Green IO
#19 Worst Unsustainable Designs with Sandy Dähnert and Michael Anderson
May 16, 2023
What would be the three most harmful website design practices ? What are the actions that you can’t take without the client’s approval ? How could you convince your boss or customers on this sustainable journey ? That’s what we discuss in this episode on sustainable design ! Join Gaël Duez to meet : Michael Anderson, Frontend Web Developer at Initiva AB & Founder of Sustainable WWW in Sweden and Sandy Dähnert, experienced designer and host of the Green the Web podcast in Germany. ➡️ Sandy and Michael shared their insights on how to face the challenges regarding creating sustainable websites through the lens of Green IT. ✅ Don't miss this episode if you want to learn practical advice on how to create sustainable websites and how to convince your clients of the importance of sustainability in website design. ❤️ Subscribe, follow, like, ... stay connected the way you want to never miss an episode!
What would be the three most harmful website design practices ? What are the actions that you can’t take without the client’s approval ? How could you convince your boss or customers on this sustainable journey ?

That’s what we discuss in this episode on sustainable design !

Join Gaël Duez to meet : Michael Anderson, Frontend Web Developer at Initiva AB & Founder of Sustainable WWW in Sweden and Sandy Dähnert, experienced designer and host of the Green the Web podcast in Germany.

➡️ Sandy and Michael shared their insights on how to face the challenges regarding creating sustainable websites through the lens of Green IT.

✅ Don't miss this episode if you want to learn practical advice on how to create sustainable websites and how to convince your clients of the importance of sustainability in website design.

❤️ Subscribe, follow, like, ... stay connected the way you want to never miss an episode!

Learn more about our guests and connect

Sandy Dähnert is the founder of Green the Web, and a freelance UX/UI designer with over 10 years of experience. She is also a social and environmental justice activist who advocates for sustainable web design. Sandy works with designers and companies to create ecologically and socially sustainable digital products that have a positive impact on the regeneration of our planet.

Michael Andersen, the founder of Sustainable WWW (World-wide-web) and author of Sustainable Web Design In 20 Lessons, is a problem solver who is passionate about making the internet greener. He has extensive knowledge in both frontend and backend web design and programming, and is committed to incorporating sustainable practices in his work.

📧 You can also send us an email at to share your feedback and suggest future guests or topics.   

Sandy and Michael’s sources and other references mentioned in this episode


Gael: Hello everyone. In this episode, we go to Gutenberg in Sweden to meet Michael Anderson and to Cologne in Germany to meet Sandy Dänhert, and we will speak about sustainable design, but let me start with a confidence. We, and by we, I'm in the tech folks, whether we are developer ops, dev ops, data engineer, etc.

We have it pretty easy when it comes to IT sustainability. Okay. I'll hear you from now screaming from where you are. Are you insane Gael with none of the big cloud providers being fully transparent online, greenhouse gas emissions, the lack of open data and common standards, and the challenge of water and biodiversity where almost everything has to be built and the best practices for green coating not being agreed upon within our industry?

Hello, energy consumption of networks. Oh, I forgot to mention the maze of measurement. Okay, okay. You are right. That's not easy, but still. It's less hard than for product folks, whether you think about product owners, product managers, UX or UI designers, research ops, et cetera. Why? Because most of the time we are aligned with our CFO green ops = finops, and better code usually equals less maintenance and for Web developers better Web performance.

But when you try to implement sustainable design where it all starts and actually where the impact on reducing the environment footprint, either biggest, you are quite often challenged by business. This catchall term refers to sometime sales, marketing, business developers, or guardians of the PNL. Not that they don't care about sustainability.

They do most often quite a lot, but they are focused on the bottom line and fed by -self-proclaimed, per communication, or marketing- gurus with statements like "video is ever seeing, or the messages, the massage, et cetera. In September last year, we had a superb episode with Anne Faubry and Tom Jarrett called Sustainable Design from the Trenches, where they highlighted that this opposition was a myth.

I've been wanting to go back on the front line for a while to see how things have evolved, and I'm happy to do it today with two guests who are tooling designers and developers in digital sustainability. Michael, a seasoned Web developer, is the founder of Sustainablewww, a community actively promoting a more sustainable and environmentally friendly internet with resources, wiki and blog articles.

He has recently published his first book, Sustainable Web Design in 20 Lessons. Sandy is an experienced designer and a fellow podcastor. She has launched last year the Greener Web Podcast and has recently opened comprehensive online courses on Green UX & UI design. On top of it, she's also an active member of the sustainable UX community.

Welcome both of you. Thanks a lot for joining Green IO today!

Sandy: Hi. Very happy to be here.

Michael: I'm happy too. It's an honor.

Gael: Same wise. So I'd like to start with my regular question, I would say to both of you, which is : how did you become interested in sustainability in the first place, and most, maybe specifically the sustainability of our digital sector? Sandy, you want to share some thought on it?

