Blog > Digital Decluttering: Easy Steps To Make Your Business Greener Online
When it comes to environmental issues we're swamped with news about plastic pollution, aviation emissions and cutting back on meat and dairy. The latest Netflix series you're watching, or the email you just cc'd to colleagues is likely not on your radar as something contributing to the climate crisis.
That’s probably because we rarely see what happens behind the scenes to make the internet work and we've coined terms like “surfing the web”, “the cloud” and “cyberspace” to manifest it.
The ephemeral-sounding “cloud” is actually an estimated 100 million servers powering the internet. They exist in power-hungry buildings requiring constant air-conditioned temperatures and enormous amounts of energy to run 24/7. Much of this power currently comes from fossil fuels.
One of the largest data centres in the world is in Reno, Nevada, USA. It is a 1.3 million square feet warehouse complex filled with powerful machinery. It's also not particularly unusual in its size with other data centres around 1 million square feet too.
You'll probably be surprised if I tell you that the annual carbon emissions of our internet activity and infrastructure surpassed that of the aviation industry back in 2018 and it's growing every day. It's equivalent to driving all 31 million cars in the UK all the way around the planet each year.
As carbon emissions continue to surpass previous years and hit new records, it's clear that things are not happening in the right direction fast enough and more changes to our individual actions and those of our organisations are needed to help.
I write this from a position where purpose, planet and people are integral to our decision-making processes and the actions that we take at Create. You might think it's a bit strange that I, a person who has built a company that provides websites and hosting to small business owners, am drawing attention to the issue, but we all need to be more aware of how we can apply pressure on each of our industries to become greener.
Whilst there are plenty of reasons why we need changes at government level to push faster improvements, there are also lots of actions we can take to have a more positive impact. After all, if enough of us make small changes, we can move the needle.
My aim, in this article, is to give you some simple practical steps that you can take to reduce your digital emissions within your business. As we all wake up to our environmental impact as individuals and businesses, there are actually lots of opportunities on the horizon to be ahead of coming legislation, supplier reporting and the eventual carbon taxes. It is good business, but it is also good for business too.
Review The Digital Services You Use
We all use a lot of online tools these days for the work we do and these services will all be creating emissions. Whether it's your accounting software, email marketing suite or social sharing tools, investigating what they are doing to limit their environmental impact is a good place to start.
The key area here is understanding what their plans to reach net zero and reduce their emissions are, as this plays into reducing those of your business.
At Create we have a spreadsheet of all the services we pay for (including digital ones) and keep track of their progress.
There have been some opportunities to switch to greener providers and moving forwards we include these criteria in our purchasing decisions.
There is also a big opportunity for us all to start asking our providers what they are doing about this in their organisations so that it gets on more business agendas.
Greening Your Website
While we're on the subject of providers, a relatively easy action is to switch your website to a sustainable hosting service; such as Create for example.
If you're not sure if your host is sustainable you can quickly check it by using our Website Eco-Checker and if your host isn't making commitments in this area consider moving providers.
Want Your Own Website?
Once you’ve found out if your host is sustainable (or have made the switch to one that is) there are several ways you can further optimise your site to be kinder to the environment:
Edit your images before uploading. Make sure they are the correct size and have been optimised to save storing unnecessary image data.
Consider your plugins. Many are power intensive. Are there any that aren’t necessary for your website visitor’s journey? Are the providers aligned with your environmental goals?
Be considerate with your visuals. Images and videos can be a useful complement to your content but try to find a balance of what’s necessary to convey your message.
Prevent auto-playing multimedia. Not all of your visitors will be interested in watching your media. Letting them press play only requests the energy when it’s needed.
Tidy up your code. On a website builder like Create, we make sure all the code behind the scenes is optimised, but on platforms like WordPress, you’ll need to manage this.
Optimising is important because a big portion of the emissions your website emits will be generated by your visitors using it. These emissions will be created through the data transfer across the internet to get to your visitor, and also if the visitor themselves is not using renewable energy.
That means any optimisations you can make will reduce the power the site is using and the data transferred to visitors. This means less emissions overall.
Plus optimising is likely to give your website’s SEO a boost as loading speed is one of Google's ranking factors; which can be a big win for a business.
