Tribe Zero-waste:
creating a low digital carbon website for a zero waste refill shop

Tribe Zero-waste homepage
Tribe Zero-Waste logo

Tribe Zero-waste sells plastic-free, organic and plant-based goods across Oxfordshire.

Katie-Louise Herring, the owner of Tribe Zero-waste, recently opened her refill shop in the centre of Faringdon, Oxfordshire. She needed a new website with an integrated e-commerce shop so that customers could continue to order online for local deliveries or to pick up at collection points across Oxfordshire.  The online shop was previously hosted on another platform.    

Being a sustainable and positive business it made perfect sense for Tribe Zero-waste to want a low carbon website.

The old website generated enough CO2 to boil water for 21,254 cups of tea a year or to power an electric car to travel 2,332km*

*1.76 grams of CO2 per page view based on 10,000 monthly views, results from websitecarbon.com

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Emissions from digital technology are more than the whole of the airline industry put together

What is a digital carbon footprint?

A digital carbon footprint is created from making and using digital technology. It’s estimated  that 4% of global CO2 emissions are now generated from the digital technology industry,  according to the carbon emissions think-tank The Shift Project.

Websites themselves generate small levels of CO2, every time a page is loaded. With over 2 billion websites this soon adds up. 

"Greening The Web" - South Oxfordshire & Vale

Following the “Greening The Web” guide by South & Vale Business Support, part of South Oxfordshire District Council,  we were able to build a website that incorporated sustainable web design best practices, thinking about the levels of CO2 emissions that each page produces.

How can we measure a website’s digital carbon emissions?

At the bottom of every page of Tribe Zero-waste’s website is a calculator built by London design agency Wholegrain Digital. The amount of estimated carbon shown is based on energy, data transfer and where your website is hosted.

Calculator

The steps we took to create a low digital carbon website

  1. We use a green hosting provider

    Data centres that store, process and deliver websites’ information on their servers are usually part of an enormous facility requiring a huge amount of energy. One of the most important ways to minimise digital carbon emissions was to make sure we were using a green hosting provider that would offset carbon emissions or even better use renewable energy.  A list of green hosting providers can be found at The Green Web Foundation.

  2. Tribe Zero-waste owner KatieWe limited the use of photos

    Photo sizes can have one of the biggest impacts on the size of a page and therefore the levels of carbon emissions it produces.  We used photos sparingly where we thought it would add value for the user, showcasing the shop and its products.  We optimised all images so they were as small as possible and saved in a small format.

  3. hand sanitizer icon grains icon
    bread icon cleaning fluids icon

    We used icons instead

    Icons are much smaller file sizes than photos. Wherever possible we chose to use icons instead of photos to enhance usability and highlight content.

  4. We thought about colour

    Colour can have an impact on the amount of energy your screen uses. White uses the most energy and black uses the least. Tribe Zero-waste’s brand colour is a light grey so we were able to use this as a background on many pages.

  5. illustration of background colour and fontWe limited fonts

    Fonts can also add weight to a page. The Tribe Zero-waste website uses just 2 font types – regular and bold – that are optimised, hosted locally and preloaded to speed up the loading of a page.

  6. We focused on the user experience

    By prioritising content, removing unnecessary information and thinking about what problem each piece of content can solve for the customer, we were able to limit the amount of content on each page, and therefore reducing the page size.

  7. We wanted easy navigation and accessibility

    Building a good navigation structure will not only help customers find information faster, reducing the amount of energy needed, but will also help Tribe-Zero Waste rank higher in search engines. We made sure the menu was simple and intuitive, adding search and filter options for finding products. Pages were titled and described intuitively to help pages rank well and all photos and icons had descriptive text for screenreaders.

  8. We started from scratch

    By building Tribe Zero-waste’s website from scratch we were able to choose content and pages that we really wanted, instead of copying over content from the existing website. This is a great opportunity to audit your website’s content, media and data that you may no longer need.

  9. mobile view of websiteWe designed for mobile layouts

    50% of Tribe Zero-waste’s users viewed the current website on a mobile device so it was really important to make sure the layout worked as well on a mobile as it did on a larger screen size.

  10. Other technical bits

    Other steps we took to help reduce CO2 emissions were to minimise code, use the latest software versions, enable caching, use a clean, light layout and limit any additional plugins by using customised code instead.

  11. How we compromised and limitations

    It was important to balance the user experience with reducing CO2 emissions. For example, allowing users to be able to add products straight to the shopping cart adds additional scripts which makes the pages heavier, but makes it easier for the customer to carry out a task.

    We built the website using a framework and builder that would make it easy for Katie to update the website herself if she wanted to and kept the build of the website within budget. A completely bespoke website would be even lighter.

    A super light website would use no images at all but customers rely on seeing what a product looks like and we wanted the website to reflect Tribe Zero-waste’s brand colours, style and look interesting to the user.

The results

The old website homepage produced 1.76g of CO2 per page view,  generating enough CO2 to boil water for 21,254 cups of tea a year or to power an electric car to travel 2,332km *
The new website homepage currently produces 0.15g of CO2 per page view generating enough CO2 to boil water for 2,501 cups of tea a year or to power an electric car to travel 308km*. Every page produces less than 0.3g of CO2 per page.

* based on 10,000 monthly views, results from websitecarbon.com

Tribe Zero-Waste is an evergrowing online shop. The CO2 emissions of the homepage will vary from time to time according to the changes made on the website.

 

A reduction of boiling 18,753 cups of tea per year!

A reduction of 2024 km per year!

How big is YOUR digital carbon footprint?

A low digital carbon website is about applying best practices to reduce the environmental impact of your website, creating a better user experience and faster processing of your webpages. These best practices go hand in hand with good usability and will help your website’s SEO.

Do you need help reducing your digital carbon footprint?

More about sustainable web design

Sustainable web design is about applying best practices to reduce the environmental impact of your website and will naturally create a better user experience for your customers. A lighter weight, higher performance website requires less energy and will perform better on search engines.