Sandy: Of course. Sure. Well, I can definitely remember it very well and I was already in my private sphere: more sustainable in what I wear, what I buy, and how I behave and stuff like that and I was doing a lot of volunteer work and I was freelancing at an agency at that time, and they had a meetup coming up and they said "why don't you want to talk about Sustainable Web design in this meetup?"

And I was like, sure. And I was thinking only about the social aspects of sustainability in Web design and about accessibility and hypocrisy and like the social justice in design and stuff. And I was going deeper into that. And then at some point I found the topic of ecologically sustainable design. I think probably either Tom Greenwood or Tim Frick, one of the first ones that I stumbled up on.

And I was like "What? Why does no one talk about that or very few people talking about it? Why have I never heard of it before?" and it was truly an "Ah!" moment for me, and I went deep, deep, deep into it. It was around Christmas time and usually I take off of work during Christmas and New Year's Eve and stuff like that, but I absolutely took every single minute to try to find more information about the topic for this meetup and loved it since then.

Gael: Well, that's super interesting. A meetup, an invitation to a meetup was a key.

Sandy: Yeah.

Gael: So just, you just have to invite someone and sometimes it triggers a chain reaction, a very positively chain reaction. That's super cool. But what I also like with what you shared is that, opposite to quite a lot of people I've met, and I have to admit, starting with me, you went the other way on the sustainability journey.

I hear a lot of people, the majority of the people I've met, they start with the environmental consciousness. We need to take care of the planet, take care of human or actually all living forms on the planet. At some point you realize that climate justice is very strongly connected with social justice and that all this question of inclusivity or let's take the example of AI for instance, it might drag some resources, but there are so many ethical questions on top of it that sometimes environmental for print of AI is maybe only the tip of the iceberg.

So we're quite a lot to have shared this road, like starting from the environment toward people, ethics, et cetera. And that's very cool to see that you can also take the road the other way around, starting from an ethical point of view, questioning, I would say, and then going all the way toward environmental without obviously losing the ethical acumen.

Sandy: Yeah.

Gael: So that's pretty cool?

Sandy: No, both is very important definitely for me as well. And I don't know, it just came in this way and I didn't know that green design was a thing and that it's possible to actually be more ecologically sustainable in my UX research, your UX and UI design, and I was like immediately in love with that and felt more of a purpose in my job then.

Gael: Than before.

Sandy: Yeah. Yeah.

Gael: And what about you, Michael? Did you experience a "Aha" moment or was it something more continuous?

Michael: It's a little bit, like you were saying, like most most people start out being conscious about the environment and I don't think that I was any exception of that. I grew up in a small city in Denmark. And as a child I was one of those kids, you know, that was always playing outside with my friends.

We were building stuff in a forest, playing street hockey and never really spending time, you know, in front of the TV or using technology at all. Kind of truly playing outside. I think that my deep connection with the nature kind of comes from there, you know, growing up in a small city, playing in nature, using the forest as your playground.

 I think my connection with nature comes from there. One day, I was sitting in Sweden and I was thinking about like, "how do I combine these two big interests of mine?", you know the nature part and the technology part. Because I wanted a way to help the environment in my way. I was unsure if it was gonna be like, feeding programs or going into renewable energy or something.

But the best way that I could do it was to find a way to combine these. And that's when I kind of stumbled into this book by Tom Greenwood, a Sustainable Web design. It has been mentioned quite a few times on all of these different podcasts. I'm sure there is a reason for it because this is the book that got me into it all.

Like I found this connection between the environment and technology and I would say that's how I got started and became interested in sustainability. From there, it was kind of like a ball rolling, like I had to learn everything from the bottom up. So I invented the D plate over and over and found my own ways of creating sustainable Web design.

And then I realized that people should not have the same struggles that I had. So that's why, for example I founded the organization or foundation, sustainable worldwide Web. 

Gael: So you avoid people to face the same hurdles that you experience starting from almost nothing and that's quite cool because both of you are in a very active sharing mode. Actually that's kind of the first question I wanted to ask you. Rather than listing all the do and don't, I would love both of you to share the top three worst examples of design, harmful design for the environment that you've experienced firsthand.

So maybe Sandy, do you want to share you absolute number one?

Sandy: Yeah, sure. I love that question. My absolute favorite, number one. Well, there are so many worst cases, but, well, one that was definitely striking for me was one client of mine- as I'm a freelancer. 

One client of mine came to me with their website and they had so many different kinds of sliders on their website even just on their homepage, they had, I think three different sliders with imagery so they had up to 10 different slides per slider so the ones that you swipe through.

And so many studies show that sliders, no one really looks at them all of the users barely see the first or the second slide of the whole carousel thing and they had up to 10 different slides per slider and then I think it was three or four sliders on one page, and that's so much data waste of course, but it's just even also really bad UX. 

