neutral Website – which is on a global march to rein in the energy consumption of the world wide web. Your financial registration with the CO2 Neutral initiative contributes to climate projects, provides you a certificate as a climate-friendly website plus gives you use of tools to help energy optimization.

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You can make the Web a better place by keeping your website clean and well-organized. And if you do, you can put badges to make it clear to your potential clients, for instance CO2 Neutral Website17 (not free) or My Blog Is Carbon-Neutral Badge18 (free).

Black could be greener

While there is controversy19 over whether a black color palette is more energy efficient than light colors on a website, there are still proponents of the darker website design. The emergence of the search engine Blackle20 in 2008 (founded by Sydney-based online media company, Heap Media) was the result of a proposed theory in 2007 that a black version of the Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy (750 Megawatt-hours).

“The principle is based on the the fact that different colors consume different amounts of energy on computer monitors”. Blackle searches are powered by Google Custom Search and states that it saves energy because the screen is predominantly black. “Image displayed is primarily a function of the user’s color settings and desktop graphics, as well as the color and size of open application windows; a given monitor requires more power to display a white (or light) screen than a black (or dark) screen.” Roberson et al, 200221

Beyond the actual color information behind our web pages, some developers have considered the automation of standby mode intra-surfing. That means a website can be put in standby mode while a user is surfing other pages. Online Leaf22 has developed a WordPress Plugin23 that installs a green standby engine on blogs.

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The low wattage color palette

Boston-based green computing consultant Mark Ontkush (incidentally, whose blog post in January 200725 started the black-white Google controversy mentioned above) has published the EMERGY-C26 low wattage color palette which is claimed to consume only 3 to 4 watts more than an all black page.

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The hex codes are as follows:

  • #822007 (rusty red)
  • #000000 (black)
  • #b2bbc0 (blue grey)
  • #19472a (forest green)
  • #3d414c (cobalt)
  • #ffffff (white)

100% renewable web hosting

Using 100% renewable energy to store and dish up our websites is certainly a service worth considering when building a new website for clients. Or even when doing a re-brand, it could be mentioned to the client as a value-add marketing concept.

Treehugger28 lists wind and solar-powered web hosting companies that are increasing in popularity. And here is another Top-10 list of green web hosting companies as listed by Web Hosting Geeks29 where the web hosts proclaim to use only renewable energies to run their servers.

Think, be aware, optimize AND be methodical

As designers and developers we CAN do our bit to help keep the net energy efficient and free from digital litter. For example, do you ever think twice about the redundant (or orphaned) files you leave sitting on a server. After the design and build has been signed off, there is invariably redundant JavaScript and graphic files.

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Small behavioral changes can make a big difference

Let’s imagine for just one minute the peripheral consequence of our web designs. If for every website project you build, you leave five unused JavaScript files, say average 10kb per file, and maybe 30 image files that are 30-50kb per file we are looking at approximately 1550kbs of unused data sitting on a server. Times that by all the websites that have been developed in the world … well, that means huge quantities of redundant data sitting on a servers in data centers, that need to be kept cool. While one could argue that this is inconsequential, one could equally argue that it is still litter that could just as well be gotten rid of.

Upon recently revisiting Tim Berners-Lee31’s proposal for the web32 two words struck a chord: portability and usefulness. After facing a situation of ‘Information Loss’ at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the conclusion of Berners-Lee’s proposal for better information management goes like this: “We should work toward a universal linked information system, in which generality and portability are more important than fancy graphics techniques and complex extra facilities.

The aim would be to allow a place to be found for any information or reference which one felt was important, and a way of finding it afterwards. The result should be sufficiently attractive to use that it the information contained would grow past a critical threshold, so that the usefulness the scheme would in turn encourage its increased use.”

What I personally gained from this was: If it’s not portable, don’t use it. If its not useful, get rid of it.

Tools to find and remove unused files

There are various (but not many) software that crawl websites and identify pages and files that are unused. Here are two to consider for finding unused files: Windows Inspyder Orfind33 and Mac SiteCleaner34. There are also some software, such as WebsiteCleaner35, that profess to optimize complete websites by stripping unnecessary characters and metadata.

How does your website measure up?

You can get a breakdown of overall file size and number of external objects for a web page here at websiteoptimization.com36 or you can use the Firefox Firebug37 Extension in conjunction with the Page Speed Add-On38 to analyse your website pages. Advice is also given on where you can save on size and speed.

