Creating for the web or mobile device can provide many opportunities to connect, educate, and mobilize. However, it is important to remember that just because you aren’t using paper, that UI/UX work does still have a negative environmental and social impact. Server farms, for example, that host our online creations and data, can use up to 100 billion KwH of energy (NRDC).
Also, the computers and other electronics utilized in the digital world become an environmental and human health hazard at the end of their lifecycles. However, it is important to point out that this same problem exists in the print design world. We use large and small-scale printers, laptops, scanners, digital cameras, etc. that also end up in the landfill and exported for dangerous disassembly overseas. It’s important when deciding between digital versus print to look at the entire system in which your piece will live and die. This is a project for our engineering and industrial design colleagues to tackle with us.
Practical Strategies to Lower Your Impact
- Include a specially formatted print-friendly option designed to minimize paper waste for every web page created (css styles make this easy).
Use Renewable Energy
- Host at a company that powers their facilities with renewable energy or offsets its non-renewable energy use by donating directly to renewable energy projects, or by purchasing certified carbon offsets through a legitimate program (such as Green-e).
- Design on Energy-Star-rated equipment (visit US EPA’s Energy Star program).
- Consider including an environmental-awareness component, or message about the environmental impact of the project.