Every space has a story

World Wide Waste

11 September 2023

I recently finished a book called World Wide Waste by Gerry McGovern. The author helps organizations reduce data waste by designing simpler, lighter, and more environmentally friendly websites and apps.

Thank you, Holger Hellinger, for the recommendation; reading it was indeed worthwhile! 😊

world wide waste book cover

What is Digital waste?

Digital is Physical, it is quite important to understand whatever you download/upload on the web is all impacting our planet Earth. Single byte causes load on the server which generates CO₂. I often do research to benchmark my projects on tools where I get information about my carbon footprints. You can check my previous article "7 ways to make your website more accessible and sustainable" to get some idea about how Digital is playing a role in Sustainability and how it can be improved.

Define Sustainability Goals

It is always good to reflect on the carbon footprints you are leaving behind. Have you done so far, here are some key things you can consider.

Check your phone

Less is more, use your phone only when it is required. Don't just unlock your phone to check if are there any new emails, or tweets. I believe you will get notified when there is any.

Location services are not always required to be enabled, you can even put your phone on airplane mode (maybe while sleeping).

Think twice before downloading new Apps, especially those free apps that have thousands of running ads.

Plug your phone on charging when it goes down to 50%, it will help to keep your battery healthy for a longer period.

Use Dark mode, it can save up to 30% of battery time.

Do you own a website?

HTML and CSS

HTML and CSS define the layout of your webpage, and what colors will be shown to the users. There are n number of frameworks out there in the market of open-source that you can use to make your web development faster. These frameworks and libraries can easily kill your website's performance and bloat with a lot of unnecessary code that you might not need at all.

Learn with Gurpreet is developed using custom CSS and 11ty framework which only helps to pre-render all the pages and I am using Vercel to deploy my application. There is no need to have 100KB of JavaScript to support page transitions user states and whatnot.

There is no harm in using libraries like ReactJS, but make sure you really need it. You can build the solution without it.

Wikipedia estimated that they save 4.3 terabytes a day of data bandwidth for their visitors. With that, they saved having to plant almost 700 trees to deal with the yearly pollution that would have been caused.

Images

Before adding an image to your website, make sure that does something useful which you can't do with text. Every time you add something, plan your next move to delete something so you can maintain the overall code footprints.

There are situations where you surely need images to showcase the information. For Example: AirBnb, if they remove images from their platform they can't survive.

Videos

They are even worse, a 30-second video can easily weigh 3MB, so one second of video would cost 300KB. Whereas, 1000 words of text is about 6KB. Imagine, 1 second of video has as much impact on the environment as 50,000 words of text.

Ten hours of high-definition movies consume more energy than all the English language articles on Wikipedia put together, according to The Shift Project.

Custom Fonts

Most of the time system fonts will fulfill your needs. You don't need custom font unless you own a brand and you need to keep your brand identity the same across all the platforms.

If you really want to use custom fonts then try variable fonts which will help you to generate different variations from a single font file.

How to prevent Digital waste?

There are multiple approaches to address this challenge. To begin, it's not always necessary to keep pace with the latest tech gadgets. For instance, your mobile phone can serve you well for 4-5 years, and the carbon footprint generated during its production is equivalent to what it emits over that time.

Electric vehicles (E-vehicles) don't offer a silver bullet for CO₂ emissions. The battery production process consumes significant resources, and these vehicles need to traverse multiple production units, contributing to pollution.

Prioritize Quality: Opt for items built to last, as the environmental cost of production is high.

Beware of 'Free': Nothing truly comes without a cost; free applications often extract payment in the form of your data.

Avoid Major Brands: Many renowned brands operate at a distance, making it challenging to reduce costs when sourcing products from thousands of kilometers away.

AI Complements, Doesn't Replace Humans: While AI has its merits, it should not completely replace human involvement. Keep your cognitive skills engaged in routine tasks.

Conclusion

We need to gain mastery over digital technology, as failing to do so will result in it controlling us. We must actively shape its use, or it will shape our lives. Ultimately, it's imperative to maintain control over the digital realm.

Link to the book and author's page