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Set yourself ‘golden rules of thumb’

As mentioned above, I used to always aim for a graphic size no greater than 20kb. Why, then, should this be any different today? Admittedly, to a great extent the tools we use to build websites have control over the optimal efficiency of our work. But these are also improving. Image compression processes are mostly defined by the JPEG, the Gif and the Png. While more than 60% of the average web page is made up of graphics and multimedia, there are better optimizing practices that we can employ as designers. Popular scripting libraries such as Jquery40 and MooTools41 have also greatly advanced the lesser-impact level of dynamic web pages.

You may want to take a look at the following articles on image optimization:

Wrapping Up

This article actually started out as a good web design house-keeping article, and is not meant to be environmentally evangelistic. The Web is growing so quickly, it is actually difficult to fathom how we are all working away independently in our little corners of the world and yet at the same time working together to build what is destined to be the greatest infrastructure of all time. Each website construction phase is a virtual sojourn for us as web designers and developers, but nevertheless leaves an imprint that can be physically measured.

Some of us may think this is not a web designer’s problem. As far as I am aware, we have no established maximums that cap our build of web page sizes nor restrict how much ‘litter’ we leave on the world wide web. To a degree, we (or our clients) do pay premiums to web hosts based on website sizes. So therefore by passing the environmental buck onto the web hosts means it is their responsibility to put in place energy efficient processes. But as noted above, within the past six years our web pages have increased in size five-fold to an average of around 500kb. At this rate, one could forecast that by 2020 we are looking at pages that are at least 1MB. Therein lies some responsibility.

Or, an alternative conclusion would be that we have reached the page size threshold? That is to say, we are punching out full-size images and streaming video. What else could we possibly want/need?

Whatever your stance on these questions and whatever web technology evolves over the coming 5 to 10 years, some things will always remain true: good things come in small sizes!

Partial Bibliography

(afb)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/08/11/the-future-of-the-internet/
  2. 2 http://www.flickr.com/photos/swarmoeskerken/2620938431/
  3. 3 http://www.flickr.com/photos/swarmoeskerken/2620938431/
  4. 4 http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jun/how-much-does-the-internet-weigh
  5. 5 http://earth2tech.com/2010/04/19/how-much-energy-per-tweet/
  6. 6 http://www.co2stats.com/
  7. 7 http://www.co2stats.com/
  8. 8 http://www.co2stats.com/
  9. 9 http://www.websiteoptimization.com/speed/tweak/average-web-page/
  10. 10 http://www.websiteoptimization.com/speed/tweak/http/
  11. 11 http://www.websiteoptimization.com/speed/tweak/css-sprites/
  12. 12 http://www.websiteoptimization.com/speed/tweak/suture/
  13. 13 http://www.w3.org
  14. 14 http://www.w3.org/Consortium/mission.html
  15. 15 http://www.w3.org/standards/webdesign/
  16. 16
  17. 17 http://www.co2neutralwebsite.com/
  18. 18 http://www.kaufda.de/umwelt/carbon-neutral/how-you-can-join/
  19. 19 http://www.infoworld.com/t/platforms/google-energy-issue-not-black-and-white-687
  20. 20 http://www.blackle.com/
  21. 21 http://enduse.lbl.gov/Info/LBNL-48581.pdf
  22. 22 http://www.onlineleaf.com/
  23. 23 http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/online-leaf/
  24. 24 http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/online-leaf/
  25. 25 http://ecoiron.blogspot.com/2007/01/black-google-would-save-3000-megawatts.html
  26. 26 http://ecoiron.blogspot.com/2007/01/emergy-c-low-wattage-palette.html
  27. 27 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/EMERGY-C.jpg
  28. 28 http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/05/plethora_of_opt.php
  29. 29 http://webhostinggeeks.com/greenwebhosting.html
  30. 30 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/chalkboard.gif
  31. 31 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Berners-Lee
  32. 32 http://www.w3.org/History/1989/proposal.html
  33. 33 http://www.inspyder.com/products/OrFind/Default.aspx
  34. 34 http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/12275/sitecleaner
  35. 35 http://mac.softpedia.com/get/HTML-Tools/Website-Cleaner.shtml
  36. 36 http://websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/
  37. 37 http://getfirebug.com/
  38. 38 http://code.google.com/speed/page-speed/
  39. 39 http://getfirebug.com/
  40. 40 http://jquery.com/
  41. 41 http://mootools.net/
  42. 42 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/01/06/page-performance-what-to-know-and-what-you-can-do/
  43. 43 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/07/01/clever-jpeg-optimization-techniques/
  44. 44 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/07/15/clever-png-optimization-techniques/
  45. 45 http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article5489134.ece
  46. 46 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article5488934.ece
  47. 47 http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/06/the_sincerest_f.html
  48. 48 http://www.w3.org/
  49. 49 http://www.websiteoptimization.com/speed/tweak/average-web-page/
  50. 50 http://www.google.com/corporate/green/datacenters/
  51. 51 http://green-conf.org/index.html
  52. 52 http://ecoiron.blogspot.com/2007/08/history-in-january-2007-mark-ontkush.html

