WordPress sustainability is becoming increasingly important for marketers, due to the positive impact it can have on website conversion rates and growth.

If your WordPress website isn’t optimised to be energy-efficient, your visitors are likely having a frustrating user experience (UX). Why? Because there’s a direct link between the speed and performance of your website and its carbon footprint.

This article will tell you everything you need to know to master website sustainability, how to reduce your WordPress website’s carbon footprint, and how to optimise for better performance and higher conversions.

Taking more care with sustainability can make your WordPress website more cost-efficient and more performant, and when you have a faster website you are likely to have higher conversion rates and sales.

If the answer is no, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many marketers and website owners we speak to don’t know this.

In fact, all the technology you use every day has a carbon footprint, this includes the device you’re reading this article on right now, the data centres and servers that house your website, and even the network that connects everything together.

  • From the natural resources and energy required to manufacture them
  • From the electricity required to charge and operate them.
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There are around 193-million active websites online right now

What does that mean, exactly? Well, in the case of your website, its use of data and electricity is directly linked to its performance and cost-effectiveness due to the data being transferred to deliver a page to your browser.

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The average website produces around 60kg of carbon each year … which is equivalent to an average car driving 270 miles.

But how does that work?

Firstly, the data centre your website is hosted in consumes a huge amount of energy, including its servers and systems, electricity, and even the cooling mechanisms that prevent the servers from overheating.

Every time someone visits a page on your website, the server in your data centre uses electricity to deliver the data for the page to their browser.

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The fast-growing data centre market is set to contribute around 6% of the UK’s total electricity consumption by 2030

To present the page to that visitor, data is transmitted across a transmission network from the server to the web browser on their device, which requires electricity. Devices also consume energy themselves, which adds even more to that total carbon footprint.

If the Internet was a country, it would be the fourth biggest polluter on the planet

ITC’s total emissions from a 2021 study by Freitag et al. compared with fossil CO2 emissions by country, using data from 2020 from the European Union’s Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research (EDGAR)

Currently, digital emissions are approximately 3.7% of all emissions and this makes the Internet an even bigger polluter than the aviation industry.

The Internet’s electricity consumption will continue to increase in the coming years, so the percentage carbon footprint of digital services is predicted to increase significantly.

As regulations become mandatory for larger businesses and their supply chains, measuring and reducing their digital carbon footprint is becoming a priority for medium and small businesses as well.

One of the main reasons a website consumes large amounts of energy is because it is not optimised for efficiency and needs to transmit a large amount of data every time a page loads. Website performance is based on several variables:

  • How fast your pages load, known as ‘page speed’
  • How fast your site responds to users’ actions, such as scrolling and clicks
  • How well your website functions over different networks (3G, 4G, 5G).

Of course, the better your website performs, the better your visitors’ experience will be, and the higher your visitor retention and conversion rates will be. That’s why many marketers are paying more attention to their WordPress sustainability, especially as visitors’ tolerance for slow, frustrating website experiences is at an all-time low.

So focusing on WordPress sustainability can impact your marketing performance and business growth.

A range of factors influence your WordPress website’s data, carbon footprint and performance, including:

  • Your choice of web hosting
  • Your WordPress theme and how it’s coded
  • Your choice of fonts, background colours, and other design elements
  • Your choice of WordPress plugins
  • Your website structure, accessibility and ease of use
  • The volume and size of photos, videos, and documents on pages and in your WordPress media library.

All of those, except web hosting, make up the ‘page weight’ of each page on your site, and influence page speed.

Page weight refers to the number of bytes of data that must be transferred from your server to a user’s device for the page to load in their browser.

Web pages with a high page weight are inefficient and require more electricity to deliver the data, and can be optimised to achieve better performance.

Since a more energy-efficient website performs better, and provides a greater user experience for visitors, then optimisation should be a key priority for marketers.  

If your visitors have a slow, frustrating experience, they are more likely to bounce off and jump over to a competitor.

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The average time for pages to load is around two seconds on a desktop and eight seconds on a mobile device

Clearly, speed has a significant influence on your visitor retention, conversion rates, and the amount of revenue your website can generate for your business. So, a low-data, low carbon footprint, sustainable WordPress website is crucial for success.

As well as a challenge, this is a positive opportunity, because optimising your site can give you an edge over your competitors. To summarise, optimising your site will:

  • Accelerate your page speed 
  • Improve performance
  • Create a better user experience
  • Reduce bounce rates
  • Increase visitor retention
  • Raise your conversion rates.

These website improvements will boost your marketing performance.  

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82% of consumers say slow page speeds impact their purchasing decisions

Supporting brand

Brand perception and word-of-mouth marketing will increase as your user experience improves.

Embracing sustainability will improve your brand image in the eyes of many customers since its importance continues to grow.

Even better, if you can demonstrate your efforts to reduce your site’s carbon footprint with tangible data, even better, then you cannot be accused of greenwashing.

Boosting SEO

The sustainability of your website has a positive impact on your search engine optimisation (SEO). Google’s Core Web Vitals considers page weight, page speed, and similar metrics for ranking.

Embracing website sustainability should also be a priority for business leaders, as taking tangible action for corporate responsibility becomes more urgent, with new legislation coming soon.

Within the wider obligation of corporate sustainability reporting (CSR) , measuring and reducing your organisation’s carbon footprint is now a prominent issue for the C-suite.

But, just like marketing, the wider business has its own benefits to gain from demonstrating efforts to become more eco-friendly, such as:

  • Earning eligibility for certifications, such as ISO14001
  • Gaining B-Corp status
  • Securing access to funding and investment, as sustainability is playing an increasingly important role in business
  • Opportunities in procurement.

