According to Earth.com “ the climate crisis is accelerating at an unprecedented rate”. We have all heard about issues such as air and plastic pollution, deforestation, overpopulation, soil degradation etc. But how many of you have heard of digital ecology or Green UX? Are we dealing with greenwashing or a real need here? Let’s start with the basics.
The Internet is not a magic cloud of codes sent by Elon Musk’s satellites to our phones, but millions of kilometers of cables and enormous servers that consume an unimaginable amount of energy to produce, install, maintain and use.
The current CO2 production resulting from the use of the Internet is about 4% of the world’s production. It does not seem like much, but when we think that air transport produces the same amount, the disproportion in the scale of publicizing these problems becomes visible.
Surprised? Well, check out these numbers.
But how can using Facebook generate CO2? The internet greenhouse gas emissions come from two main sources:
- production and shipment – equipment such as computers, mobile phones etc. have to be manufactured and sent,
- power and cooling – the equipment is powered by energy from various sources. 86% of energy comes from non-renewable sources (coal, gas, oil) – but there are already those powered by green energy as well.
Each of our inconspicuous clicks on the Internet equals the production of greenhouse gases, because it involves “triggering” several servers.
Sounds depressing and terrifying? Good news is that you can have a major impact on changing the current state of affairs without much effort. Saving the planet and less work for me? Yes, please!
First of all – awareness. Beware of green washing!
Energy efficient computers – companies are eager to tout reductions in energy use of their computers. Any energy saving is good, but research shows that more than 80% of the energy consumption over the lifecycle of the computer occurs in production – before you even get it home.
Planned obsolescence – many companies intentionally limit their devices functionality over time so that you have to upgrade to the latest model.
How to become more digitally eco-friendly?
The last point is especially crucial because the biggest issue is the quantity and frequency of electronic goods that we purchase. As the production of the equipment generates most CO2.
What is also very important – some of these tips will simply make your life easier.
Do you like getting newsletters? No problem! Subscribe only to those that bring tangible value for you and you will find yourself having a much cleaner inbox! At the same time you will let the creators behind mailing campaigns know that maybe they should think about a better content quality.
With great UX comes great responsibility.
Let’s not forget about UX designers who have a duty to implement green, sustainable UX. You may think this is an exaggeration, but creating a more eco-friendly website right now, promotes positive habits. Perhaps in the future, green UX will become a standard, which should please users because it will save them time and nerves.
Of course, some branches (marketing, film, or photography) require more impressive websites or apps, but you can still find some UX tips worth implementing. It is worth remembering that a website overloaded with videos, animations or excessively long text will be neither attractive to the user nor ecological.
Let’s find solutions where both business and nature are winners.
In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in mobile users which is a good trend. When web designing an app or a mobile website version, there are natural limitations due to the lack of space. The design is focused on main functions and data mostly. As a result, websites and apps are light-weight, flexible, and quick loading. The faster the loading speed, the less energy is used.
- Images and videos. As previously mentioned, reducing visuals’ weight will improve the loading speed of the website. One of the biggest trends of the past few years are videos and fancy dynamic background content. These videos are much higher quality and size than is necessary for the given situation.
- Compress your content. That will increase the performance of your website as well.
- Get rid of the unused features and functions. It affects the loading speed in a negative way, even if it can’t be seen.
- User fewer fonts. Each typeface you use on your site requires the download of a file. The more typefaces you use, the more files there are to download. Many sites will look fine with only two or three different typefaces.
Making content readable and navigation usable. The easier your content is to find, the fewer pages the user has to load to get from Point A to Point B. Readable and well navigated website is not only eco-friendly, but also beneficial from the user’s point of view – creating a good user experience is crucial these days if we want the customer to come back to our services. There is probably nothing more annoying than wandering through a website to find the information we are interested in, so don’t ignore this component.
The issue of digital ecology is definitely more complicated than we might think, and on the Internet we will find a lot of contradictory information. It is difficult to figure out what is a fact and what is a colored clickbait.
Raising awareness and developing good habits can work wonders. Each of us creates the internet. Let’s start changing it right now as a user, a developer, UX designer or app owner! If one person follows our guidelines maybe not much will change. But if we all do it, the planet will become a better, cleaner and healthier place. Don’t know about you, but we believe it’s worth a shot.