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Alison is a journalist, print + web designer and avid communicator of everything that is science media.

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  1. 1

    the man who know too much

    September 20, 2010 7:46 am

    another corporate hoax to sell product

  2. 4

    Great Post – we started Make Hay, a Green and Ethical web design company about 5 years ago.

    It’s as much about the clients you choose too – you can make the web a better place for not working with clients that support practices that are damaging.

  3. 5

    I ride my bike to work every day, a 40 mile commute, for exercise and also environment friendliness. As fun as it is, it’s too bad more people don’t think they can change their lifestyle in a way that challenges them. However, with the bandwidth that’s supported today it’s nice to share a beautiful website, and it’s great that you can use more graphics these days. I also remember having to try to keep a site down to under 50kb or whatever, in total. But you can also challenge yourself by trying to keep size down while still making the site fantastic. But make sure you are doing more personal sacrifice to be green rather than just preaching it.

  4. 6

    My rule of thumb: avoid using flash. Especially on the Mac it tends to be very resource intensive. I hate it when my laptop gets hot when there is some resource-intensive flash-ad somewhere on a forgotten browser tab.

  5. 7

    “CO2Stats allows web designers and bloggers to analyze their websites and put in place greener measures. It monitors and neutralizes the end-to-end carbon footprint of websites.”

    Well… Seems to me like CO2stats does not much more than redirecting to http://www.trustmarker.com, some stupid “custom badges” hosting service. This is plain bullshit, i don’t really understand what this is doing in there. Spend hours to keep your site lightweight, and do not forgot of course to use 10k of bandwidth to display a dumb “My website is carbon neutral” png.

  6. 8

    What a great article with lots of things to think about. We all seem to consider the web “greener” because it’s not using paper, but it is using other things (ie electricity) that aren’t good for the environment. We do have lots of influence as the designer of a site, and it is our responsibility to choose our clients and designs carefully. Thanks for the post!

    • 9

      Well, it’s far more than just electricity. To surf the Web, you need an electronic device that’s capable of doing that, and those devices are filled with toxic crap, they’re also transported around the world using tons of heavy fuel that pollute the air and water of the globe, and they can’t be 100% recycled when you’re done using them.

      The Web is, by extension, just about as “green” as those environment-friendly cars and trucks they sell on TV: it’s called green-washing.

      • 10

        How much carbon did you waste to finger-point the rest of us, from that toxic little computer? Isn’t this kind of like Al Gore, who will burn the equivalent of 10,000 cars on the highway, the fly from one “Green Event” to the next in his personal jet, just so he can give speeches on how un-Earth Friendly the rest of us are?

  7. 11

    Liberalism at its best! Though, I think image and script optimization are great and should be done… just not to make your site green. What a hoax…

  8. 12

    I’d like to see some research data on the black screen/monitor thing. It seems feasible, most LCD screens use dynamic contrast ratio that dips the back-lighting a notch when displaying dark scenes. This dimming of the back-lighting could help save energy, though I’d be interested to know whether it’s significant.

  9. 18

    You’ve got to be joking.

    But if you’re not, why not include the lbs of carbon saved by folks shopping at home vs. driving out? Then, I suppose, you’d have to calculate in the lbs of carbon expelled in the delivery of products to homes, and compare that as well. And don’t forget to calculate in a comparison of web industry telecommuters to office workers. Speaking of which, what about a comparison of telecommuters who work in their underwear and save water and energy on washing clothes? And while I’m at it, where the hell are the strong recommendations for working offline? I mean, let’s just use the other side of junk mail filler to draft thumbnails and comps. Let’s reuse the back sides of junk mail envelopes to draft markup and code before typing it in, saving who knows how much energy?