Just wasted space and the first slider was of course, as we had in for a couple of years at the very, very top of the page to set the mood but there was just imagery, like really just images not even a headline, not even an introduction it was just images to kind of set the mood. 

I got it why they did it. But it was just those 10 different slides in this slider, only imagery. No one knew in the first view port what this website is about. And immediately in the first view port, you have so much data waste and no scaled, no compressed imagery and that was kind of a really fun thing to do because I was like, okay, that's gonna be easy to reduce that carbon emission.

Gael: Yeah, obviously. So Michael, she has the slider loathe of card. That's a big one in her hand. So what do you have on yours?

Michael: Oh, it's hard to find a specific example because there are so many of them that I've been working with over the years but I guess one of the bad ones that I've had recently was a customer that decided to completely redesign their website.

I work in a small company and we focus on custom code. We even made our own CMS system and, and all of these things so everything that we build is custom and we have been working with this client for, I think, almost a decade now or at least my coworkers have. 

So all of the different versions from the website has been piling up over the years, you know, with unused code and elements for the CMS and now they chose to completely redesign their website and it had to go so fast because here in May, they're going to launch it on a big event, but, Instead of redesigning the website and choose to clean up what they already had : like for example we could have built new elements for the new design so that we would have like a clean cut between the different versions then instead they decided to mix between the versions and take whatever, you know, came from like older versions of this website. 

So the end product was that we had a completely new design, but now all of a sudden the code base was mixed between versions going almost 10 years back and now we have no idea like which elements are actually being used. 

We have so much unused code in this project and no way to really figure out how to get rid of it.

Gael: So I believe the website was pretty big.

Michael: The website is pretty big and pretty heavy. It's out in three languages. So three big replicas of the same website.

Gael: Okay, so that's a very good one. So that actually is someone who say, well, let's try to have low maintenance website, or actually high maintenance website, multi versioned, blended website. Yeah. Pretty hard to maintain. I guess, pretty heavy to load. So that's a good one. Sandy, you've got a number two that you'd like to share.

Sandy: Yeah, I bet I won't be able to top that one.

Gael: That's a nightmare.

Sandy: Very heavy. But another example that I'm thinking of is, well, there are several websites that I've seen this with and from clients and not clients of mine that have so many animations and interactions. It's already just too much, way too much and you just come onto the website or application and then you scroll through and you know those websites where content like text and imagery and all kinds of other things are coming in from the sides, from left, from right, from up, from down.

Everything seems to be moving and then you have power X effects and then you have other things that are carousels that are auto moving and all kinds of things that are shifting and shaping.

Then I had this client of mine that had exactly that. 

But that's modern and we want to our users to feel like we are up to date and we are cool and all of those things and I was like, "yeah, I know". We want to have this website to be very modern and up to date but definitely try to limit those animations and flying in texts and flying in icons and illustrations. 

Just calm down a little bit because it's so overwhelming, even for people and for users who don't have cognitive challenges, but for the ones who do have, so to go a little bit into accessibility as well. 

It's really tough to visit websites like that and animations and interactions they need a lot of scripts so this website was definitely so heavy and to just toning that down and calming a website helped tremendously for the environment, but also for users who might have challenges with it.

Gael: With positive business impact at the end? Or could you measure something like conversion rate or I don't know what was the business model of this website?

But could you see also some positive business impact with, actually them wanted to be super modern, but maybe the result was the exact opposite because they were chasing away users or potential customers from their website because it was just too visually noisy, I would say.

Sandy: Absolutely. We actually did usability testings as well, so talking with users or potential users and letting them go through the website and sharing what they feel about the website, what they like, what they don't like, how they use it.

Every single participant in this usability test was like, "well, there's just too many things going on and then all of the times, newsletter banners came in as well", and just things were all over the place and all of the users were like, "No, I would definitely close this website immediately" and once we did the redesign, we actually saw that there was much more of users coming to the page, staying on the page, actually going through the website, and then also converting.

Gael: Yeah, so this is really connected with what I say in the introduction that you can align business goals and sustainability goals. Okay, so nightclub website, let's say. 

That's a pretty big one. Michael, Nightclub website. I love this one. Michael, you've got another one to share?

Michael: It's a client that I've been working with for a few years now. Lately we have been focused a lot on optimizing for SEO and that means that I have finally been able to go through the website and optimize in any way possible, you know, like optimize images style. Like everything I could come across.

And at the end of this project, the client chose to switch out the hero element on the front page and put in a enormous, one and a half minute long video that would have to autoplay in the beginning and with no controls. 

So every single user that arrived on this start page was like forced to watch this one and a half minute long video.

They actually first allowed me to take that away again once they realized that it really hit their SEO.

Gael: I can't imagine this by video instead of this by PowerPoint. That's a website test by video. I love this one as well. Let's not talk about the bandwidth it consumes and the loading time I can imagine and Sandy, what about you? Okay, you've got one last shot.

