When developers build websites, they keep user experience—site speed, efficiency, mobile optimization—in mind. Those same factors that make websites easier to use also ensure that they’re less energy intensive. Creative firm Mightybytes recently launched a website, EcoGrader, that lets users see exactly how "green" their favorite websites are, based on factors like page load times, avoidance of Flash, mobile usability, and most importantly, the environmental practices of web hosts.
After running all of the Fortune 500 companies through the EcoGrader, Mightybytes discovered that the top sites come from Seaboard Corporation (a food services company), Terex, 3M, LiveNation, and Eaton. The worst? Aramark, Domtar (a sustainable paper company, sadly enough), Mattel, MorganStanley, and United Technologies.
Mightybytes heavily weights green web hosting in the ranks, which it defines as hosting that uses 100% renewable energy. "We don’t necessarily qualify resellers who go out and get other hosting instances, resell those to you, and buy renewable energy credits to offset their footprint," says Julian Rockwood, a Mightybytes project manager.
One of the key influences for the EcoGrader is an article from Net Magazine called "Save the Planet Through Sustainable Web Design." Central to the article—and to the EcoGrader—is the idea that pixels are real. You can’t hold them in your hand like a magazine, but they still suck up a lot of energy when examined on a large scale.
EcoGrader doesn’t offer too many tips on how to build a more sustainable website, but it seems like the rule of thumb is pretty simple: build sites that are well-designed and perform at a high caliber—then spend a little time researching green hosting services.