Digitization has made life easier in the 21st Century. Emails and electronic documents have drastically reduced the need to print, and the ability for activists and climate scientists to share ideas online has allowed them to continue their fight against climate change.
But, this revolution has come with a price. The carbon footprint of the internet, as well as the data centers that store it, has a significant impact on the earth. Each year, it emits tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Climate scientists can even track the carbon required to send emails, complete downloads, and view web pages rich in content.
It is clear that the internet’s widespread use will not slow down. What can we do to make the internet greener?
Good UX can reduce the carbon footprint of individual websites and streamline usage. This is especially important as a Lancaster University study found that the internet and devices supporting usage account for 3.7% of our total carbon emissions. This is almost the same as the airline industry. This is due to the large energy consumption of data centers and devices worldwide. Website designers must create a sustainable user experience (UX), in order to counter this.
While The guidelines for sustainable UX designIt is constantly changing. Designers and developers should be efficient. Designers should ensure that the site map contains key information and that a FAQ page is used to reduce click-wasting.
These are just a few steps to consider when designing sustainable UX. To find out which steps a sustainability-oriented designer should take, they should start by completing an environmental audit of the site to assess the efficiency of their pages. This audit can help to determine:
- Navigation is not necessary.
- File size
- Dead ends or pages that are not used
- The intuitiveness of site design
While it is important to assess a site UX from sustainability perspectives, it is still necessary that physical interactions are replaced with digitized alternatives such as eSignatures and digital documents. Although digital alternatives have a lower carbon footprint than physical transactions, it is still significantly less than that of physical transactions.
Better habits of usage
Sustainable UX design makes it easier to navigate the web in a smaller footprint. But we can also reduce our personal use. This is especially important because data-rich features such as email sending can have a large carbon footprint, which Mike Berners-Lee estimates contributes between 0.3-50g of carbon per message.
Although reducing the number of emails we send won’t make a significant impact on our global footprint, a more sustainable approach can help us reduce our individual footprints while waiting for internet providers to catch up. To do this, we need to change our internet usage habits.
As with many green habits, the first lessons must be taught at home. Parents can actively teach children about positive digital habitsThey will be more likely to power down and do so by modeling this behavior. Parents can also encourage healthy and sustainable behavior by limiting screen use and using smart trackers that limit screen time to prevent overuse. This is good for the environment and mental health.
Choose a green provider
It is important that providers make a conscious effort to reduce their carbon emissions. This is because most of our internet usage is for work. It is unlikely that the demand to reduce internet usage will be universally accepted. Like many of the climate problems we face, the responsibility for reducing internet usage should be shared more by governments and businesses than by individuals.
Fortunately, many companies have already begun to line up to Green broadband services available. These providers ensure that their offices, stores, and other facilities are as renewable as possible. They often use solar panels to power their buildings and stores rather than electricity lines. They encourage employees to use public transport to commute to work and sponsor programs like tree-planting drives and preservation efforts to reduce their carbon footprint.
You can help these practices become mainstream by using your spending power to support companies who have made green commitments. This market pressure is already gaining momentum in the UK, where consumers can stick to Sky, the largest provider of services, which emits 100% of its emissions.
It is difficult to find a provider who is committed to climate change in the US. Companies like Switch are starting to catch on, however. opening sustainable data centersThey rely on 100% renewable energy for their computer systems and storage. This helps everyone reduce their footprint and demonstrates a strong commitment toward going green.
The internet must be viewed in the same way as other utilities. If left unchecked, it can cause high carbon emissions and environmental damage. We must advocate for green broadband alternatives, and use our spending power in order to encourage more providers into net-zero.
We can also reduce our carbon footprint through creating intuitive, carbon-conscious user experience on websites. While we wait for market trends or government regulations to force providers to reduce their carbon footprint, we can take proactive steps towards reducing internet usage.