Sandy: Well, we covered quite a bit of the worst cases already. What I often see as well is the topic of storage.

 I do a lot of UX designs for applications, especially Web applications, business applications, stuff like that. There is so many things that get collected, so much data that could gets collected in so many ways.

I've seen websites with three different tracking tools implemented. Lately, there was one business that approached me. They had I think 1000 block articles on their website and they didn't really want to declutter. I was like, but we have to. No one reads block articles from 10 years ago. No one will do that, except if it's like a really brilliant one and then you should keep it but it was not that case. 

 In business applications, I see so many times that data is collected from different kinds of users and stakeholders in the whole system that we can easily reduce.

There's even laws and regulations for that in terms of storing user data when the contract is already ended and things like that you have to delete: the data and you cannot hoard data forever, especially if it's personal user data. But I've seen so many applications that still keep them, and I always say, yeah, we have to get rid of that and it's even legal requirements that we have to do that and there is a lot of data floating around that we can just reduce immediately and that is often forgotten because it's not visible in the front end, but it's very much in the back end. 

But we still have to do that as well in UX design.

Gael: Absolutely. It reminds me so much about the example that Gerry McGovern gave in his book when he worked with the health organization with all these articles. Some of them having wrong information or, you know, not anymore scientifically based information still being on the website because no one was taking care.

No, there were no data steward or no data editor anymore. That connects a lot. But Sandy, I must admit that three different tools to measure traffic. That's a lot. I mean, I've met countless websites with two because "you know, we had a migration, but we still want to rely on the old ones." The migration was two years ago.

Come on, let it go. But you know, all the specific tool that you've got for a campaign and that the campaign is over for one year, and why do you have this single API call for every page on your website that is completely useless? 

 That's pretty cool. But like we could call it this one data tsunami turning 180 or point of view now.

What I'd love now for both of you is to share one true beautiful example of something that you're super proud of. You know, an inspiring story about a design which had true impact on its environmental footprint.

Sandy: All right. One great example would be a design for a brand from the US who does have home and body care products, like shampoo bars and conditional bars and cleaning soap bars and things like that. So very much rooted in zero waste, wasteless production, ethical organic materials in their products and stuff like that.

And then we got into talking through common friends and she wanted to redo her website and redesign it, wanted to have a evaluation from my side. Then I discovered that this website was more than, or weighted more than eight megabytes, just the homepage and all kinds of different, other pages below were very, very heavy as well. So the carbon emissions of this full website was just through the roof, and she was very much dedicated to zero waste and reducing her impact in general. When I came to her and said, well, this is the fact of your website, she was immediately stunned by it and shocked and was like, "well, oh, I didn't know that it has an impact".

As we probably all know, have faced this conversation at one point.

We went into the full redesign of really every single bit. She even has a new technology, a different content management system as well. So we rebuilt everything with also coming in new colors. So it's a little bit less bright, less white for example so we use an off-white in the background to reduce at least a little bit of energy consumption in devices. We use different colors that are more vibrant and darker colors here and there as well. 

We use a lot less data heavy elements, whether that's imagery or videos. If they are introduced or implemented, they have actually a purpose and are there for better usability and finding the best product possible for the user but also really thinking again about the user journeys, because every single click means more data consumption means more carbon emissions.

So really thinking about what are the best ways to guide a user through this website without having to go back and forth. Plus, there are so many cool assets in there that are about green art delivery, so green shipping or donations made with every single purchase. As well as having little communication snippets of if you buy this shampoo bar, you will reduce six plastic bottles, so you will eliminate six plastic bottles that you would have to buy if you don't use this shampoo bar.

Things like that, like those small changes that also educate the user in a very gentle and loving way of, "yes, this is a good step for you as a user", to also contribute to a positive change for the environment. 

All kinds of little bits and pieces we put into this website that I really love caring more about also the ethical and organic parts of the products. It's even has a choice with at least a couple of products to get it with packaging or without packaging. So even reducing more of materials. 

So there's many, many things in there that I actually love and enjoy with this project.

Gael: It seems that consistency was key here, like your client was ready into this sustainable mindset. 

About just a side question about the colors, because I've read a lot of debate about dark mode versus, you know, not that many scientific studies are backing it, but we do have some, but in specific context and the colors, et cetera.

What is your stand on it?

Sandy: Well, I do think that whatever choice we make, even if it's just a small contribution, I would like to consider it. I know there is not enough studies and like really diverse studies about color and its effect on energy and battery life and consumption. But I see a couple of studies and discussions around that reducing the brightness of colors does help for all edited place at least. So for example, I started to use less bright white as background colors and just sing a little bit of more tone down of white does help at least a little bit. 

If I do it in every single website, and especially in business applications that are used for full days every single day of a week for hundreds of employees and just thinking about how can we scale it up it doesn't all have to be in dark mode, especially that's not accessible for every single person out there. 

