The Green Room

I design sustainable websites. AMA

I have been active in the sustainable design scene since the early 2000’s. I founded Wholegrain Digital to test my hypothesis that “green business” was not an oxymoron if sustainability was designed in from the outset.

I have spearheaded the company’s initiatives to put sustainability on the agenda of the digital agency sector, leading the creation of the Sustainable Web Manifesto and Website Carbon. I now give presentations and write regular articles on design, business and sustainability.

I’ll be here to answer your questions about designing sustainable websites live on 2020-06-23T15:00:00Z2020-06-23T16:00:00Z

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Talk soon!

Hi Tom,
Thanks for doing this AMA! What were you doing before you started Wholegrain?

Hi Tom,

It’s great to see someone tackling this issue. :slight_smile:

Can you tell me how much does an App consumes? Is it easy to calculate de GHG emissions?
I would like to compare the impact between a printed Trade Show catalogue, for example, with an App with the same purpose.

I just feel that we turn to electronic solutions very easily without really measuring the impact of your choices.

Thank you,

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If there were a choice for a company to do one thing to their website to improve its carbon emissions (I know there are many) what do you think it would be? Example being, should they be caching the site, or using a CDN, or reducing the images generally on the website. Which might have a largest impact in your experience?

I say this, as I think for some larger businesses, especially with large websites with lots of content, the process of becoming much more carbon efficient could be a daunting one.


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Hello everyone! Tom is here and ready to answer your questions so please keep them coming!

Hi. Before I started Wholegrain Digital with my wife Vineeta, I had a job as a product designer engineer trying to make domestic heaters both energy efficient and beautiful. It was technically very very different work from what we do at Wholegrain, but also very similar in its goals.

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Great question. It is a bit harder to calculate for apps because it is harder to gather data about usage than it is from websites.

One way to look at it is the amount of data transferred by people downloading the app (and updates to it). So for example, a 10MB app downloaded 1000 times would produce about 500grams of CO2. So you can roughly scale that to any app.

However, some apps consume a lot of energy on the users device and use a lot of data in use (not just when being installed), and that it very hard to quantify at the moment.

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On the topic of WordPress development - what would be your top five tips and tricks for WordPress developers to reduce the size of a WordPress site (without content)

Are there any methods for reducing the size of WP itself to improve efficiency and load times?

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Hi Tom,

Great work and projects!
I was wondering how you sell sustainable websites to your clients. Or what the things are that they are attracted by the most? :slight_smile:


If I had to choose one thing to recommend, it would be to install a system to automatically compress images. Images make up a big pafrt of website emissions and nearly every website has images, but very few compress those files to make them as small as possible. Tools like WebP Express and ShortPixel can make this really easy and make a big difference, as well as making webistes faster.

You mention large websites with lots of content, and the nice thing about tools like these is that they can automatically run through a website and compress all of the images on old content, so its really easy to make a positive impact on large websites.


Hi everyone, can we take a peek at your websites for ideas? Please do reply and post links if you can!

Yeah there are plenty of things that developers can do. Here’s a few:

  1. Use our efficient Granola framework as a starting point

  2. Avoid using libraries if not needed, especially ones that load on the front end like JQuery

  3. Write modular code

  4. Set up your build tools to compress everything efficiently

  5. Get involved in the design process with a dev perspective to help make sure its efficient from the start

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Whoops, here’s a link for Granola -

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Hi Csaba, the truth is that it is not top priority for many clients, so we focus on selling them the things that they care about most, such as user experience, conversions, performance and accessibility, all of which in some way overlap with sustainability. Occassionally we get a client who really cares about sustainability and we can bring it to the fore in conversations, but generally we keep it is something that we do anyway and we drip it into conversation to help get them interested in it.


My little contribution to making the web’s footprint smaller:


I’ve built many WordPress sites, but I’m starting up a new side project to hopefully create wider conversation around sustainable web development and act as a resource for those wanting to work with sustainable agencies and freelancers (such as Wholegrain Digital :wink:)


I love this site :slightly_smiling_face:

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Thank you for this. I use a couple of different tools to enable clients to compress images, or auto compress them, but I hadn’t heard of those two tools so I shall take a look into those!

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I’m excited to hear more about this. And I love the colours and typography!

Hi Tom,
Are there metrics somewhere that tell you how much carbon is used by downloads?