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Sustainable digital services – climate benefit and business benefit in one

January 05, 2023

Did you know that the internet consumes more energy than the entire UK? Therefore, we must always keep sustainability in mind when designing digital services. However, making digital services greener is not only good for the planet. It can do wonders for your business too.

We are moving rapidly toward the critical 1.5-degree limit. Digitization is a strong force to slow down climate change and make a difference. At the same time, digital services contribute significantly to emissions – at least if they are not designed with sustainability in mind. 


The carbon footprint of the internet

An average web page emits 4.61 g of CO₂ per page view. The internet consumes 416.2 TWh of electricity each year – more than the entire UK. That’s what it takes to operate server rooms, run networks, and charge connected devices. Adding the resources required to build data centers and produce hardware (mobile phones, computers, routers, etc.), the effect on the climate becomes far more extensive. In total, the climate footprint of our devices, internet, and surrounding systems accounts for 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions  – just as much as the aviation industry. And it is expected to increase eightfold by 2030.

How to create sustainable digital services 

There are a lot of decisions to be made when designing sustainable digital services. They include everything from strategy and SEO to design, content, and technology. The list is extensive, but the most important thing is to get started. Here are some things to get you going:


Design for mobile first 

A mobile-friendly experience must be lightweight and load quickly. Therefore, designing with a mobile-first approach means less energy is required. Hence, sustainability comes as a bonus.


Be searchable 

By optimizing for search engines, you help your users quickly find what they are looking for. They spend less time searching the web for the right content – and fewer pages need to be loaded. 


Create clear user journeys 

The more your users need to browse your service to achieve their goals, the more content is loaded needlessly. Therefore, make sure you help users move forward and accomplish their tasks. (Data is a gold-mine to identify any barriers along the way).


Invest in quality content 

All digital content adds weight. Create content with a clear purpose, make it useful and to the point with a clear call-to-action. 


Choose colors and fonts carefully 

Non-standard fonts can add unnecessary weight. So can the use of many different fonts. Different colors use different amounts of energy, white being the worst energy thief. 


Use images effectively 

Images account for a large part of the weight of digital services. Only use images with a clear purpose, and make sure they are not larger than necessary. Also, ensure they load on scroll (not directly on page load).  


Use video sparingly

Although video often represents a smaller part of the experience than images, it often represents the largest share of energy use. Use video and animations only where they are really needed and avoid auto-play. 


Choose a green host 

Data centers and the energy used to house and serve data account for an estimated 15% of the emissions. Make sure you choose a hosting partner with a clear sustainability strategy. Also, the servers should be powered by renewable electricity. 


Green digital – a win-win-win

At its core, digital sustainability is about making your services efficient and useful. Your users should be able to find what they are looking for easily and reach their goals, without extensive loading and complicated user journeys. Not only will this enhance the experience, but also lower the data consumption and the risk of battery drain for your users. Reasonable things to expect from any service, regardless of sustainability.

If you manage to create a useful and efficient service, chances are you will also get better conversion. Plus, it will be a step along the way in your sustainability strategy. Sustainability really is a win-win-win. 


Want to know more about sustainable digital services? 

Are you just about to start your journey to making your digital services more sustainable? Or are you building new ones with a green approach from the start? Either way, we are happy to help. Get in touch and we’ll tell you how. 

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