The first step towards a more sustainable WordPress website is measuring its carbon footprint. After all, you can’t manage, improve, or reduce something if you can’t measure it.

When approaching this for the first time, you’ll want to capture a baseline to understand your business-as-usual measurements. Then, use that baseline to track your carbon footprint and reduction efforts moving forward.

  1. The key to capturing effective sustainability measurements for your site is focusing on the right areas. Your initial focus should be measuring pages with the highest number of visitors. These will have the greatest data transfer, so they’re likely to have the largest overall carbon footprint when visitors are taken into account.
  2. Next, optimise the pages with the largest page weight (data). These pages consume the most energy when visited. Even if they don’t get much traffic, they still increase your site’s overall carbon footprint.
  3. Another important factor is your visitors’ location. The further your host has to transmit data from the server to a visitor’s device, the more power is required to deliver the web page to their browser. If you have an international audience, the carbon footprint of their electricity may also be greater than in the UK, and you should use a content delivery network (CDN) to ease the load on your local servers.

Be sure to measure and optimise all this continually. It’s essential to understand that this isn’t a one-and-done exercise; it’s an ongoing effort.

Your website changes every day – new web pages, features, and content. As your marketing drives more traffic and visitors, your website’s carbon footprint will grow.

Kanoppi provides intelligent, automated carbon footprint insights for WordPress websites.

Reduce your carbon footprint, improve performance, and increase your conversion rates, all while helping the environment.

Adopting more sustainable website practices isn’t difficult. In fact, there are some quick and easy steps you can take right now to optimise your WordPress website and deliver a big improvement to its performance:

  1. Use web caching to reduce bandwidth and minimise network traffic
  2. Simplify your user journey and site navigation – if it’s easy to find information, your users will visit fewer pages
  3. Optimise and compress your theme code
  4. Avoid using page builders and plugins – WordPress has the block editor built-in
  5. Delete media files and pages you no longer need
  6. Reduce the number of fonts you use, and host your fonts on your hosting server
  7. Review your integrations and plugins, and remove anything non-essential.

The goal with sustainable website optimisation is to reduce your page weight, because that will reduce your carbon footprint and improve your site’s performance.

Here’s how to achieve this using WordPress sustainability best practices:

Sustainable WordPress hosting (green hosting)

As mentioned earlier, your hosting environment is a major factor here. ‘Green hosting’ refers to environmentally friendly hosting providers. These providers use servers, systems, and practices specifically designed to minimise the carbon footprint of their facilities and the websites they host.

Choosing a green hosting provider is a big step towards a more sustainable, performant website. Plus, green hosts are usually more cost-efficient due to their lower energy use.

When evaluating hosting providers, look into power usage effectiveness (PUE). PUE is a metric used globally to determine how energy-efficient a data centre or hosting environment is.

You can check your current hosting provider using the Green Web Foundation’s tool.

Sustainable website design and development

Web design and development also significantly affect your site’s carbon footprint. Your website’s visual elements—fonts, images and videos, interactive functions, and so on – use the most data, so reducing and optimising these can make a significant difference.

The code used to develop your site can also be a big contributor to page weight if it’s not optimised. You’ll likely have a web development agency supporting you with this. If so, it’s important to look into their development practices and ensure they’re sustainable.

The Sustainable Web Design Community Group released a set of Web Sustainability Guidelines (WSG) in September 2023. These are best practices to help design, develop, and manage websites in a way that puts people and the planet first.

Image optimisation

Your images can bloat your page weight if not optimised. Before you upload an image to your site, always reduce the file size by compressing it first, or use a WordPress plugin to do this as the image is uploaded. This only takes a few seconds, but it makes a big difference.

If you can, it’s also beneficial to optimise the image files already on your site. Doing so will drive a reduction in data for each page and increase performance across the board.

Other best practices for images include:

  • Opting for your images to scale to fit each user’s device using srcset
  • Only loading images on pages where they add value
  • Lazy loading all images below the initial viewport.

Video optimisation

If you want your site to perform well for all visitors, only use videos when absolutely necessary. Videos use a lot more data than images and can take a long time to load, especially if you neglect best practices.

Some top tips include:

  • Don’t set videos to auto-play (many browsers no longer allow this)
  • Only use short videos on the page and link out to the full-length versions
  • Use a poster or facade images for videos when pages first load
  • Convert animated GIFs to static images or video.

It’s vital that everyone is proactively reducing their carbon footprint to help reduce their carbon footprint. And beyond that social responsibility, there are plenty of commercial and strategic benefits from embracing WordPress sustainability with your website.

But it’s also important to note that not all technology is bad for the environment. There are some innovative climate tech solutions specifically designed to help businesses become more sustainable.

One example of that is Kanoppi, which allows you to effortlessly measure your WordPress website’s carbon footprint, reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, and optimise its performance.

Kanoppi gives you clear, actionable data that will enable you to make a real positive difference for your website, your business, your users, and the planet.  

Kanoppi provides intelligent, automated carbon footprint insights for your WordPress website.

Reduce your site’s carbon footprint, improve user experience, and increase your conversion rate, while becoming more energy-efficient.

And if you need any high-level advice about reducing technology’s impact on the environment, please get in touch. We’re always happy to have a friendly, no-obligation chat.

  • Louise Towler

    Louise Towler

    Founder of Kanoppi and WordPress agency Indigo Tree, with deep expertise in WordPress websites, technical SEO and commercial performance for clients across the UK.