Sustainable digital design: trends and real cases

According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), sustainable design is defined as “the design of products, processes and systems that reduce environmental and social impact throughout the entire life cycle of the product“. The growing awareness about caring for the planet has meant that sustainable design is more important for companies, thus encouraging the search for solutions that are more respectful of the environment.

However, did you know that 4% of global carbon emissions come from digital pollution and that a website produces 6.8 grams of CO2 every visit? This is because the internet works through a complex network of cables and servers, which operate 24/7, using a large amount of energy. Every email or WhatsApp sent, or every TV series streamed, requires electricity in order to transmit data to different devices.

Below, we will outline some trends in sustainability and digital design and we will analyse their application in some real cases where it is possible to reduce the environmental impact while maintaining a good user experience.

Trends in sustainable digital design

Sustainable measures are constantly evolving, and increasingly influence both the relationship of users with products and the production decisions made by companies.

Some of the current trends are:

  • Use of renewable energy sources to maintain servers and data centres.
  • Design of products and digital experiences with a longer use life, encouraging updates instead of replacements.
  • Manufacture of hardware with better energy efficiency.
  • Development of software with less environmental impact (“green software”) and optimization of compression algorithms.
  • Creation of digital environments that limit non-essential flows and processes, which reduce the necessary browsing time and improve user experience.
  • Reduction of the size (or weight) of web pages through actions such as reducing the size of images, limiting the use of animations, videos and plugins or the use of fonts optimized for the web.

Case 1: Microsoft and its Green Data Centre

The multinational software company Microsoft has a server located on the Laramie River in the United States, where it uses the kinetic force of water to maintain its cloud data infrastructure and provide energy to more than 1,200 homes each year.

This power plant is run entirely on renewable energy, which is why it is considered a Green Data Centre. It is a large industrial warehouse where all the cooling, ventilation and lighting systems run on clean energy. These spaces also reduce waste and implement reuse and recycling processes.

A Green Data Centre is a facility that houses the company’s servers, which are run on renewable energy.
Source: Data4

Linux and energy optimization

Linux is an open source operating system. It is an alternative to environments such as Windows or MacOS and offers greater efficiency in energy consumption for devices. To do this, Linux offers numerous customization and configuration options. Users can adjust the frequency of the processor, disable features they are not using, and adjust the screen brightness for each moment or activity. Its kernel also automatically suspends hardware components that aren’t in use, while the programs you do use are designed to be lightweight and efficient.

Linux offers an increasingly attractive alternative to its users, partly thanks to its wide variety of configuration options.
Source: Hipertextual

Case 3: Lowww and the web directory

There are many parameters that affect the energy requirements and the CO2 emissions generated by a web page. The platform Lowww calculates all of them, recording the weight of the HTTP file and other relevant data, such as the amount of information transferred to users.

The result is a large directory of web environments, classified through a sustainability index and the grams of carbon dioxide that each visit causes. This resource allows you to investigate a wide variety of sites, as well as learn about good practices to achieve a digital design that is more respectful of the planet.

Knowing how other sustainable pages work can help us improve the energy efficiency and usability of our website.
Source: Lowww

If you want to adapt your business to sustainable digital design and new trends, we at GammaUX can help steer you in the right direction. Our team of specialists works daily with companies from multiple sectors to achieve products and services that are more respectful of the planet. Get in touch!