I tried to design something sustainable.

(Or at least more respectful for the environment )

Ok so long story short: I started my “career” working on airlines related projects and coding poorly optimized website. It started to feel wrong and since last year I found a lot of interest in digital sustainability. I started to re-oriente my work toward the goal of achieving cleaner websites for our planet.

This goal can be farfetch. Not every client is ready to make such a step as it can quickly involve more costs. So I started my own project. And today I’m happy to launch overthere.link, a lightweight hub for your digital presence aiming to respect our planet, and also your privacy as it is a place free of ads and analytics scripts.

Go on, have a look: https://overthere.link/

The internet is emitting more CO2 than global air travel. It is using a lot of energy and as our devices and internet speed get always better, websites get heavier and most of the time poorly optimized. It has to change, and it start by rethinking our creation process through simple gestures is a first step to get there. In the meanwhile, carbon offset should just become common sense.

With overthere.link, I want to provide a low consumption service alternative to products such as link.tree or linkin.bio with profits to be used wisely and show a new a way to run a digital service.

Measure

My journey started a year ago when reading Sustainable Web Design, a book by Tom Greenwood. I was questioning myself on how I could have a positive impact with my set of skills. I have the chance to have a very stable by working part time as an employee giving enough time work as a freelancer. It was the perfect setup to try and do something eco-friendly with that time.

One day, while I was tinkering on my digital presence, I noticed something kinda unexpected: my link.tree page weight almost 1mb.

I thought my profile picture was too heavy but not even, it was weighting only 22kb. On that note, I checked similar services and found out more suprises.

Without thinking too much too far, it seemed javascript libraries and tracking scripts where the factors to blame alongside some more advanced features than just sharing a simple list of links. I had my goal set: creating a sustainable alternative to digital presence services.

Reduce

A clean website is also a fast website, so in the limits of designer and coder skills, overthere.link is optimized to be as lightweight as possible. I’m proud to say that in the end a profile page containing an avatar picture weights as low as 30kb per unique visitor, while the landing page is around 60kb.

Well, it ain’t too bad according to www.websitecarbon.com

Here are some of the principles used to reduce the bandwidth usage, and so the energy required to load data and resources:

Fonts
Fonts are subsetted, using a WOFF2 format, with a direct fallback to a system font if not supported.

Images
Here goes the same for pictures and icons. Only SVG and WEBP are displayed on the website. Uploaded PNGs and JPGs are instantly converted into WEBP before being removed from the server in order to free up some space. While 3% of users might not be able to display WEBP on their device, I decided it would be best to load nothing and gain some bandwidth, rather than uploading heavier files.

And because it’s fun, the mockups on the landing page are made in html and css.

Coding methods
- All files are minified
- Except on the landing page where I’m using some css animations, I try to reduce as much as possible the energy consumption code could have on the CPU.
- The project is running on Kirby CMS which does not require a database (flat-file) alongside some vanilla JS.
- Blocking most bots, except the google ones. This was one of the easiest step to do. 39% of all internet traffic is from bad bots. It’s theorically 39% of useless page views.
- Limited dependencies. Except for the Gumroad embedded scripts which are used to buy subscription, there is no external script, no CDN, no analytics sh*t either.
- No data is loaded unless requested by the user, meaning no lazy-loading. For instances, Gumroad (like any other checkout services) weight at least 3mb. It’s a lot, and it becomes waste if the user do not subscribe. With that in mind, I created a dedicated checkout page to keep the rest of the website as light as possible.
- The service is green-hosted with Infomaniak (CH), according to the Greenweb Foundation and Infomaniak itself. Infomaniak offset twice its carbon emission theorically (there is not exact formula to measure that number, but its all we have right now.)

Becoming carbon-neutral

Although this is a challenge, with this project I aim to compensate for more carbon emission than the emitted carbon emission. To achieve that, net income from subscriptions is splitted into 3 categories:

Simple data visualisation of the money splitting strategy for overthere.link

Impact investments
I’ve been investing through Invoya for the last 3 years. To make it simple, Inyova allows you to invest in greener companies. A part of the revenue will be send as long-term impact investments there. Yes it goes kinda in my pocket, but in ~20 years if I withdraw the investments.

NGO Donation
Equally to impact investments, supporting environmental and societal causes is part of the money splitting strategy. The selected NGO might vary over time (3 to 6 months per NGO). It shall be at least once a year a NGO focused on reforestation projects.

Maintenance & Growth
It is important to keep the service stable and improve it with time, also having more users choosing overthere.link rather than a similar service will result in emitting less CO2 globally. Reaching potential users will be key in the development of this project — ideally without massive use of social ads but I haven’t fully figured out that part yet.

Don’t get me wrong, to emit less CO2 on the web we also need to browse less. I don’t want people to buy my product just to have it. And I know it feels ironic to use a low consumption digital service to post links redirecting users to poorly optimized website generating a lot of CO2. But I’m doing my part, I created a little isle on the web which is more friendly to our planet and I hope more people will do the same.

So what’s next?

At this point, there won’t be many update in the next few months except for newly found bugs. I really want to push the project forward with optimisations, and include more features,, visual customisations, but this will also depends on the amount of people interested by this project and the feedbacks I get.

As I’m writing this article, I hope it will be well received and I’m really motivated to create more tools and services presented as sustainable alternatives. I would be infinitely grateful if you share this project to people who might be interested to use it. (I feel a bit like a digital mendiant right now by asking you to share it)

Thank you if you are still reading this. Here’s a little gift code if you decide to subscribe to overthere: get an overthere.link lifetime subscription at a third of its price by using overthere66 in the checkout.

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