Building a Low-Tech, Energy-Efficient Website

Earlier this year, Low-tech Magazine rolled out a new “low-tech” version of their website that’s “designed to radically reduce the energy use associated with accessing our content.” They did several things to accomplish this, such as removing third party scripts like Google Analytics, switch to dithered, low-res images, and using default typefaces. Most importantly, the website is entirely solar-powered.

Quite a few web hosting companies claim that their servers are running on renewable energy. However, even when they actually generate solar power on-site, and do not merely “offset” fossil fuel power use by planting trees or the like, their websites are always on-line.

This means that either they have a giant battery storage system on-site (which makes their power system unsustainable), or that they are relying on grid power when there is a shortage of solar power (which means that they do not really run on 100% solar power).

In contrast, this website runs on an off-the-grid solar power system with its own energy storage, and will go off-line during longer periods of cloudy weather. Less than 100% reliability is essential for the sustainability of an off-the-grid solar system, because above a certain threshold the fossil fuel energy used for producing and replacing the batteries is higher than the fossil fuel energy saved by the solar panels.

We’ve come to expect websites to always be available; God forbid they’re even a few seconds slower than we expect them to be. Low-tech’s approach here is an interesting change of pace and it’s nice to see them practice what they preach; more power to em.

For what it’s worth, even if you don’t opt to use solar power for your website, some of Low-tech’s approaches are still worth emulating, like ditching as many third party scripts as possible and opting for default typefaces. Such changes will always have a positive effect your website’s performance. Via

Enjoy reading Opus? Want to support my writing? Become a subscriber for just $5/month or $50/year.
Subscribe Today
Return to the Opus homepage