  10. 19

    you, gyus, are freaks

  11. 20
  12. 21

    ¡¡¡Enhorabuena!!!
    Pocas veces se pueden ver tantas tonterías juntas.

  13. 22

    CyberDyne became self aware when bored developers started believing their own bullshit.

  14. 23

    This is honestly one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen, green-washing needs to die. Now.

  15. 24

    Don’t really care for this whole CO2 deal when it comes to websites. Code standards are significantly more important – this seems to be a whim for those with too much time on their hands.

    But Firebug does rock though. Everyone should fire off the developer $5. It’s a fantastic addon.

  16. 25

    Just to disagree with all the naysayers here, I found this article to be of great interest. Thanks!

  17. 26

    Like EVERYTHING else “Green”…somethings should be done because they are simply smarter, more cost effective, more efficient, etc. But not under some misconception that a snail in a puddle somewhere I don’t care about or will ever visit is going to live for an hour longer.

  18. 27

    Really I am at a loss when faced with the complete ignorance read within some reviews. Some thinking it’s a complete hoax, an elaborate con devised by (yawn) Al Gore. Whether you believe in global warming or not – and there is a ton of information out there to support what most scientists now consider to be completely true – there is simply a lot to be said for EFFICIENCY. To label is all ‘greenwashing’ in a singular sentence is to deride it without one inkling of intelligence to state otherwise. I’m all for an article such as this that spreads awareness on how each little action can contribute towards a far bigger picture. Thanks to the author and most appreciated.

    • 28

      I understand what you’re saying. But that’s the fallacy of fuel conservation. Even if we were to fill the roads of America with Prius’s, and everyone only bought Energy Star appliances, that energy would still get sold to someone. As a matter of fact, if we stopped using it all together, even MORE fuel would get used, because the price would drop so dramatically that it would become the most cost efficient fuel on the planet.

      Third world nations which DESPERATELY NEED as much fuel as they get would buy more and more, and the trade winds ensure that “pollutants” get shared by the rest of us anyway.

      The paradigm shift is NOT in using LESS fuel, but expanding the capacity to create more, from better, more reliable sources like *gasp!* nuclear.

  19. 29

    Good to put sustainability more in the spotlight! The IT industry is more energy consumptive (responsible for + 2% Co2 discharge) compared to the Aviation Industry.

    1. Do Ol’Skool CTR monitors still exist? Reminds me of Prince’s song “Like it’s 19…” Use LED / LCD and get white!
    2. Work from home & use PT or your bike to reduce your Carb. Footprint dramatically!
    3. Use Green hosting & work paperless
    3. Make fast Websites, less HTTP Requests > Less Server + User CPU
    4. Online communication costs a lot of energy.
    5. Donate a percentage of your profit to Good Causes
    6. Design Accessible Websites
    7. Those millions of smartphones are produced in countries using coal and nuclear power
    8. Many people working in smartphones plants are being exploited in a bad way

    So do what you have to do and think what you need to think!

    I created a concept for myself a few years ago. Sustainable Web Design :)
    Read more on this (Dutch) at Heeftstijl: http://www.heeftstijl.nl/design/duurzaam-webdesign/

  20. 30

    Now every article should only be of max 5 lines.
    SAVE ENERGY – BE GREEN.

    Now only two comments will be allowed per article.
    SAVE ENERGY – BE GREEN.

    SUCH A BIG HOAX!!!!!!!!

    • 31

      It is interesting to read the rather extreme reactions here. Unfortunately, I would say people have been ‘burnt’ by green extremists and retaliate in an extreme fashion. No one was suggesting reduce the amount of content as such. As was noted by the reference to Tim Berners-Lee: if it is portable and if it is useful, by all means include it in the world wide web. The W3C mission is to grow the world wide web. What is however the sad truth, is that we are unnecessarily cluttering the web with ‘litter’ and file sizes that could be whole lot smaller. I too love aesthetics in web design. I love big pictures. I love a good read and adore good quality.

      This reminds me a little of people who throw their chewing gum wrapper, or their already chewed gum, on the ground thinking that their one little bit doesn’t make a difference.

  21. 33

    Smashing Magazine has been duped by environmentalism.

  22. 34

    Really? I thought that with the all IPCC reports that has been discredited that people would have caught on this was a scam. I guess not.

