Sustainability and Tech and Us · Jens Oliver Meiert

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Sustainability and

Tech
ORG

and Us

I’m about to finish I just finished

Gerry McGovern
PERSON

’s excellent book,

World Wide Waste
WORK_OF_ART

. The book is about the physicality of digital, about how we create and contribute to mind-boggling waste—and what we, as web professionals, can do.

Some of this you’ll know and find easy to relate to, like the following:

[…] from the code to the content, everything about Web design has become super-bloated and super-polluting. Consider that if a typical webpage that weighs

4 MB
QUANTITY

is downloaded

600,000
CARDINAL

times,

one
CARDINAL

tree will need to be planted in order to deal with the resulting pollution.

What I find troubling is how in tech, we’re truly exceptionally bad at sustainability.

We’re part of the problem, of driving this planet against a wall (from which we may not recover).

I want to finish the book before investing and commenting more on the topic. However, while those of us who focus on sustainability, performance, as well as code minimalism are already contributing to improvements, we can all do more.

Some Things We Can Do (More Of)

Let’s use performance as a segue for sustainability, for the smaller our sites, the less energy and therefore resources they need:

If you want to help save the planet, reduce digital weight. Clean up your website. Before you add an image, make sure that it does something useful and it’s the most optimized image possible. Every time you add code, make sure it does something useful and it’s the leanest code possible. Always be on the lookout for waste images, waste code, waste content. Get into the habit of removing something every time you add something.

Accordingly, let’s tailor and tree-shake and minify and compress the hell out of things.

Contributing to better performance and therefore sustainability, let’s also value minimalism more (I’ve written about minimal web development, and my Upgrade Your HTML book series—note the latest edition—is all about minimal HTML).

Let’s squeeze out all the code, starting with—speaking of minimal HTML—omitting optional markup.

Let’s clean up after ourselves. Let’s delete unnecessary code, assets, and content.

Let’s push back on “fire and forget.”

Let’s also re-evaluate our understanding of professionalism; let’s make sustainability part of what makes a professional web developer.

Let’s make sustainability part of our profiles—like accessibility or, I wish, conformance.

Let’s aim for a different kind of experience:

Before you do anything in digital, think about its impact on the environment. Think about the

Earth
LOC

Experience, not just the user or customer experience. Focus on reducing the weight of your digital footprint.

❧ It isn’t new that we seem to choose to drive into walls. But we can also always make different choices.

As web professionals, we can choose differently about how wasteful we want us and our work to be.

I’m writing this in a hurry, and it will be amazing—and so important—for us all to talk more, within and without our field.

About Me

I’m

Jens
PERSON

, and I’m an engineering lead and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like

Google
ORG

, I’m close to W3C and

WHATWG
PERSON

, and I write and review books for

O’Reilly
ORG

and

Frontend Dogma
ORG

. I love trying things, not only in web development, but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you have a question or suggestion about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message. Thank you!