Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Business Insider

How ‘Sustainable’ Web Design Can Help Fight Climate Change

Danny van Kooten is a Dutch programmer who decided to reduce his carbon output by no longer eating beef or flying. Then, five months ago, he made a change that had an even bigger impact—and it took only a few keystrokes.

Van Kooten is the author of a popular WordPress plug-in that helps website owners use the mailing-list service Mailchimp. Install van Kooten’s plug-in and visitors can sign up for your Mailchimp list directly via a form embedded on your site. His plug-in also makes the site slightly larger by adding several thousand more lines of code. Every time someone visits your page, a server has to send part of van Kooten’s code to their browser. Sending data to a browser uses energy; the less code you send, the less energy you use.

So van Kooten decided to slim things down. He “refactored” his plug-in, making it more efficient, so now it sends 20 KB less data. Overall, the site would use a little less energy every day.

Of course, 20 KB is a teensy reduction. But since 2 million websites use his plug-in, it adds up. By his crude estimate, trimming the code reduced the world’s monthly CO2 output by 59,000 kilograms, roughly the equivalent to flying from New York to Amsterdam and back 85 times.

Not bad for two hours of hacking. “The code thing has been by far the biggest thing I could do,” he marvels, “and it’s crazy, because it takes a lot less effort than not eating any meat.”

Van Kooten’s aha moment is one being shared by web designers around the planet. They call it “sustainable” software design, and it’s propelled by technologists measuring the energy budget of nearly every swipe and click in our information ecosystem.

It’s a target-rich environment. Because so much of our lives is brokered by software, tiny nips and tucks can be transformative. They can even be quite lovely: This spring, a group of students designed an Instagram filter that reduces the file size of a photo you post by 40 percent. It turns the image into a retro pointillization reminiscent of a midcentury black-and-white newspaper photo. The goal wasn’t just to save energy but to produce something so cool-looking that people would “want to use it,” as Danique de Bies, one of the students, told me.

Recoding our digital world to use less energy often makes it more pleasant too. Consider, say, all that ad code that bloats websites—megs and megs of crap. We hate it for spying on us, but it also slows page loading to a crawl.

“It’s constantly pinging servers; it’s not very efficient,” says Tim Frick, founder of Mightybytes, a green web consultancy. “All of that information really adds up.” When the European Union’s regulations forced US companies to remove some tracking code from their sites for European visitors, USA Today‘s homepage shed 90 percent of its data size and loaded 15 times faster, as the designers at Mightybytes reported.

Even our throwaway habits can add up to a mountain of carbon. Consider all the little social emails we shoot back and forth—“thanks,” “got it,” “lol.” The UK energy firm Ovo examined email usage and—using data from Lancaster University professor Mike Berners-Lee, who analyzes carbon footprints—they found that if every adult in the UK just sent one less “thank you” email per day, it would cut 16 tons of carbon each year, equal to 22 round-trip flights between New York and London. They also found that 49 percent of us often send thank-you emails to people “within talking distance.” We can lower our carbon output if we’d just take the headphones off for a minute and stop behaving like a bunch of morlocks.

Granted, there’s an obvious rejoinder to this design movement: Why focus on individuals? To hit really juicy targets for carbon reduction, look to big infrastructure. Sixty-one percent of all online activity comes from purveyors of video. (Netflix alone accounts for 13 percent of it.) Bitcoin’s annual emissions are roughly those of Sri Lanka. Or look at AI. Training a single AI model can generate up to five times the lifetime CO2 of a car, as research by computer scientist Emma Strubell and her colleagues has found. Those areas need efficiency overhauls—now.

Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!

Latest

News

A Philippines Peso note is seen in this picture illustration June 2, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration The Philippines remains under a “gray” list of countries...

Editor’s Pick

A Brewdog promotion which said customers could win “solid gold” beer cans was misleading, the advertising watchdog has found. The Scottish brewer offered...

Editor’s Pick

There is growing concern that free, face-to-face advice which helps hundreds of thousands out of debt each year could be cut. New contracts...

Editor’s Pick

The Bank of England’s new chief economist has warned that UK inflation is likely to hit or surpass 5% by early next year....

News

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS By Luz Wendy T. Noble, Reporter The Philippines expects to narrow its budget deficit, with the government having raised tax...

News

The Philippine economy is expected to grow by 4.3% this year — slower than originally expected — due to recurring coronavirus infection surges in...

You May Also Like

When people envision technology overtaking society, many think of The Terminator and bulletproof robots. Or Big Brother in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a symbol...

Financial Advisors

Stock Markets9 hours ago (Jul 02, 2020 04:45AM ET) (C) Reuters. ROME (Reuters) – World food prices rose in June to post their first...

Economy

SAN FRANCISCO — The spread of the coronavirus has meant feast or famine for technology start-ups. While many are cutting staff and slashing costs...

Economy

OAKLAND, Calif. — Jack Dorsey has won plaudits for his corporate activism during the coronavirus crisis, taking on President Trump in his role as...

Disclaimer: Respect Investment.com, its managers, its employees, and assigns (collectively "The Company") do not make any guarantee or warranty about what is advertised above. Information provided by this website is for research purposes only and should not be considered as personalized financial advice. The Company is not affiliated with, nor does it receive compensation from, any specific security. The Company is not registered or licensed by any governing body in any jurisdiction to give investing advice or provide investment recommendation. Any investments recommended here should be taken into consideration only after consulting with your investment advisor and after reviewing the prospectus or financial statements of the company.

Copyright © 2021 Respect Investment. All Rights Reserved.

Your information is secure and your privacy is protected. By opting in you agree to receive emails from us. Remember that you can opt-out any time, we hate spam too!