  23. 35

    Andrew, the earth has gone through many warming and cooling periods! The whole “global warming” thing has now been named “climate change” because the aforementioned title wasn’t working. It’s a great way for many people, yes including Al Gore, to make millions. I’m not saying that every person shouldn’t do simple things like recycle and cut driving when possible, but this is ridiculous!

    • 36

      Actually, ‘Climate Change’ is old news… the feds just decided to call it ‘Global Climate Disruption’ because the other names weren’t scary enough.

  24. 37

    Ok, can you guys delete this article?
    Confusing…

  25. 38

    What’s with SM getting a political all of a sudden? This is like the third ‘green’ article in a couple days. Such articles are frustrating to me because a site that I once thought was intelligent and discussed REAL things, I find slipping into the world of ignorance and fauxe truth. It’s great to be economical and what not…but anyone that can’t see the liberals and ‘Greenpeace’ trying to throw us back into the stone-age are ignorant. After all…it’s no longer “Global Warming” or “Climate Change”, it’s now “Global Climate Disruption”. Why don’t people listen to the hundreds or, maybe even thousands, of LEGITIMATE scientists saying it’s a lie instead of the politicians, family shrinks, lawyers, and government funded “science” agencies saying it’s true?

  26. 39

    As a joke we came up with this idea to sell green certified badges for websites. I’m glad that there are people out there willing to victimize others to make huge profits off this joke.

    It reminds of a couple of clients we had that wanted a website to sell ‘green goods.’ Yet everyday they pulled up in their separate SUVs. They just wanted to make money.

  27. 40

    I don’t care about his article one way or the other. I stopped reading half way through because my care factor dropped to 0. What bothers me is that SM would put an obviously politically charged article on their site. What exactly did you think was going to happen in the comments section?

    THIS is how kill the community. Keep political discussions out of the design/developer field.

    That is not to stay you shouldn’t stir the pot with thought provoking topics, but something like this where people are passionate on both sides of the issue is just asking for trolling.

    Note that I have probably wrote too many lines of text, and to keep it green, you should delete all but the first sentence of this comment.

  28. 41

    The effect of man on the environment, no matter how loudly people scream otherwise, is undoubtedly real. You can claim you’re not culpable if that makes you feel better but it doesn’t make the reality any less real. You don’t have to be a scientist to see that pollution is real and whether or not it’ll send us in to an ice age is irrelevant if people can’t walk outside without choking. And please, citing the name change as counter-evidence is a red herring and irresponsible at best.

    That said, making the environmental effect of your website any priority whatsoever is asinine if it at any point jeopardizes the actually important issues of said site.

    • 42

      Smog in an overpopulated country like China has nothing to do with websites, or any digital ‘carbon footprint’. The ‘choking’ pollution that is a REAL threat to life is caused by all the vehicles and factories in the area and a lack of proper air-flow for the smog to dissipate. Denver is a prime example of this. Since Denver is located in a blocked region (because of the mountains), it’s difficult for smog to leave so it creates a looming cloud. Nothing wrong with clean energy…but there is everything wrong with trying to say that my WEBSITE or my TWO DOGS are causing ‘man-made global warming’. It’s hard to believe any of this bunk when volcanoes alone create more carbon dioxide in a year than all the people, vehicles, and factories in the world, COMBINED.

      • 43

        That was kinda my point. I think the science supporting man’s effect on the climate is overwhelmingly conclusive, but these silly efforts on how to curb it by putting a vacuum on your dogs butt or using black instead of white on monitors is the kind of thing which makes the very real problem in to a joke. It’s like people are content to make the small changes and pat themselves on the back meanwhile we’re LIGHTING THE OCEAN ON FIRE to clean up oil spills and twiddling our thumbs while rogue states test nuclear freaking weapons..I’m pretty sure I could aim an army of cows straight at the ozone and it’d have a lot less effect than Kim Jong Il nuking some sea turtles.

        Related to the article, what this means is “green websites” are absurd.

        • 44

          …and that’s where it all goes wrong. man-made pollution is not one big problem, it’s seven billion little ones. Seven billion sources of cumulative waste, each of which contributes to the overall problem directly and visibly as well as indirectly and invisibly (through demand that forces those much more visible problems upstream). And yes, whether you want to believe it or not, every little bit you do to improve your own footprint does help, and every little bit of waste, even if it seems negligible compared to the overall level of waste (or when compared against the vast forces of nature) does hurt.

