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Technology

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The Casio Challenge

With every new year we tend to assess the many facets of our lives and focus on the things that are not working. This seems to be common with every passing year, so I decided to see how I could curb the amount of time I spent staring into my phone. Even as I write this, I have already been interrupted by the urge to check it.

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Three months ago we proudly launched Serving.Green, our web initiative designed to highlight the impact that the internet has on the environment, and what we can all do to reduce that impact.

Now that the dust has settled a bit, I’d like to say a few words about what we did—from a development standpoint—to make the site as efficient as we could given our design objectives. I’ll be the first to admit that even more could be done, either by sacrificing some parts of the experience or by using techniques of which I’m not yet aware, but below are a few important tips and tricks that we can all do to make our websites more efficient. If you want to reach a digital green Nirvana, this will get you on your path.

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serving green screenshot introduction

The digital information that we ravenously produce and consume seems to be free. According to one source, we are posting 2.5 million images to Instagram every minute. I am no exception; my Twitter consumption has recently peaked for a reason that I will not dispel and that has absolutely nothing to do with the U.S. election.

But, unfortunately, the digital information that we love and share is not free. Yes, there are those pesky privacy issues — the targeted (or “sponsored”) ads on Twitter and websites are sometimes ridiculously relevant to me. But, to my mind, there is an even greater and more long-term cost than the loss of individual privacy.

Data is Powered Mostly by Fossil Fuels

Every time we click, upload a file or download an app, we make use of huge data centres that are mostly powered by dirty energy. According to one journal, the Internet will soon amount to nearly 1 billion tons of CO2 annually or approximately 10% of global electricity usage.

Some projections show that the information and communications sector of our economy is in fact expected to double by 2020! All of that data coming up and down the pipes could be powered by renewable energy if we so desired.

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bonsai tree

Corporate websites are all but dead. Big, bloated, bloviating and boring, the vast majority of sites are already extinct. Most corporate sites today feature reams of outdated copy, meaningless stock images and cluttered content that either repels visitors or endangers their trust. These sites look fussy and frilly with their overly complicated navigation, their illegible text, and their ambiguous copy.

Meanwhile, the web is growing astronomically. Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook alone store more than 1.2 million terabytes of information—information that can be found on the third or thirtieth page of a typical search. And consumers are showing their loyalty to companies that produce the most timely and salacious stories online, making our corporate sites look dull and lifeless.

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onlnie news collage

In February 2016, I gave a presentation for Sustainable UX: Digital Design vs. Climate Change, a conference about how content strategists, designers, developers, managers and site owners are addressing climate change. Thirteen different presenters spoke about their work, which included open source methodologies, creating a green content management system, and building sustainable behaviours and frameworks within teams.

I wrote a blog post called Online News is the Canary in the Coal Mine about my presentation. The talk focused the massive growth of online news and how news sites, because of code, feature and content bloat, are contributing to carbon emissions. Since then, I had the opportunity to connect with a number of other presenters and received great feedback about the talk, which you can watch here on YouTube.

I also had the presentation professionally transcribed so that folks who don’t like video, can’t see video, or have any accessibility issues, can access the content. YouTube has the ability to automatically transcribe content through closed captioning but I would much rather have it available in a blog post.

Here it is.

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