The digital carbon footprint of Dezeen; the world's most popular architecture website.

Dezeen has just had the "best-ever year" with some amazing stats. But, this achievement does comes at a hidden impact to the planet. Lets explore what it is.

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Dezeen is "the world's most popular and influential architecture and design site". One which I've personally loved for many years. But, as I become more aware of the implications of visiting large clunky websites on the planet, it's changing my behavior. I'm visiting the site less and less. And I wanted to explore how and why this website is so bad for the planet.

This fifteen year old company just had it's "best-ever year" with some awe inspiring stats. It's certainly an amazing achievement. But, this achievement does comes at a hidden cost to the planet.

So in this post I will try and answer three questions:

  1. What is the environmental impact of such a popular website?
  2. Is the juice worth the squeeze?
  3. What they could do to improve it?

Dezeen's website traffic

In 2020 Dezeen's "Page views grew to 110 million" and for this post a key stat we're going to focus on.

This information is amazing, it allows us to work out the carbon footprint of the worlds most popular architecture website as we can say that 110 million pages were transferred.

const dezeenHistory = [
{ checkedAt: "2021-02-09T10:37:47.507Z", totalTransferredBytes: 27130169 },
{ checkedAt: "2021-02-08T10:37:20.863Z", totalTransferredBytes: 31072653 },
{ checkedAt: "2021-02-07T10:36:56.376Z", totalTransferredBytes: 35082148 },
{ checkedAt: "2021-02-06T10:36:31.480Z", totalTransferredBytes: 33238850 },
{ checkedAt: "2021-02-05T10:36:04.634Z", totalTransferredBytes: 35392127 },
{ checkedAt: "2021-02-04T10:35:39.283Z", totalTransferredBytes: 34553629 },
{ checkedAt: "2021-02-03T10:35:11.070Z", totalTransferredBytes: 33742129 },
{ checkedAt: "2021-02-02T10:34:42.477Z", totalTransferredBytes: 39305348 },
{ checkedAt: "2021-02-01T10:34:18.675Z", totalTransferredBytes: 24323063 },
{ checkedAt: "2021-01-31T10:33:50.024Z", totalTransferredBytes: 24500683 },
{ checkedAt: "2021-01-30T10:33:12.974Z", totalTransferredBytes: 26367712 },
{ checkedAt: "2021-01-29T10:32:44.319Z", totalTransferredBytes: 34592459 },
{ checkedAt: "2021-01-28T10:32:18.827Z", totalTransferredBytes: 34168631 },
{ checkedAt: "2021-01-27T10:31:49.799Z", totalTransferredBytes: 35174252 },
];
const averageTransferredBytes =
dezeenHistory.reduce((acc, check) => acc + check.totalTransferredBytes, 0) /
dezeenHistory.length;
// Output => 32045989.5 (b) or 30.56 (MB)

Taking an average page size is around 30.56 MB per page view we can work out the how much data was transferred.

Calculating the impact

Every byte transferred across the telecoms network uses electricity. As renewable made up only 26.2% of global electricity generation in 2018 this produces carbon emissions. On average a website produces around 1.76 grams of CO2 per page view.

For Dezeen as their website page size is 14.7 times larger than the average website, so more data transferred, the more emissions produced.

Their website produces 19.32 grams of CO2 per page view; that's 10 times the average emissions produced.

It's a lot of CO2 for just one page view when you compare it to the average. But, when you add this to the amount of traffic this website gets it steps up a notch.

So as Dezeen received 110 million page views in 2020, let's have a look what that impact looks like over a year:

const yearlyPageViews = 110000000;
const monthlyPageViews = yearlyPageViews / 12; // 9,166,666.6/pm
const co2PerPageViewInGrams = 19.32;
const yearlyCo2InGrams = yearlyPageViews * co2PerPageViewInGrams;
// Output => 2,125,200,000 (Two billion one hundred twenty-five million two hundred thousand)

Is 2.1 billion grams of CO2 a lot per year?

The short answer is yep, it's loads! Looking at a some conversions gives a more relatable idea of this environmental impact:

It boggles the mind really how bad this website is for the world and it's only the 3500 most popular website!

But as they say "The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty" so here we find and exciting opportunity here. Reducing the overall size of this website could make an instantaneous reduction in carbon emissions on a huge scale.

Recently using EcoPing and our website carbon audits, we helped How Many Elephants to reduce their WordPress website by 69% in page size. So let's see what happens if we did the same for Dezeen.


Reduction pct (%)
New page size
CO2e saved (g)
CO2e saved (kg)
Trees saved
Flights saved
Money saved
-5%29.030.97106,2604,830 156£14,490
-10%27.501.93212,5209,660313£28,980
-25%22.924.83531,30024,150782£72,450
-50%15.289.661,062,60048,3001,565£144,900
-69%9.4713.331,466,38866,6542,160£199,962

69% is a big change! But if they we're to manage this it would take their website down to 9.47 MB, saving 13.33 grams of CO2 per page view. Over a year this would save 1,466,388 kilograms of CO2. Which is amazing. It would instantly remove the same amount of CO2 as you would need 66,654 mature trees to sequester.

Currently to offset Dezeen by planting sapling trees you would need to spend a huge £289,800 every year!

And, these trees would still take at least 40 years forty years to sequester the same amount of CO2.

Alternatively you could invest this into development and try improve this website once and for all.

How to improve this website?

Graph of the Dezeen website and their website carbon emissions over time on EcoPing
👆 Dezeen's carbon emissions and resources over time

This is where EcoPing comes in. We've been tracking Dezeen's website for over 6 months, allowing us to see their impact over time. Not only do we see the total page view impact but we can break down the site and the resources it uses to identify problems with key insights & actions to improve.

EcoPing allows you to get a baseline for your website. Not only is this great for reducing your website carbon emissions, it helps spot when it increases too. It might be a un-optimized image, a new a new WordPress plugin, but what ever it is; it's easy to spot early. We can even send you an email and let you know.

Our goal is not to call out these companies in a negative light. But to highlight the importance of first looking at your digital carbon footprint. Especially when trying to take your company to carbon neutral.

Not only will this drastically reduce website carbon emissions. It will increase other key website metrics. Like: boosting SEO scores, reduced bounce rates and improve user engagement. All things that are not only great for the planet but great for businesses too.

Conclusion

It's important to standup for things you believe in, no matter how small. Waste and carbon emissions don't just come from physical items, we're seeing that the websites we choose to visit come with large implications on our perfect planet too.

It's become easy and convenient (on our super fast broadband) to visit popular website without a second thought. But it doesn't mean we should. We should take a stand in the products we buy and the websites we visit to hope for positive change.

So that's what I'm going to do, goodbye Dezeen my old friend!

(p.s if you're reading this Dezeen and want help reducing your digital carbon footprint, do let us know.)







Interested in learning more about website carbon emissions?

If you're interested in learning more, checkout this campaign #LetsGreenTheWeb to encourage and support everybody to measure the carbon emissions of websites.



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