December 7, 2021
The website carbon calculator

Michelle Barker featured the website carbon calculator on CSS-Tricks today. She wrote a nice piece about the application of such a tool. Her suggestion to add it to the Google Lighthouse Score is a good one.

Google claims to have a PUE of 1.1. Adding the ‘carbon score’ to Lighthouse is a great way to further green wash their data hungry business model. However, I agree with Michelle that adding a ‘carbon score’ could have a positive effect and is actually a good idea.

Because I did like the tool, I also got interested in the company behind it. This appears to be Whole Grain Digital, a web development agency from London. I think they have done a terrific job on the design! The quirky feel of their tool gives me a very positive vibe. The image they showed me when I entered my websites address made me genuinly happy. Here it is:

Website Carbon Calculator

But something hit me. My website generated 0.02 grams of CO2 per visit, while when I entered the tool itsself I got a score that was 21(!) times as polluting! Why? What went wrong there? The design is as simple as mine.

I digged into their source code.

  1. they use WordPres for their website, which is a remarkable choice for a green website
  2. they load a huge 102kb javascript file that loads some custom script and the Unipointer, Flickity and Unidragger library
  3. these javascript libraries are quite heavy, but are not used in their website (as far as I can tell)
  4. they load 144kb of (compressed) CSS, which is 10 times the size of a ’normal’ CSS file
  5. for their statistics they use a service that is called Cabin (low footprint analytics), which is created by Normally Ltd. who are autoplaying 12MB of video on their homepage
  6. this makes the Normally homepage not 21 but 337 times more polluting

So, to get things straight: this company, that is doing a ’not so good job’ at building a green website, is telling me I should hire them for my next green website? While they are using a tool from a company that claims to care about footprints, but has a 12MB homepage? It just feels wrong.

The tool is great. I applaud the idea, I applaud the design and I applaud the marketing effort, but from a technical point of view the tool is disappointing. And isn’t technical excellence what this tool is actually about?

()  Joost van der Schee

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