  29. 46

    Anyone who falls for this tripe is an idiot. There isn’t much need to elaborate on this, but rest assured your non-“green” website is just as “green” as a “green” website… because it’s all bullshit designed to get your money.

    If you still believe in this rubbish, send me $10 and I’ll make the internet green. The whole thing. Promise. ;)

    • 47

      Addendum: Being “green” isn’t bullshit… that’s doable, and important… but a website being green… that’s bullshit.

  30. 48

    Honestly, It would never cross my mind..
    Thats what I call hard-core green..

    Anyway I would be very pleased to see showcase of design of companies with green marketing around..

    Keep up the good job..

  31. 49

    Studies say the black thing doesn’t really save any energy, might even raise consumption. The only way to save energy, is turning things off when your´e not using them. Easy and effective.

  32. 50

    I agree you guys just pissed a whole day away. Stick to what is pertinent to this site and to what you guys are good at. Let the @$$holes in the UN cram this horse crap down our throats.

    Oh, and yes we can do things to limit our impact on the world environment. We all can do that because it is right to do it. But, Kool-Aid drinkers who swallow this crap hook line and sinker are being duped by people whose sole goal is to make money off of it. Follow the money, or should I say your money waving bye, bye!

  33. 51

    Sales pitch much? If you want to use less energy don’t host a site that says use less energy. Don’t preach less pixels then sell another icon to stick in a website. What about internet advertising replacing printed advertising and reducing the number of old growth trees being used for pulp. What about information at peoples finger tips rather than using fossil fuels to go to a library and stare at oil on dead trees. Too many soap dodgers making a living from preaching their environmental hypocrisy.

  34. 52

    How is the website standby mode supposed to work? Aren’t websites dormant until a page or file is requested? It’s not like Apache is just spewing out data like a waterfall on a deserted island. Sites only serve in response to a request.

  35. 53

    looks like a load of crap to me…

  36. 54

    It’s worthy article to save planet, because small steps make giant leap…..
    So please contribute to go green….

    Cheers
    Prabaharan CS

  37. 55

    We at greenscroll.org believe that the environmental footprint of the Internet should be taken into consideration by any responsible business or individual. See more info at greenscroll.org.

    Thanks,

    Sasha.

  38. 56

    Guys! Why are you so pissed off? Just because of this green article?
    What can be so wrong for an article which thought us alternative ways to save some of our personal emissions? If you don’t like it, you can ignore it. Attacking and ridiculing the green movement only shows how much you are not objective and heavily opinionated.

    I think there is nothing wrong with this post!
    Don’t worry SM. This is my first comment after reading SM for more than 1 year. I and many other friends who never comment on this site still loves you SM. So, keep up the good work.. :)

    • 57

      I totally agree with you Aro! It’s funny reading through all the comments and how it gets turned into a great debate of Global Warming / Al Gore / Green Washing etc…

      The article is meant to show us that the actions we do on a daily basis wither it be designing, tweeting, searching, uses energy, and that energy is not free and it does pollute (depending on how it’s generated). I have a feeling lots of people don’t even think of this, and hopefully gets some people thinking differently.

      If you can be more efficient with your code, compression, and use less files to produce the same end result, why not? It’s just simplifying everything and you end up with a tighter product.

      Good post Smashing

  39. 58

    Great article! Putting the green perspective aside, I think energy consumption is something that should be considered as there are more and more portable devices. Would be nice to see a followup article with some energyconsumption-benchmarks on webservers, frameworks & so on.
    Difficult, I know, but not impossible.

  40. 59

    no computer = be green

  41. 60

    nice

  42. 61

    Ok, Seems there is a fair bit of old school CRT monitors. Heck I have two staring at me now, one running the Google home page. What sort of emission would it cut if Google turns its homepage to black instead of white?

  43. 62

    Interesting article, thanks

    But I’m amazed by some of these comments !!!!

    Being green is not political or bulls&%t !

    There are too many people on the planet using up all the resources… If you want to keep all the people alive, you gotta be careful with all the resources… Even those powering websites!!!

  44. 63

    Well I have certainly enjoyed all the comments here so far. While I am actually surprised at how quickly the word ‘green’ fires some people up to a point of swearing, it is also interesting to see how quickly people presume that there is a political agenda. In this case, I would like to state quite clearly that I am apolitical. That is to say, I am non-politically aligned. In writing this article for Smashing Magazine, it was more of a ‘food for thought’ piece that, I still argue, is something that we as designers should just THINK about. Thank you to Vitaly for being ‘brave’ enough to publish the article, as the subject is, I would say, still fragile.

