The mounting pressure of the impending climate crisis means that responsible organisations across the world have made serious moves towards improved sustainability habits and minimising carbon footprints. The tourism and attractions sector is no different, with responsible and sustainable tourism growing in popularity and increasing demand from consumers looking for eco-friendly places to visit. Amy Czuba, senior account manager at www.NexerDigital.com, explains.
The EU recognises sustainability as one of the five pillars of the Framework for Action on Cultural Heritage, highlighting the sector’s potential to enhance social capital, boost economic growth and secure environmental sustainability. Parks around the world are bolstering their sustainability practices to offer responsible tourism – for example, PortAventura World in Spain has become the world’s first carbon-neutral resort and Merlin Entertainments is partnered with sustainability specialist, Ramco, to ensure no redundant equipment goes to waste.
However, despite this commitment to minimising the physical impact of attraction sites, digital carbon emissions are frequently overlooked, which can counteract the positive impact being made elsewhere.
The internet has a huge footprint, as servers at data centres need constant powering and cooling. However, there are steps that organisations can take to reduce their digital carbon footprint, supporting the efforts they are already making in their physical sites.
All digital sustainability journeys need to begin with an initial benchmarking of current CO2 output for websites, which can be done using an online Website Carbon Calculator. This will show organisations how much carbon is produced from each visit to the homepage. It will also decipher whether or not the website is on a server using green energy, which is often the first fix that needs to be made.
Servers and hosting
Green energy powered servers are becoming much more common, with Microsoft, Amazon and Google all using at least 50% renewable power in their data centres. However, some data centres are more sustainable than others and it is an organisation’s responsibility to ensure they are using a green host and to switch if they are not.
By looking into existing hosts’ sustainability policies, tourism and attraction sites can see if they are working with a company with meaningful statements of green energy in data centres as well as other facilities and wider eco-credentials in energy efficiency, electronic waste and travel. The best policies will have tangible, measurable commitments rather than vague statements. The Green Web Foundation has a directory of sustainable hosts, which is a good place to start if an existing host isn’t committed to being green.
Another aspect to consider is whether the website is run on a dedicated or virtualised, or cloud, server. A virtualised server is the more sustainable option but may not be appropriate for every organisation.
Improving the website’s technical performance will lead to significant CO2 savings as the website will be running at its most efficient.
This can be achieved by optimising the website to require fewer requests or bundled requests that spend less time loading. Compressing pages will make them smaller and therefore less energy-intensive to access and caching delivers copies of stored resources or pages instead of having to download them from the originating server.
These techniques allow websites to deliver the same level of service to those accessing them, but the servers do not have to work as hard and use less energy in the process.
Once the website is running at technical efficiency, content needs to be optimised so that it is easy to access and consume. This means website users spend less time on pages and less time searching for what they are looking for, minimising emissions.
Performing readability tests on content will make it easier to consume and organisations should ensure their website is clear from redundant or duplicated content. Focusing on improved search engine optimisation (SEO) will result in fewer Google searches to find the content and have the secondary benefit of the website reaching more people.
Sustainability is not something that leisure attractions can be placid about, and broadly physical work in the sector is progressing. However, digital products are still emitting high quantities of carbon and tarnishing wider philosophies. By considering the environmental impacts of their online offerings, attraction sites can make a customer’s entire visit greener, from the moment they find and buy tickets online, through to the physical world and the end of their visit.