But just trying to find more ways of implementing colors in a creative way that might use a little bit less brightness of, at least for OLED displays.

Gael: And what about you, Michael? What will be your most inspiring use case that you'd like to share?

Michael: First of all, I would like to say Sandy, that's a very inspiring customer. You been working with there. I wish I had customers like that. 

I would say I'm more like the person who works behind the curtains because most of the clients that I'm working with is not really that interested in the environment yet I can only push them that far.

So most of the stuff that I do behind the curtains where they don't see things. 

But I guess the story I would like to share was was one of our big clients that we have been working with for many years. They finally decided to optimize their website because they were focusing on SEO and that gave me the opportunity to go in and focus on image optimization.

I was, for example, making it so that if they were adding images into like a card list element where the images would have like, somewhat a fixed size. Then on the back end I would automatically resize these images and convert them to WebP so that even though they were uploading images on like two to three megabyte, it would automatically scale down and create like an optimized version.

I was also doing stuff like removing jQuery and going directly into plain JavaScript, and we were moving the whole website to a green host located in Sweden which is known for having more renewable energy. We were simplifying the code base, the CSS like removing code that was duplicated. So for example, in CSS it's very easy to write styling that is overriding each other and goes again and again from element to element. So these were some of the things that we were focusing on. 

We were also optimizing funds and trying in as many places as possible to put in system funds because that would reduce the data that each user would have to load.

And of course, also do stuff like reduce animations and only use them in places where they would actually improve the understanding of what was happening.

Gael: Well, Michael, you are an amazing guest because that was my next question for both of you. 

What can you do on your own without asking the permission to no one?

You know, that kind of a debate of that hear quite a lot between developers or designers version A being: I cannot do that much if not anything because I don't have the support of my cto, cpo, the guilds, or whoever is in charge or defining how I should code and design things in my organization.

Versus option B being: well, you know, sustainability is a bit like security, you code security by design, we should do sustainability by design and there are a lot of things that we can do just implementing good craftmanship without asking the permission to anyone. 

And obviously you listed quite a lot of examples as you say, according you working behind the curtains that things that you've done without needing your customer's approval. 

So thanks a lot because that that was really something that this fine line, depending on the context is really something that I believe is at the core of the thinking of many people wanting to do things in a more sustainable way and send a" do you want to add something?"

What would be like the top actions, the top ideas that someone should implement as a good craftman without asking the permission to anyone, you know, being in steel mode, I would say?

Sandy: Mm-hmm. Well, first of all, I absolutely agree that we can do so many things already without anyone else noticing that is coming to more green design and ecological sustainability. Well, I always find, or what I struggled with most in the very beginning was that I felt like I can only design very minimalist websites now and applications and online shops, and I have to reduce everything and I cannot implement anything that's beautiful and colorful and with images or anything that's nice.

I absolutely found that's not true at all. I can still be very creative as a designer, even with ecologically sustainable design. I always think that I can even be more creative because I stopped from just thinking about this full width image on top of a page, but actually thought in different ways of how can I make this aesthetically pleasing, user-friendly and green.

So probably the first things that I changed without anyone noticing is the use of images of having even the permission slip to not use any images at all if they don't fit the brand or the purpose or the content of using images differently in a more, yeah, just blurring image edges or cutting off image edges and really using them with a purpose and not just for, "Hey, here's everything that I found in the database of this brand".

The second would probably be the use of text and fonts and all of what comes with that and even designing with fonts and designing with text is a really cool way of reducing data if it eliminates other data, heavy components such as videos or images. Plus definitely a cool thing that I love is what we already talked about colors and of trying to find new ways of selecting different kinds of colors that I haven't thought about before, that they actually do have an impact even though it might be smaller than imagery.

But it can still have so those are things that no one realizes that I'm actually doing them. And just being a good UX designer helps a lot as well, because then you think about the user journeys throughout every single website application or online shop and not complicating digital products is a very huge part in graining the Web because every single click counts so really reducing that and just saying, "Hey, we're just doing good". 

UX is very helpful as well.

Gael: Yeah, absolutely. Perfection is rich when there is nothing less to remove, not to add. And, you know, it remind me the statement that you can do beautiful things in a sustainable way. It really reminds me the work, but I guess, you know, Nick Lewis' work on the low carbon repository, this list of "Yeah, I think it's a great initiative because it highlights that you can design beautiful websites, straight to the point, et cetera, in a very environmentally friendly way". I really love his work and I think it's a great source of inspiration like, you know, especially when you talk with a user or even more important a customer or a client. 

And now going the opposite way, what are the actions that you believe you cannot really take without the support of your boss or some kind of support within your organization?

When and where, do you need help as a designer or a Web developer?

Michael: I guess when dealing with the website design that is like some of the major changes that you can do is definitely something you would have to take up with the client first. 

