Going green: Using Umbraco to reduce your carbon footprint

There’s a hidden cost to the massive explosion in internet-connected devices and the scale of adoption of the internet – the carbon footprint.

Whipping out your phone to quickly Google something is incredibly fast for users, but behind that sits a collection of systems and services of planetary scale, all of which are using electricity. If the internet was a country, it would be the sixth biggest consumer of electricity on the planet. This is only going to grow.

Those of us working in the digital industry have the power (and the responsibility) to do something to lessen the impact of the work we do, particularly as most of the carbon we generate is not visible to our end users. At Great State, we’ve embarked on a number of sustainability initiatives, and one of those is focused on our work with Umbraco.

The size of the problem

Some quick facts to quantify the size of the digital carbon footprint problem:

  • Since 2010, the number of people using the internet has doubled
  • More than half the world’s population used the internet in 2020
  • An average search query results in 1.45g of CO2 being emitted
  • Scale that out by the number of queries across the globe and that is a huge number
  • Google, in 2018, used the equivalent energy of boiling 250 billion cups of tea

In summary, all the lovely things we like to do on the internet on our phones and other smart devices are having a tangible, sizeable and accelerating impact on the environment.

The impact of Umbraco

Umbraco is a key technology for us at Great State, and they take their sustainability responsibilities as seriously as we do – which is exactly what we look for in a partner. They have published an Impact Report for 2022 which has a section dedicated to their environmental impact and what they are doing to reduce it.

More than 50% of their carbon footprint comes from their Umbraco Cloud and Heartcore products. This will continue to be Umbraco’s biggest challenge in terms of reducing their carbon emissions, but they are not alone in this game - they have the support of a tech giant, namely Microsoft.

All Umbraco Cloud plans are hosted on Microsoft Azure, which gives all Umbraco Cloud websites a proven and solid foundation, but these websites also directly benefit from Microsoft’s decade of innovation and decisive actions to create sustainable solutions.

Helping Umbraco to become even greener

By migrating their tech stack to .NET Core (now .NET), Umbraco benefitted from a significant increase in speed and efficiency, in addition to being able to run on multiple platforms (Windows, Linux, MacOS). This means websites built on Umbraco 9 can be 50% more efficient than websites built on previous versions using legacy technology. This is one reason why Great State work with our clients to get them onto newer versions of the CMS – in addition to being able to benefit from new features. Umbraco 8, the last version to run on the legacy tech, goes into extended support in Feb 2024 – so it’s a great time to upgrade to a newer version and reap the benefits.

Another Umbraco sustainability initiative is the formation of a dedicated Umbraco Sustainability Community Team, a group of people comprised of Umbraco employees and industry experts, whose focus is to improve the sustainability of Umbraco and advise digital agencies and customers on best practices to make their digital solutions more environmentally friendly. Great State team members are part of this community group, along with several other unrelated Umbraco community groups, meaning we get a chance to influence Umbraco and learn from peers who are facing similar challenges.

Adopting the right techniques

At Great State, we have formed an internal sustainability working group which has been pulling together guidance and best practices for the agency on how to build in sustainability from the very beginning of projects.

This includes guidance on everything from hosting infrastructure, software architecture, creative / design approaches, and user experience design. For example, considering offer a ‘low carbon’ mode for websites which users can choose to activate which removes videos and reduces images to lower the overall footprint of pages.

By adopting these techniques, we’ve been able to reduce the carbon footprint of a new website for a client by 40% compared to the previous version. This massively benefits their search engine optimisation, overall user experience and conversion, and it’s better for the planet – a reduction of more than 2.3 tonnes of carbon a year.

Talk to us

If you want to understand more about the work we’ve done in the sustainability space, or want to get a handle on the environmental impact of your current digital estate, please get in touch with us.

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