    I don’t wake up every day thinking that I am going to save the world, but I certainly would say that I am someone who tries to be aware of my existence beyond the computer screen that I sit in front of day and night.

    I too strongly agree that some people/businesses do actually just think of the money they can make through ‘green’ business ideas. I would say that we as designers and clients need to be mature enough to make sensible business decisions on our own as to whether something is a ‘hoax’ or not.

  45. 64

    Can anyone tell me what flavor Kool-Aid this is? Nevermind, I’m not drinking it. I think this global “whatever” crap is the new religion of our day and Blogs are becoming the church of the internet.

  46. 65

    Sorry, but I’m afraid this article is just a complete crock. You’re not going to save the world by making web pages black (though it might cut down on headaches), and you’re not going to end pollution by keeping image sizes down and employing gzip (though both are sensible best-practice things that good web designers/developers should be doing anyway).

    It’s become very fashionable to bash the computer industry for its green credentials, but its contribution to release of carbon into the atmosphere is minute. Boiling a full kettle uses up a lot more energy than running a web server at full load for an hour. And running a computer and broadband connection to work at home at home for a day releases a lot less carbon than driving to work and back.

  47. 66

    One of the stupidest posts on smashingmagazine -ever-

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5576670191369613647

    Please watch this, and do also the research for yourself.

    The IPCC forged the data, Hartmut Bachmann who was also one of the people who get this big lie rolling, is now one of the greatest opposer to it.

    I can also only advise everyone to inform themselves on alternate media and news.

    • 67

      Dear Daxiu. While I am not one who generally participates in tit-for-tat arguments – and this article on Smashing Magazine is not a debate about whether global warming is real or not – one thing that we should all do is inform ourselves and then try to remain unbiased and objective. I have watched so many of these films, reviews, debates and cases… and while I still have many questions and am the best of skeptics, my actions err on the side of caution. Please see this series of 9 reports that analyze and debate the global warming swindle video you link to above.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F25gZvmMJJM&feature=related

      • 68

        I have to apologize… maybe I was a little too arrogant in posting in such a bad manner.

        However I am convinced that co² is not the cause of climate change, this film I posted is not my only reference on which I build my opinion.

        I actually know the debate which you pointed out, but the point is that these scientists can’t prove that co² is causing global warming. Unfortunately the most convincing arguments are from Hartmut Bachmann, I can only find his interviews in german, so here is a link, eventually you could find a translated version or someone who understand and can translate it for you.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Up6C_dkYLq0&feature=PlayList&p=D1FA27908BF785EB&index=0&playnext=1

        Sorry for the criticism, but I get a little upset whenever I read about the dangerous co² and the global warming or climate change. I am aware that you put some effort in this post.

        Regards Dax~

  48. 69

    jumped the shark

  49. 70

    Since Al Gore created the interwebs, he’s responsible.

  50. 71

    What about all the ‘bots’ that crawl the web – it seems that a small change there – could make a huge difference daily on the World Wide Web…

  51. 72

    Global Warming Petition Project

    September 21, 2010 8:36 am

    http://www.petitionproject.org/

    “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of Earth’s climate …”

    Over 32,000 Scientists have signed the petition.

    • 73

      32.000 “scientist” may very well be wrong in this aspect, and their word is no better than yours or mine, if their field isn’t directly related to the issue at hand.
      What authority does a “scientist” whos field is, say, philosophy, english or history have on this subject?

      If you can get me 32000 climatologists, meteorologist or similar, that would be another case.

  52. 74

    That wordpress plugin; doesnt that use more CPU = more heat / power ? (just wondering)

  53. 75

    SM – how much did u get from CO2Stats and what percentage the author Alison Fay Binney took.. just curious !!

    • 76

      akumar. obvious question, but I am prepared to lay all my bank accounts on the table and open all my pockets here for you to take a look ! Not a cent. This is the first article that SM has posted from me, so maybe they’ll think twice in the future. If you read the article through to the end, you will see that there are questions raised beyond simply putting a green mark on your website. The idea here was to get designers to just think a little more beyond lazily throwing anything and everything on to the world’s web servers. If they are mature enough, they will also know when to be dubious about whether a business promoting green services is simply money making or not.