Like what Sandy mentioned, if you get a permission slip to actually remove images from the website or Web page or if you decide to start out with a dark mode design and let the user switch over to a light mode, like all of these implementations is definitely something that I think you would have to run by the client to hear what they think first.

Gael: And how would you convince them or try to convince them?

Michael: I would definitely do it a bit like some Greenwood test: don't focus so much on the environmental side since most companies focus on the bottom line and the SEO. So try to find like a combination between the two. Of course, it's okay to mention for them that you are doing something great for the environment and all of this, but I don't think that it should be the selling point of it.

I can't remember if it was Tom or if it was Gerry McGovern that once said that all of these sustainable implementation shouldn't even have to be mentioned. It should be something that just comes natural to us as Web designers and developers.

Gael: I recall it was Tom, but sorry Gerry if I got this one wrong.

And Sandy, what would be the actions where you truly believe that this cannot be done on your own?

Sandy: A couple of things cannot be done if you are in a very big corporate environment where there is a huge universe of digital products and you really want to shift all of them. Then you just have to talk with colleagues and with business about actually introducing a more data reduced, but also environmentally positive design throughout all of digital products.

So that's about the sheer amount of digital products that there could be in a corporate environment. But also what I usually do or love to do is designing or creating non-human personas, really talking about environmental stakeholders that we effect in a negative way with our digital products, but also can effect in a positive way.

So really thinking about nature, about certain ecosystems, about animals, about oceans, rivers, and all kinds of things that we have an impact on. I can do that for myself just to center myself more into the environmental aspect in my work. But of course if I do that with the client or with the company, and really all centering on environmental stakeholders and non-human personas does help a lot.

And when I do it and people are open to it, it absolutely affects their way of business and how they do business as well, not just design itself for a digital product, but the whole business. So that is, for example, one thing if I want to, in bigger corporate corporations really want to hone in on the user journeys and reducing click pass and therefore energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Then I can do user journey mappings. Of course, if there's huge digital products, I have to do that with the team as well, and I can do it without mentioning.

Ecological sustainability, so it's just a typical UX method. But I can also introduce sustainability within user journey maps and talk about every single step and their ecological impact throughout a user journey.

So yeah, that's of course things that I then have to discuss with the team or with the client or with the company. So those are the bigger things that need to be done. Other things are the hosting provider. I cannot just choose one and say: "you have to take this one". Or talking about tracking tools, as we talked about before, I can of course recommend something, but it's absolutely their choice of then doing so.

 What I often have as a freelancer, I do a couple of projects for a very long time and a couple of years supporting certain projects, but sometimes it's just a one time thing and you set it up. It's a new design, it's a redesign, everything's good and ecologically sustainable. Cool. But then you visit this website or application a year or two later, and then you see that there's new imagery, for example, on a website that is suddenly, again very big and very heavy, and you're like" no".

And then you write an email about, "Hey, can you compress that?" And still think about the workflow of data reduction and stuff. So you don't have everything in your own hands, especially if the daily workflows just are different for the people you are working with. So you have to sometimes remind people to scale and compress and export in the right format and things like that.

Gael: Now you shared a lot about do/ don't depending the context, flying under the radar or on the other hand, convincing your customers in raising awareness. 

I'd like the three of us to take a step back and very simple question, what is the trend? What did you notice this last years in our industry? 

Are you optimistic about a way towards more sustainability as Chris Adams like to say "a fossil free internet by 2030 or not that much?"

Michael: Over the years, I've seen many trends. Well, but honestly, most of them has been for the worst. What I mean is that like we see more and more of these heavy images videos, unused code power, hungry themes and and such on websites and like whenever I personally have talked to people about this, I've heard comments such as, "it doesn't really matter because, you know, the internet is so fast".

So 200 kilobyte image or a two and a half megabyte image, it doesn't really matter.

I have to go in and explain all of these, things like geographical reach, making the websites faster for even people living in places where they have like slow internet connections, all of these things.

I definitely think like as the internet speed becomes faster, the trend is going for the worse. That is what sustainable website is trying to turn around again, so that we can focus on creating lighter and faster websites that are more accessible, has a greater reach to people just like we used to do back when the internet was very slow, everyone had like a 50 K modem, if you remember those.

Everyone was really focusing on building sustainable websites because an image could take minutes to load. And that's kind of like where I believe that we need to go back again. Instead of focusing on building these animation heavy image, heavy video, heavy websites, we need to focus on making it even faster.

But I believe that we can, and we will. We just need to get this information out to more people. We need to get more people on board building these sustainable solutions. And if we can like spread awareness of how much the internet pollutes, then we will open the eyes for more people and change the culture of what is happening right now.

