When the average person thinks of an “eco” business, they probably think of bamboo toothbrushes, tote bags, organic eye creams – or whatever else is trending on Pinterest these days.

But digital businesses have an environmental footprint too.

Businesses that are fully online or virtual (something that has become more and more commonplace) still have a huge impact on the environment. And showing your customers that you’re a purpose-driven, digital business is shown to create an emotional bond and put you ahead of the competition. 

One time I was speaking with another freelancer — let’s call him Fred Lancer — who said he gardens and donates to causes, but doesn’t see how it’s “relevant” to his business. I argued that of course it’s relevant – it’s him! Especially as a freelancer, showing who you are and what you care about is one of the best ways to connect with potential clients.

But as small businesses or soloprenuer, you may not always have the resources to drop tons of money or time into certifications, or other investments. So here are three, low-cost ways you can stand out as eco, even as a digital business.

1. Skip the Carbon Footprint Calculator and Do This Instead

I graduated with a degree in environmental science so I know what all goes into carbon footprint calculators. But I would say skip it if you’re not a large corporation.

You can simply relay to your customers that you’re making small changes to reduce your carbon footprint (Like Fred Lancer).

Carbon calculators are super hard to complete because they need tons of information – who knows their monthly energy consumption in kilowatts off the top of their heads? Then when it’s all said and done, they tell you to sell your left toe.

One time I completed a carbon footprint calculator and at the end it told me to go vegan, buy an electric vehicle, and invest in solar panels. I was a broke college student from Texas who rented an apartment – so let’s just say I made a difference in other ways. 

Small actions you take may seem “small,” but the cliche is true – you can create a huge snowball effect that can spur massive change. Plus, the small changes you make will be a great, personal touch to the “About Me,” which is a change to make your clients say “Dang, they seem like someone I should hire.”

Other ways you can reduce your footprint without selling your left toe are:

  • Reducing, reusing, and recycling to reduce landfill emissions
  • Use your company as a platform to give a voice to green policy initiatives 
  • Increase the efficiency of your office lighting by installing LED bulbs
  • Use correct file types (jpegs instead of pngs!) to reduce the amount of energy used
  • #2 of this blog (below)

2.Switch to Green Online Hosting

What powers your site is a huge network of wires that connects to millions of large servers that run all day, every day. In short, the internet takes up a LOT of energy. 

The internet is one of the fastest growing carbon polluting industries. 

Plus, data centers require a lot of land-use. 

The largest data center in the world is located in Langfang, China and occupies 6.3 million square feet. That’s over 100 football fields, which in theory, could grow a lot of corn.

Here’s a summary of some green hosting services and their associated costs:

NamePrice at Cheapest Level per month
GreenGeeks£7.66 / $9.95 
DreamHost£1.92  /$2.49
A2 Hosting £2.30 / $2.99
iPage£1.53 / $1.99

Whatever host you choose, be sure and double check their credentials to ensure they use 100% renewable energy instead of just buying carbon offsets.

3.Consider the Partially-Blind Cowboy in the Desert Who Clicks on Your Site

My point is, you want to ensure your site is accessible to everyone. Being an eco business isn’t just about your environmental impact, but also about the example you set for humanity. This will not only make your site more welcoming, but will also boost your SEO.

Here’s quick checklist to get started with: 

  • Optimize your Website Load Times to account for people who don’t have high internet speeds. Something as simple as making your image dimensions smaller can really reduce load time.
  • Use fonts like Arial or Times New Roman when applicable since they are almost always available on a computer
  • Include a screen magnifier or even a screen reader on your site
  • Add captions to your videos

Overall, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to reduce your footprint and show you care about sustainability. Starting with these three steps is a great way to start attracting more clients who care.

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