Are My Third Parties Green?
Recently I’ve been thinking quite a bit about third-party scripts and how much bloat they so often add to the average webpage — and, consequently, their impact on climate change via the additional carbon emissions generated, often for something the end user doesn’t really want or need. Third-party scripts can include ads, trackers, analytics, social media embeds, and probably some other stuff too. An analysis by Marmelab found that up to 70% of the carbon footprint of media websites could be attributed to ads and stats (source).
Often we as developers aren’t in a position to remove these things entirely, and the conversation around web monetisation is a complex one. But we should at least load them as responsibly as possible. (I wrote about some strategies for optimising social media embeds for Smashing Magazine.)
One thing we might not consider, however, is whether the third parties themselves use green web hosting — that is, hosting that is powered by renewable energy. Fershad Irani has developed a useful tool that analyses the third-party scripts on your website: Are My Third Parties Green? checks whether they use a green web host (to the best of knowledge, via The Green Web Foundation’s dataset), as well as how much of your site’s overall size comes from third-party scripts, how effectively they’re cached, and their estimated carbon emissions.
Tools like this are great for shining a light on the environmental impact of our websites. Although measuring the carbon emissions of a website is far from an exact science, projects like this help raise awareness, and enable us to begin conversations and increasingly make informed choices.