Gael: Okay, I got it. So it's a battle of technological trend versus ecological awareness, I would say. Okay. Fair point. And I do remember the sound of the 60, not 60, sorry, 56 K bottom. But you know, there is less and less people who know what we talk about when we mention them. That's quite funny. And Sandy, how do you foresee the future and what other trends that you've noticed recently?

Sandy: Well, I'm very hopeful. I've seen in the last years that I have had an eye on this bubble, this niche, that there's more and more designers and developers caring for it and actually talking about it. There's much more discussion, and I know we are still at the very beginning of this topic, and I know that there are so many more things to come, especially when we also talk about UX research and information architecture and stuff like that, that I have high hopes that many more cool things are coming along to help us to design in a greener and more sustainable way.

And I love that there's so many more designers and developers joining and talking about it, because if there's more designers talking about it, then actually companies and brands and clients are seeing that it is even a thing. Before there was just too few people talking about it. Now there's more that it actually attracts companies to think about it and then actually saying, "Hey, we need employees who are specialized in it or clients searching for freelancers who have more ecological sustainability in their spectrum of work." 

 There is a cool way of really broadening this horizon on all different levels, on designers and developers levels, but also in companies and for brands. I see definitely an optimistic outlook, but at the same time, I absolutely agree that we have to fight the new generation of very short form video based content as well as artificial intelligence tools.

 We do have to fight for more ecological sustainability even more, because there's so much data, data heaviness out there in different forms now than it has been in 10 years or 20 years ago. But I am very hopeful that we will get that.

Gael: Me too. This is what I get up every morning.

Michael: I just wanna point out to my comment on it, that it was definitely not supposed to be meant as like a dark, pessimistic version. I am definitely optimistic about it. As I see it, so many people around the world right now don't know that data pollutes. And I think that is the problem right now because we see so many people interested and involved in the environment, you know, trying to remove plastic and all of these acts that leads us in the right direction.

But these people, they have been made aware that we have a climate crisis right now, but so many people still don't know that every single kilobyte or megabyte pollutes because of electricity consumptions and devices being built, like all of these things that both Tom and Gerry McGovern talks about.

Well, what I was trying to explain with my comment is that, we need to talk about the problem and make more people aware. Even people outside of Web design and Web development, like even the regular website owner needs to be aware of this because we all have a responsibility in this.

Like the data we pollute is the data that we need to maintain and remove ones, no matter longer valid.

Gael: Yeah, absolutely. You're right. This is what I'm less shy now reaching out to people on social networks or in conference or whatever, saying: "Hey, by the way, are you aware of climate change, sustainability, et cetera, and I'm like, 

"Oh, you're in the tech industry, you are IT folks or designer? Are you aware of the environmental footprint?" No. Boom. You should listen to the podcast. You should read this book. Or you should join a digital collage workshop, you know, to raise awareness, et cetera. I used to be a bit shyer. Like, I don't want to bother them. They must know. They must know. It's so obvious, but the truth ? It's not. So now I'm straightforward. Actually, some people listening to the show for the very first time might have been connected quite recently to me, with me dropping a few lines saying: "Hey, by the way, you know, this is the podcast, maybe can be useful, use it."

If not, no big deal. I'm not here to sell you anything. But yeah, I welcome all the new listeners, obviously. 

Which leads me to the last question about resources. So obviously you folks created quite very useful resources. I'd like both of you to mention them again. 

And on top of that, what would be all the resources that you would advise people to know more about sustainable design, sustainable Web dev or even sustainability in general?

Michael: Yeah, I wrote this book "sustainable Web Design in 20 Lessons". And did it to give people a chance to get into sustainable Web design without having to invent the DPL over and over. After reading some Greenwood books on sustainable Web design, I was like fully into what the problem was, but I was hungry for solutions, things that I could like take to my website directly to make it better. And since I didn't really find, you know, books out there directly attacking this problem, I decided to create my own from these experience that I build up. So, for example, I talk briefly about what sustainable Web design is and what a carbon footprint is.

But it's not the main focus of the book. The main focus is to give the reader practical courses, actions that they can take to their website right away. So I talk for example about green Web posting CDNs and how they add security layers to your website can reduce the carbon footprint.

I talk about page weight budgets and death of content. You know, our responsibility of the data that we create. I talk about accessibility, which is both meant as accessibility in you know, creating websites that are available to people no matter their ability or geographical reach.

I talk about lightweight and minimalistic design, how colors for example can change the energy consumption. So, for example a blue has a shorter wavelength which makes the energy consumption a little bit bigger compared to a green and a red. It doesn't really make a huge difference like it does switching from a gray Web posting to green Web posting.

But after reading the book Atomic Habits, I figured out that if we take just 1% and we improve that again and again and again, we will eventually have the best version of the product. And that's what I'm trying to do with this. I'm finding all of these small things and putting them into lessons that both Web designer, developer, or even like the non-tech savvy website owner can use.

