Climate change is taking its toll on the environment. The temperature is rising, the Glaciers are melting, sea levels are rising, and the fauna and flora ranges are shifting.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,
“Taken as a whole, the range of published evidence indicates that the net damage costs of climate change are likely to be significant and to increase over time.”
From the very start, all of these effects and many others account for the change have accounted for critical damage induced mainly by human activity in the form of CO2 emissions.
In the midst of it all, the internet is a prominent cause to blame. Sure, the virtual world is affecting the real world on a massive scale; how can a UX designer or developer be involved in the overall impact? Take an ecommerce site for example. As soon as the visitor approaches the website to buy their desired products, their actions initiate a chain of events that contribute to higher emissions.
It’s even reported that if the internet were a country, it would rank among the ones having a high carbon footprint, such as the USA, China, and India. Where the internet connects so many people, it’s also inviting other drastic measures for the evolving carbon footprint.
For most of the global climate change impacts, sustainable practices and resources have been brought in to combat and reduce the apparent damage shortly. Is there a way designers or web design companies worldwide can contribute?
Instead of digging in the solutions first, let’s start by identifying how UX is indirectly contributing to the environmental damage and what you should know about creating green UX projects.
How UX Contributes To Growing CO2 Emissions
Data Centers And E-Waste
Every activity you carry out on a website or any other online platform, you need storage for your projects, files, texts, documents, and other media. You may even contact a company that provides data storage of XYZ GBs. While you may be at ease for having saved your information, the data in cloud storage is negatively impacting the environment. According to Amanda Sopkins from Sustainable UX,
“Notifications replace daily newspaper deliveries, emails replace receipts, and virtual clouds replace boxes of photographs. At first, this seems like a natural way to build a more sustainable world. However, rather than leveraging our power to create minimal solutions for hard problems, we gorge ourselves on this seemingly limitless space.” She later adds, “The buildup of all this material has an impact beyond the carbon that is produced by the servers that stores it. It has an impact on us: we lose track of what matters and what we should save.”
With millions of people interacting on the internet daily, it won’t be wrong to say that the data is massively hurling towards hyper-emission. It’s something we don’t see every day!
Mobiles And Energy Consumption
Each day, a new smartphone is released. The growing number of these devices is serving the energy-hungry populations, becoming somewhat blind to the environment. The process of smartphone production and delivery to the end-consumer greatly impacts the CO2 emissions. For instance, an iPhone requires several hours to be created and assembled and takes up to hundreds of thousands of miles, fuel, and energy to reach the user.
The case gets worse with mobile screens becoming larger. The bigger it gets, the more materials it needs, and the more energy it consumes. How does this account for environmental damage? Every activity done on the phone requires energy and storage. As much data is stored in the data centers, more resources are exploited and greater damage is done.
Ways To Implement Green, Sustainable UX
While we mentioned just two examples of how UX is hurting the environment, we shouldn’t leave behind the measures to scale down the emission pressure. Here are a few ways we can think of.
1. Measure Your Carbon Foot Print
There’s no point in creating something if you can’t measure it. And when you can’t measure it, it will become impossible for you to manage it. When creating a sustainable user experience, one needs to review the existing research on the on-going web emissions and energy consumption. The sole purpose must base on understanding how this information can be used to estimate and cut website pollution.
For this purpose, websitecarbon.com launched a free tool to measure the amount of CO2 a website is emitting. Upon entering the website URL, the tool rolls out the information about how much CO2 your website is emitting, and if it is following a sustainable approach.
2. Make The Experience Accessible For All
Among the practices for a sustainable UX, usability comes as the first and foremost priority, which can be enhanced with factors like readability and navigation. If the content on the website is light, guides the user expertly, and helps them recognize value, the overall experience expands into an accessible dimension.
The website’s cleanliness also matters. Less clutter and speedy loading mean lower carbon emission. If the content is presented with great clarity and directions, it builds a connection between sustainability and user experience.
3. Optimize Performance
Sometimes, websites designed with a user-focused approach have performance issues that have adverse impacts on the user experience. By optimizing the site, you not only reduce data consumption and emissions but also engage the users with satisfaction.
So, what type of content needs optimization? Text, images, and videos make up your website’s content, and optimization of these means improving your website’s performance and data usage. By using clear, concise text, high-quality images and videos, your website cuts down on the page loading time without losing the overall quality.
4. Teach Sustainability Through Practice
Designing for a better environment receives returns when the users interact with the design. Users are generally unaware of how a clean and eco-friendly website looks like, while they might be concerned about the environment in the other way.
At this point, it’s your responsibility to drop hints about a sustainable design along with motivating them to achieve green goals in a better way. However, you need to address what you’re making it, how people will use it, and how it reflects your strategy to create a safer environment. Your intent should be evident in your message throughout your website.