Greenie Web: Decarbonizing Websites

By Ian Chew 19 January, 2023

Greenie Web's program analyses a website to recommend near instant decarbonization actions. Chew, Founder of Greenie Web expands on the program & talks the future of technological sustainability

Greenie Web developed a program that analyses the front & back-end of a website to recommend near-instant decarbonizes actions; a small change can save 18,460 g/ annum
Though interested in software’s environmental benefits, later realized its negative impacts; technological sustainability will be next frontier of ESG & ClimateTech
In 10 yrs expect the “use-more-data” models in danger of being mothballed; Rather integrating 3 key factors - data, energy & carbon, will be cornerstone of any tech business

Digital Decarbonization & Sustainable Digitization: What is That?

As its name suggests, sustainable digitization is the process of embedding sustainability in the entire digital transformation process. On the other hand, digital decarbonization is the removal of carbon emissions associated with existing digital infrastructure (e.g. websites) and is applicable for current digital infrastructure.

Greenie Web is a Singapore headquartered ClimateTech startup that focuses on these two underserved pillars of ESG: sustainable digitization and digital decarbonization.

From a Coding Class in High School to Greenie Web – the Company

The inspiration for Greenie Web started in 2009 when I was taking my first coding class in secondary school. I recalled wondering about what software could possibly do for the environment. More crucially, I also started to think about the impact software might have on the environment.

First I wondered how software could benefit the environment…

…then I began thinking about its negative environmental impact

This formed the seeds of my thought process on the topic of digital decarbonization. Back then, technology was arguably much less ready than it is and literature on the topic was extremely scarce (a case can be made that it still is scarce – though much better than 14 years ago).

To me, technological sustainability has always been the future of Sustainability and ESG. It will be the next frontier in ClimateTech and I am proud that Greenie Web is at the forefront of it in Asia and in the world.

Decarbonizing websites

At Greenie Web, we decarbonize websites. We have developed a program that analyses the frontend of a website (what you can see) and the backend (the code that you cannot see).

For near-instant decarb, Greenie Web recommends changes for users e.g compressing thumbnail image…

…a small change can save 18,460 g/ annum

In an automated fashion, Greenie Web recommends changes that can be made to decarbonize the website. At the click of a button, website owners and developers can instruct Greenie Web to implement the changes that it is suggesting, allowing for near-instant decarbonization of the website.

As can be seen in the screenshot below, the changes the programme has suggested would reduce emissions by 18,460 g/ annum. Examples of potential frontend and backend changes include reducing the animation framerate, compressing the thumbnail image and optimizing the backend coding practice.

With websites being ubiquitous, Greenie Web is poised to make an outsized impact in decarbonizing the digital world, and by extension, our physical world. In doing so, it enables the digital decarbonization of existing websites while being a strategic tool in sustainable digitization and the building of eco-friendly websites.

Into the Digitally Sustainable Future

In the next 10 yrs traditional “use-more-data” models are in danger of being mothballed…

If I were to predict the next 10 years, I would say that traditional “use-more-data” business models are in danger of being mothballed. The intricate link between data usage, energy consumption and digital carbon emissions – what I call the DEC [Data, Energy, Carbon] nexus – will form the cornerstone of any tech business.

In a world flooded with data, starved of clean energy and increasingly concerned about carbon emissions, the winners of tomorrow’s economy will be those who can delicately balance all three factors for their stakeholders.

To get there, raising stakeholder awareness is key. Government officials, corporates and members of society that I speak to are mostly unaware of the carbon cost of software. Many still believe that digitization always equates to going green.

We need to correct this partial truth. There are many instances where digitization can reduce carbon emissions but also many instances when it leads to more carbon emissions.

…instead winners of tomorrow’s economy will be able to balance 3 key factors – DEC [Data, Energy, Carbon], a nexus that will form the cornerstone of any tech business

In building awareness, the key is to introduce the nuances of the situation that has been oversimplified to many people. In getting corporates and the public to digitize, there may have been a previous “over-sell” of what technology can do. This may include the exaggeration that technology will make your processes green, regardless of the situation. That is a something that needs to be corrected.

Equally important is action. Every second delayed translates to another gram of avoidable carbon emission being released into the atmosphere. Given the public good to both industry and society, the government is naturally incentivised to take the lead.

Government action generates media attention for widespread building of awareness. Additionally, it sends a strong signal for corporates and society to follow suit. Greenie Web is pleased to share that government officials we have spoken to have been open minded and receptive to the concepts of sustainable digitization and digital decarbonization. We are excited by the feedback we are receiving and look forward to sharing more in due course.

Even though there are multiple challenges over the horizon in 2023, I strongly believe that calculus for sustainability has irreversibly been changed. And I look forward to a reality where both the physical and digital world are constantly decarbonized, where every digital transformation plan takes into account the green transition, where all stakeholders play a role to make our world clean and green.

Further Reading

  • Water Risk In The ICT Sector – Analysing >3,000 ICT sector locations, AWS’s Sarah Wade shares where the water risks are, which type of water risks they are facing & what the sector can do to become a water stewardship leader
  • HK Businesses Go Circular Via A Digital Marketplace – HK produces >5.5mn tons of waste per year yet the majority of them are not recycled or recovered. Find out from Tamanna Wadhwani how an online platform like Aspire can help businesses to go circular
  • Tis The Season To Be Worried: Our Online Habits– Did you know your social media and streaming are exacerbating the climate crises? CWR’s intern Lam shines a light on how we need to change our online habits & cultivate a sustainable digital lifestyle
  • Green Clouds One Day – How does watching online videos exacerbate our climate crisis? Are big tech brands like BAT and FAAG doing enough to source more renewable energy? CWR’s Chan reviews the landscape – it looks like we will see “green clouds” one day
  • YouTube: The Dark Side Of Going Viral – We are already addicted to the internet, YouTube, Netflix, apps and still forecasts show major growth. China Water Risk’s Woody Chan unwraps the darkside of our runaway data use

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Ian Chew
Author: Ian Chew
Ian Chew is the Founder of Greenie Web – a ClimateTech startup that decarbonizes the internet. The inspiration for Greenie Web originated during Ian’s first coding class in 2009. During that Eureka moment, Ian wondered what could be done to decarbonize computer code. Fast forward 14 years, Greenie Web has evolved from a side project to a full-fledged digital decarbonization start-up that focuses on sustainable digitization in the B2G and B2B space. Ian’s mission is to empower governments, corporates and individual software personnel to actively participate in the green transition.
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