How Smarter Web Design Can Reduce Youtube's Huge Carbon Footprint

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Sustainable Interaction Design could help shave down the carbon emissions of websites and online services but also reduces page load speed and improve user experiences, but why aren't they using it?


YouTube's annual carbon footprint is approximately measured at 10Mt CO2e (Million Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent), according to researchers. This level of Co2e is similar to the output of Glasglow. However, with some easy design changes, we can slash their Co2e footprint by applying 'Sustainable Interaction Design'. Based on Youtube's 2016 electric consumption, researchers calculated the carbon footprint based, taking into consideration the entire journey of viewing an online video from servers to content-delivery channels to home routers. Typically companies will include data centres but ignore the rest of the journey when reporting carbon emissions. For streaming services such as YouTube, most of the energy is used, especially with mobile networks.


Why We Should Optimise Our Web Design To Reduce Co2e: 

Large websites shouldn't be the only ones that should consider the impact of their website on the environment. Making changes will lower Co2e but also create better page load times and user experience which is good for websites of any size. Some way to make a change is by optimising images which follow accessibility guidelines/web standards, streamlining user experiences and letting visitors complete tasks with as few pages as possible. Therefore, less loading time, less pages loaded and reduced energy consumption per user on average. 


Google Page Speed Insights


Delivery Network, Third-Party Software and Google Page Speed Insights

In terms of the back end, looking for content delivery networks offering fast downloads, reducing third-party software which slows down a site and also make use of tools such as Google's Page Speed Insights. Poor performing delivery networks and third party software can have a massive hindering effect on page speeds. By picking good web design practices, you can perform better and create less pollution. Google's Page Speed Insights can investigate how each page performs and also track progress. 


Digital Waste Emlimation

Another web design change for streaming services is to incorpreate is eliminating "digital waste" such as video images from listening to audio videos. By apply this change could slash up to 500kt of Co2e each year from Youtube, which is roughly about 30,000 homes. This action individually only makes a minor change; however, due to the vast amount of Youtube users, it quickly grows. 



While most of the Co2 will is produced throughout the journey after the server, making simple web design changes will, in turn, reduce the energy needed at every step by creating lighter, more efficient and better UX website. Each action made may be small, but when multiplied by the billions of actions on the web each day the difference will be outstanding.


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