Last week in Part 1 of this piece I talked about how Progressive Lawyer is using Open Source software to power its infrastructure and how I believe that is the way to go versus proprietary software. This week in Part 2 I highlight how I am working to make the Progressive Lawyer website as sustainable as possible and why that is important. Again, I am not a professional web developer or designer but with the resources I have listed and some experimentation, anybody with a website can make their online home that much greener and for that we all win!
The issue of sustainable web design and the corresponding issue of the energy usage of the Internet are intricately linked and drawing increasing attention. As we have been moving our lives online, a lot of people are starting to study the carbon footprint of all this activity in order to determine how to mitigate its environmental effects. The growing use of Facebook, Twitter, Google Search, iTunes, the cloud, Amazon, Pinterest, etc. is having an increasingly detrimental effect on our environment but the good news is that it isn’t all bad. Despite the growing demand requiring greater server usage and therefore increasing energy consumption, companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook are using cutting edge technology and renewable energy sources to power their voracious server farms. Greenpeace has done some excellent work documenting the Green Internet and their latest report “Your Online World: #ClickClean or Dirty?” highlights both the trendsetters and the environmental laggards when it comes to operating a green data center.
But what can a website do? What effect can a website have on the environment? Quite a lot it turns out and this is where sustainable web design comes in. At its core, sustainable web design is about minimizing the carbon footprint of a website by reducing its energy consumption. It does this by making the site responsive, ultra-efficient, fast and lightweight so that it is not drawing unnecessary energy usage by for example constantly loading different versions of the same graphic or transmitting and requesting data from a server unnecessarily.
James Christie, in his excellent primer on sustainable web design at A List Apart has done a great job of breaking down the energy usage of a typical website and what can be done to reduce it through sustainable web design. It is a great starting point for anybody interested in taking this important step. And web development firm Mighty Bytes has a fantastic and ongoing series on sustainable web design that anybody can follow and implement. Both of these resources are highly recommended and the results will not only render your website more environmentally sustainable but your site will load faster and be a better experience for your users which is after all one of the main criteria for a successful website.
On Progressive Lawyer I have just started the process of incorporating sustainable web design in all that I do online. One of the most important decisions I made was partnering with AISO.net to power the site. AISO is a web hosting company entirely powered by solar energy and their work at operating a truly green facility while maintaining the highest degree of reliability is incredibly impressive. Having Progressive Lawyer powered by a 100% solar powered webhost is probably the single biggest step I could take in mitigating the site’s carbon footprint and I researched the matter extensively. The fact that AISO is not only green but technologically sophisticated, cost competitive, responsive and reliable only made the decision that much easier.
The process of greening Progressive Lawyer will be an ongoing one and I have just started the journey. Techniques evolve, new solutions become available and online trends change so the work will always be ongoing. The current EcoGrader score for the site is 77% so there is plenty of room for improvement but I will continue to work to not only connect the legal community with an amazing array of progressive legal organizations and law firms but do it in the greenest manner possible. As the saying goes, every little bit helps!