It’s a climate crisis. Everyone can do something to reduce CO2 and other harmful gases and activities, not least Web professionals. Inspired by an excellent UK Council Website Emissions website, I decided to do something similar for Ireland.
In the UK, the average council website is emitting 1.29g of CO2 per visit to its homepage, according to the Website Carbon Calculator. In Ireland, the figures are a fair bit worse, with the average being 57% higher at 2.03g. (Preliminary data I’ve seen for the Netherlands shows an average of 1.14g.)
The top three most sustainable council websites in Ireland are:
- Wexford: 0.41g
- Kilkenny: 0.45g
- Roscommon: 0.52g
The worst polluting websites are:
- Sligo: 5.89g
- Mayo: 5.42g
- Kerry: 5.08g
Visiting the Sligo council homepage will create 14 times more pollution than visiting the Wexford homepage.
I decided to have a look at the Irish government departments. The average is 1.76g. The top three performers were:
Department of Enterprise: 0.42g
Department of Education: 0.49g
There were two really bad performers that were way worse than everyone else. The Department of Finance was emitting 5.81g, while the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications was emitting a whopping 6.96g per visit to its homepage. “Uh oh! This web page is dirtier than 96% of web pages tested,” the Website Carbon Calculator stated glumly.
It’s a strange world. It seems that practically every website I visit that wants to tell us how much the organization cares about the climate emits CO2 like the Web equivalent of a 20-year-old badly maintained diesel truck. Invariably, these websites have an image of the earth. Our department’s website has two images of the earth! The sad thing is that there is a lot of really positive stuff happening in Ireland in relation to climate action.
The websites of the Irish political parties had an average of 1.6g, with the worst performing being Fianna Fail with 3.67g and the best performing being Sinn Fein, with a very impressive 0.2g.
Most of the things that cause a website to be a bad polluter are quite fixable. Poorly optimized images, auto-playing videos, badly written code that often contains lots of junk and waste instructions.
I keep remembering one thing that Greta Thunberg said: “It’s a climate crisis. Act like it’s a crisis.” We all can do something. Everyone who writes content, everyone who writes code, everyone who creates designs, we all can embrace more ecologically sustainable practices.
According to webpagetest.org, the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications page is 17 MB. This is not a complicated page. It should weigh no more than 250 KB. In other words, it should be 68 times lighter. We have 16.75 MB of waste. If this was a restaurant or a farm it would be shut down and fined. But in the land of digital there is little or no accountability. You can create as much waste as you want to and nobody in management understands or cares.
We would never accept the levels of waste that proliferate in the digital world in a physical setting. The digital industry is going around boasting about how it’s going to save the climate, while secretly digital, in so many areas, is an accelerant of the climate crisis.
Digital is physical. The Cloud is on the ground.