  54. 77

    I find it very positive – check this out: http://www.co2neutralwebsite.com/movie

  55. 78

    Wow. I can’t believe this. “Go Green Website” energy efficient color palette? Use less jquery for less CPU power? I like that. Very cool

  56. 79

    `one could equally argue that it is still litter that could just as well be gotten rid of.`

    Maybe you could ask the folk of Harvard how much it would cost in energy to go round looking for all this litter in our sites and then go deleting them all.

    A 10Kb file does not need to be cooled get a grip.

    I was on the understanding that processors generating heat would be ‘processing’. Small ‘unused’ files would not be doing much processing as they’re unused!

    argument: “…hmmm yes, but they will still be using some energy and it all adds up!”…
    (^in a very posh accent)

    reply: “…about as much as energy produced by all the Tape Worms found in every 10 year old’s bum crack.”

    My opinion, a brilliant example of the world gone mad.

  57. 80

    Global warming is serious so lets put our efforts into what is most effective!
    I have a hard time with the idea of a “green website” because websites are inherently the greener alternative!
    Websites ARE the green alternative to mail, brochures, catalogs, driving to the store, commuting, big screen televisions, flyers and more.
    A green office is great! Offices produce massive amounts of waste.
    Don’t print anything that is not necessary. Bike to work or ride public transit. Recycle. Let your computers go to standby mode after 30min.
    Seems all a bit silly to me. I wonder how much data is out there that concerns me but I have no direct control of? I suspect its much much higher that 1.55 Mb.

  58. 81

    lol, too bad the less energy consuming color palette is only suitable for the sites of the different communist parties :)))

  59. 82

    Loved the idea of the Energy Saving mode as screen saver…Great content!

  60. 83

    Don’t really understand the angry comments about the politicization here. If you consider the global warming a hoax, have you ever considered that your clients and their customers demand ecology and climate-smart solutions?
    Switching to “green web design” will not save our planet, but if you continue to neglect enviromental considerations you’ll lose customers.

  61. 84

    The points you discussed about making a web green is truly commendable and appreciable. It will help us because its avoid the use of paper and make environment better for us.

  62. 85

    Never dreamed one day we would be considering our negative impacts before we measured our positive impacts.

    Listen up kids. We designed this Internet thing so you wouldn’t have to use concrete and big trucks to build another strip mall. We designed this thing so you wouldn’t have to drive to a store. We designed the world’s largest machine so you don”t have to scribble all you ideas on paper and use stamps to send them anywhere, one at a time. We designed the internet so you can learn more things more quickly about your environment. When the designs are in place, computing will be zero emissions.

    So when the former Luddite environmentalists tell you computers and tubes are harming the environment. Ask them what they’ve done in the last thirty years to help save the planet.

    Three things environmentalist/ism hasn’t done.
    1. Reduce the price of food or water.
    2. Increase the quality of our air supply.
    3. Promoted the fact the internet is saving the planet.

    Without computers and the internet environmentalists like myself could never convince a gazillion people the Earth is warming or cooling or even changing.

    Mycologist Paul Stamets has an interesting take. He believes, “…the Earth invented the Internet to save itself.”
    http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_stamets_on_6_ways_mushrooms_can_save_the_world.html

    and I do too.

    Designers have a much larger role than whipping out your pages or your scripts and seeing who has the biggest. Designers have completely changed the world and we’ll continue to do so.

    And keep this in your notes… Synthetic biology is also a design problem that will be conceptualized, designed and only then will it be modeled or coded or whatever you have to do with our designs to make our world work more efficient.

    Now get back to reducing you page sizes. I’m tired of waiting for this lame-a** verizon connection in the middle of the forest.

  63. 86

    pocas veces me he reido tanto… vaya tonteria…

  64. 87

    i really belive that it can change difficult situation with our inviroment

  65. 88

    Give me a break. Get a life.

  66. 89

    I see a lot of people instantly jumping on the edge here. What if it was to say “Make your site MORE EFFICIENT” instead of “Green”? Same idea, just we are all about Green today so why not use that marketing edge? I think its a cool idea and something we normally don’t think about.

    Same premise of going out and buying energy efficient bulbs instead of normal bulbs, you still get light but it saves you money and conserves power. Or an energy efficient air conditioner for your server room instead of a large energy consuming clunker. Same premise again.

    Instead of complaining about this, think of it that most developers and designers try to make their sites more “efficient”. So all your hearing now is that you have possibly been doing more than just making your site “efficient”, so just nod your head and move on.

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