The phrase ‘digital sustainability’ has been banded around for a while now – but what does it really mean? For us, it is all about the fact that digital technology has a very real and a very physical impact on the world, such as the growing rate of greenhouse gases, and as web developers and designers, there is an onus of responsibility on us to be aware, be educated and make changes
We have utterly loved Tom Greenwood’s latest book Sustainable Web Design, which delves into the impact digital companies have, what changes can be made and what we all need to be aware of
As Greenwood explains, The Sustainable Web Manifesto sets out six principles to consider in creating sustainable web products and services: clean, efficient, open, honest, regenerative, and resilient.
The core principles are the use of clean energy from renewable sources where possible, and the pursuit of high levels of energy efficiency, which together keep carbon emissions to a minimum; these are supported by the additional four principles.
For many people this new way of thinking and working can seem overwhelming, but a good place to start is to ensure that you are aware of the hardware you are using. Hardware has a huge impact, not just in terms of manufacturing emissions, but the fact that materials used in electronics become scrap after just a few years.
Where you can, choose equipment from manufacturers with a strong environmental policy and try to source refurbished machines where possible. Refurbished equipment has a fraction of the impact of buying new, and can be just as, or even more reliable as it undergoes more thorough testing. So please do consider buying refurbished where you can.
Software such as email, video conferencing, and cloud services can consume a lot of energy but it’s hard to know how much. Look for suppliers that talk about energy efficiency and have a commitment to using renewable energy where you can. Microsoft and Google, though not perfect, have shown a strong commitment to good environmental practices so do follow their developments and question as you go.
Another thing to think about is behaviour. As businesses we can encourage staff to take actions such as clean out old files, minimise unnecessary emails and consider whether video is always required for calls. I think we can all be guilty of not being on top of this at times.
As Greenwood calls for, there needs to be more visibility and transparency from energy companies on their energy consumption and efficiency levels. Talking about sustainability in digital needs to be the norm and a rightful consideration throughout every organisation and companies like ours have a duty to educate their clients and suppliers in order to spread the thinking and knowledge to assist changes can be made, however small.
The world wide web is going nowhere, so it is all of our duties to make it as good as it can be for people and planet and we will definitely be doing all we can to ensure we are as educated as we can be. Will you join us?