Discover more tips and detailed steps on optimising your website for sustainability >>
Take Control Of Your Email Inbox
Email is another area where it's easy for us all to take action to make a collective difference because of its huge environmental impact. If everyone in the UK sent one less email each day we would save over 16,000 tonnes of carbon a year, equivalent to thousands of flights.
Here are five other simple ways you can cut down the emissions from your emails:
Delete old unneeded emails. Make it a habit each day to clear Sent Items that just say “thanks” or that you won't need again. Don't forget to empty the Deleted Items bin regularly too.
Set your email client to never download images, this gives you control to hit the download button only if you're interested and saves energy. It protects you from tracking pixels too.
Unsubscribe from email notices and newsletters that aren't relevant any more.
Try to limit sending large attachments and consider how many colleagues really need to be cc'd.
If you have an email signature consider if you need all the logos or images and check if they can be optimised to a smaller file size.
Whilst these tips might not get you to that elusive inbox zero they will help keep it tidier and have a positive environmental impact too.
Clear Out Unneeded Files
Emails aren’t the only things we store in the cloud that leave a carbon footprint. There are photos, films, files, applications - many of which we will never need again.
This process will be a slow burn, but one way to make the job more impactful in the short term is to sort your files by size. That way, you can start deleting the largest files first.
It will be a tedious task but it’s also a really easy task that can be turned into a daily practice. The benefits of doing so go beyond just helping the environment. You'll end up with a more productive environment to work in and may save some money on your storage package.
Don’t forget to empty your waste bin on your device as you go.
Actively Manage Your Social Media
Social media is one more place we can free up some space that we don’t need that demands energy.
When was the last time you deleted any of your posts across platforms?
We all have posts that lose their relevancy over time, or that just don’t make the impact we hoped they would. There’s really no need to keep these posts anymore and we can do the environment a favour by deleting them.
When you’re sorting through, you may find posts that are still relevant and performed really well for you, but they’re old. This could be the perfect opportunity to reinvigorate them and repost them.
Many of your followers are likely not to have seen these older posts or will have forgotten about them, so there’s no harm reposting a lot of this content and it saves you time too.
Again, by managing your social profile in this way, you’ll find your business benefits alongside the environment. This process will remove the clutter from your profiles and present only your best posts to your audience.
Here are five ways you can get started with your Digital Declutter:
Review The Digital Services You Use - We all use third-party tools to help us perform day-to-day tasks. Sort out which align with your environmental goals and find alternatives for those who don’t.
Greening Your Website - Is your website hosted in a way that’s sustainable? Use our eco-checker to find out. Once your hosting is green, there are a number of ways you can optimise your site content for sustainability.
Take Control Of Your Email Inbox - If everyone in the UK sent one less email each day we would save over 16,000 tonnes of carbon a year, equivalent to thousands of flights. Check out our 5 ways to optimise your inbox.
Clear Out Unneeded Files - Review what you’re storing in your cloud storage. Each of your files requires storage space on power-hungry servers. You can make more impact in the short term by deleting the largest unneeded files first.
Actively Manage Your Social Media - We all have posts that lose relevancy over time or never landed the way we hoped. By deleting these posts, they no longer need storing on the platform’s servers and keeps your feed fresh with your best content.
While a lot of these tasks may seem somewhat tedious, you’ll find they’re really easy to get into the swing of and to build a solid practice around moving forwards; so you only really have to do a big declutter once.
You may have noticed a theme running parallel to sustainability throughout, and that’s how doing great work for the environment can also be beneficial to your business:
Partners aligned with your goals, a better-optimised website, clearer workspaces and better-presented social media presences.
Taking action to be kinder to the environment benefits everyone. Imagine if we all took the actions outlined above. How much cleaner would our air be? How much stronger would our businesses be?
Small actions add up to big change. Never underestimate the power of taking action within your control to make a difference in the world.
If you’re looking for a partner in sustainability, we’d love to be first in line to support your business. Create is a website-building platform built with simplicity and sustainability in mind - designed to help small businesses get online and grow their businesses with a beautiful online presence. Find out how you can migrate your website to Create >>
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