Sustainability is more than just a buzzword. It’s an actionable, measurable response to the world we live in today and the one our children will inherit tomorrow. By now, most of us have heard about climate change and its devastating consequences if we don’t take action soon. So what do websites have to do with all this? You might be surprised to learn that they have a lot to do with it! The digital landscape is growing at an alarming rate – and so are the implications for our natural world. Sustainability has come to mean much more than cutting back on CO2 emissions; it now encompasses all aspects of how humans interact with their natural environment. The internet plays a pivotal role in this new paradigm, and that’s why sustainable websites are now not only necessary but also inevitable.
Why Web Design Is So Important
Websites are the first and most important interface between natural ecosystems and human business. They are often the first touchpoint a user has with your organization. A website’s design and functionality have huge implications for the user’s experience, how they find and consume your content, how they share it, and even how they share their thoughts about you across the web. Web designers are the people responsible for designing these interfaces, so it’s crucial we think about our role in the sustainability landscape and ensure we’re doing our part to keep our digital realm healthy and thriving. If we don’t, we’ll be contributing to the problem rather than the solution.
Responsibilities of Website Developers
Everyone involved in the creation of a website has a responsibility to ensure that it is sustainable. Here are a few examples of what you can do to make your website as environmentally friendly as possible:
- Use renewable energy – Renewable energy comes from natural sources that are regenerative. Examples include solar, wind, and hydro. By making sure that your web host uses renewable energy, you’ll be contributing to lower CO2 emissions.
- Go green – From being eco-friendly with your choice of paper stock to choosing an environmentally friendly printing partner, there are many ways to go green.
- Go digital – Scanning paper documents into digital files is a sustainable way to store information. And using online tools to collaborate with colleagues is a paper-free way to work more efficiently.
- Go open – Open source software is free and can be modified to your specific business needs. Open data is free to access and republish as you see fit.
- Go modular – The more modular your website design, the easier it is to make it sustainable.
- Go reusable – Use reusable components as much as possible.
- Go sustainable – Choose sustainable partners and suppliers when possible.
Websites and Climate Change
The internet is a huge polluter. In fact, it’s responsible for up to one-third of global CO2 emissions. This is due to the energy consumed by servers and the electricity needed to power data centers. Internet companies are investing in renewable energy, but if they are not doing it fast enough, they risk being regulated by governments. This could result in higher costs for consumers, so it’s in everyone’s interest to find environmentally friendly ways to power the internet.
Websites and Sustainability Culture Change
While there are many steps website developers can take to make their products more sustainable, there’s also a lot of work they can do to change the culture of sustainability. Here are a few examples:
- Use your platform to speak up
- Use your blog to raise awareness and advocate for sustainable practices.
- Host your website on renewable energy
- Choose a green web host and encourage others to do the same.
- Measure, monitor, and publish your sustainability metrics
- Post your sustainability metrics on your website and encourage other companies to do the same.
- Build greener products
- Build products that are sustainable from the ground up.
- Build greener partnerships
- Build partnerships with sustainable organizations and encourage your partners to do the same.
The digital realm is a huge part of our lives, and the more sustainable it is, the less of a negative impact it will have on our environment and our health. Website developers have a huge responsibility to make their products as sustainable as possible. The good news is that there are many things that can be done.
This blog post is heavily inspired by the Sustainability talks at WordCamp Netherlands by Joost de Valk, Jerome Toole and Csaba Varszegi