Green UX: Can designers & developers help save (or fuck up) the planet?

Saving or fucking up the planet is not just a matter of consuming less and choosing sustainable products, lowering the thermostat or picking a bicycle over a car. Green UX means you have more power than just your personal choices and behaviours.

Disclaimer: strong language is used in this article.

Other aspects to consider are the companies you choose to work for, the way you do your work and the product you work on.

The companies you choose to work for

Sometimes you cannot be picky, but if you can: be picky. Remember that when you are being interviewed for a job, you are interviewing the company too. Look beyond the steady pay. And truly assessing a company for evil assholing. Which, by the way, is not just about planet-fuckery. Consider all the possible people fuckery, such as human rights, privacy, culture, equality and inclusivity, and politics.

HOW YOU do your work

You didn’t think your MacBook runs on love, did you? The Macbook you use, your monitor, the router, your keyboard and mouse and all the other devices you personally use daily to do your work.

And what about the servers you burden while using your cloud tools, when you do ‘research’ (aka surf the web all day long), and yes, your work-related chats and video calls.

Then the kazillion files (and their file size) you store in the cloud. Among those possible tonnes of duplicates due to sync errors, accidental double storage or the “just in case” duplicates (remember _def _defdef _uberdef _thedeffest). Gigabytes worth of emails because of Gmail’s early claim, “Never delete another email”. That one would never fly nowadays, would it? You cannot be a lazy ‘file management asshole’ anymore! Just because you have Terabytes of storage doesn’t mean you have to fill it (with crap).

Oh, I am especially talking to myself here…

Because it all adds up.

You use more energy than what you pay for through your electric bill. And, not all of that energy is sustainable; there’s some assholery to be found here, perhaps even a lot. Oh… And let’s not start on crypto or NFTs, okay?

The thing you work on itself, the product

So, let’s just say your company is not an asshole. And that you are not an asshole… then how about the thing you work on with your team? The product?

Does it check all the boxes to be considered “not fucking up the planet (too much)”?

The energy consumption of your product and the servers it functions on. Here, performance and accessibility come into play. Lightweight and fast are better. This advocates for designers to know more—or everything—about performance. External libraries for fun interactions or fonts should all be scrutinised for their added value.

Other design decisions contribute to a ‘greener’ product, too. I don’t think we should all move to a ‘dark mode—themed’ design, we also have to consider user experience and accessibility, but I am trying to figure out what else helps, and I am all ears if you have ideas or experience on the matter.

So, yes… it was very gratifying to use all those words. Hope it made you smile, despite the message. Thanks for reading. You are amazing, you know that, right?!

PS. Approximately 0.05 g of CO2 is produced every time someone visits this web page. This website is hosted green by Vimexx and it uses datacenter, read here about their commitment to using renewable energy sources and other measures to help not fuck up the planet too fast. Though it’s all relative…