Funny story, right after writing this book, I gave it to my mom. And she is not into technology at all. Like, she's that type of person who ask my dad every time that she needs to do something on her phone or when the TV is tricky to use. And after reading the book, she came to me and she said, now I finally understand what you're doing.

And you actually wrote it in a language that is relatively easy to understand, even for someone like me who's not into technology. And that's what I wanted to do.

Gael: That, that's a very big compliment.

Michael: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I I was very happy when she said that, because that is exactly what I was trying to do, like create a book that would be easy to consume for everyone, cuz to create a sustainable worldwide Web, we have to include everyone, even the website owners that does not get help from Web designers and Web developers.

Gael: And do you have any other resources, one or two that you'd like to share with the audience?

Michael: Yeah. I actually have three. I will definitely recommend people to read some Greenwood's book sustainable Web Design. It gave me so much knowledge about sustainable Web design and what the problem is. So for everyone who wants to get into it, it's a really, really good starter book. I'll also recommend worldwide Waste from Gerry McGovern.

That gives you really, really good insight into how much everything pollutes. Like just to pick an example, you know, that images pollutes more than words. You normally say that a picture says more than 1000 words, but in reality, when you're dealing with Web design, you can describe things in so greater details just by using words. As I recall it, I remember Gerry McGovern mentioning that about 150,000 words is equal to the size of one image, if I'm not totally wrong.

And that should kind of put things into perspective for you, that sometimes words might be better ways to describe things. The last resource that I want to recommend is the Ethical Designed Handbook by Trine Falbe. That was definitely also a great book for me to read because instead of only focusing on the environment and optimization, you also focus on the user journey.

Like Web websites has to be ethical, honest and focus on the best of users. Instead of focusing only on creating a sale by scarcity or whatever tricks in the book that comes up and is used today.

Gael: Well, thanks a lot, Michael. And yeah, both Tom and Gerry's books are very often mentioned on the show, but it's always a pleasure to put them in the show notes and to have more people sharing and understanding things. Thanks. So thanks a lot for that. Sandy, do you want to add other resources?

Sandy: Yeah, sure. Well, I definitely recommend the ones that Michael said, and usually I also mention this podcast as a resource to check out. Definitely always recommended as well as Michael's book. I was honored to actually happen to read it already. I'm almost through it. It's really cool to read and a lot of amazing and interesting things in there that I can still learn about, especially the technical parts because I'm not a developer. So well done, Michael.

I definitely would recommend my podcast as well. I love doing that, it's also about green and social sustainability.

In, especially UX and UI design. So I'm more into that side of like user research and design rather than development, what you both do brilliantly and I really like the sentence that Michael mentioned earlier about hungry for solutions, which is why I do or share a lot of solutions and things for others to have an easier entrance into the topic of it.

So I do have on my website also linked templates, for example, for non-human personas or for user journey mappings. So it's easier to not just think about, "okay, I could do that, but how could I do that?" But actually just using it for free. So there's templates on my website for things like that. There is even a block as well. 

As you mentioned in the very beginning, I recently, two weeks ago I launched a course about an online course about green UX and UI design for others to have an easier entrance to not just guess and read blog posts through like hundreds of blog posts in a year, and then still not knowing what to actually do in what order and what there can be done in every single design process. 

So in the course it's about user research, environmental stakeholder research, the information architecture, the UI design, as well as the development handoff. So there's all kinds of things throughout a typical design process for a UX and UI designers. 

To step out of the guest work and to actually get into the real work and what I absolutely included as well what can we do as designers ourselves, without anyone noticing, but also what are options for us, especially in greening e-commerce, raising awareness and finding solutions that we need to have business approval with it as well. 

Those are out there for you to check out if anyone is interested in that. Well, I have a full resource recommendation list on my website and the ones Michael mentioned before are on that as well even also the Ethical Design Handbook, I really love that one as well.

I'm very much into communities as I know Gael you're as well. For example, the climate action tech community, the sustainable UX community of feeling like there's actually other people who care about the same things as I do, and to not feel lost or to not feel alone of I'm just one single person that does something about it, but there's actually others and I can actually ask them about feedback or about like, just answers to questions that I have and especially if I or you don't have people around you that are in that mindset already, it helps tremendously. So I'd definitely check communities out as well.

Gael: Thanks a lot, Sandy, for sharing all these resources and especially mentioning the climate action tech community. My little darling, or actually not that little darling community not that little community because several thousands of techies are into this one. 

And once again, a big thank you to both of you. That was great to have you on the show, sharing all those insights, playing the games of the worst cases when it comes to website designs, but also all those very practical tips. 

So thanks a lot for joining and I hope that both your podcast and your book and your courses and all the great materials that you give away will be very successful in that it will help to raise awareness among many, many people around the world.

So thanks a lot.

Sandy: Thank you so much for inviting us. It was really cool. Love it.

Michael: Thank you very much. It has been a wonderful time. 

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