⛺️ WordFest Live - The Festival of WordPress Catch Up Now
The festival of WordPress
March 4th 2022
Brought to you by

How Can We Make Digital Technology More Sustainable?

Session overview

What to expect:

Did you know that the internet is thought to produce about the same carbon emissions as the aviation industry’s fuel consumption? And if the internet was a country it would be the seventh biggest polluter in the world. It’s shocking, isn’t it!? The cloud isn’t as fluffy and harmless as we’re led to believe…

Digital technologies provide wonderful opportunities to reach and engage others, often in ways that aren’t possible using offline methods. But digital does have significant hidden costs, which many in the tech industry aren’t conscious of.

In this talk, we’ll discuss how digital technologies cause pollution and how technologists can take action to improve the sustainability of the tech they build, manage and use. We’ll also go beyond digital carbon emissions and get into some of the deeper issues around sustainability and climate justice.

Edit Transcript

Hannah Smith – How can we make digital technology more sustainable?

Yoast: Do you know the Yoast SEO plugin? They’re red, orange, and green feedback bullets that help you optimize your posts for the web. It runs on millions of websites. We tried to make SEO understandable and accessible to everyone.

Bluehost: Who says building an online store has to be hard with Bluehost website builder. It’s more than just easy. It’s tell us your thing in smart AI. We’ll take it from there. Easy it’s WooCommerce friendly. So you can add one of these or swap this for that. It’s set up shop in minutes with unlimited products easy. Whether you sell boots, books or bowls, it’s create an online store with Bluehost easy. Build beyond boundaries with Bluehost.

Nexcess: Oh, great. My website crashed again. I give up. Don’t give up on your dreams, Jordan. Who are you? It’s me. You from the future. Your professional website is not out of reach. You just need Nexcess with Nexcess managed hosting you get lightening fast load times built-in performance monitoring and updates, and always awesome support 24 7 365, for all your projects. Whoa. Yeah.

Weglot: Discover Weglot the simple translation solution for your website. All you have to do is add Weglot to your website, select the languages that you need, and that’s it. Your website is now available in multiple languages.

Kim Coleman: We’re back. Welcome back everyone. I hope you had fun in the community tent. I hope you want some cool stuff. Um, I’m excited to introduce our next speaker, Hannah Smith, presenting how can we make digital technology more sustainable.

Hannah is a freelance WordPress developer from the Southwest of the UK with a background in computer science. Before freelance life, amongst other things. She honed her management skills at the environment agency where she managed large business change projects. She’s now co-founder of green tech Southwest founder of the hashtag let’s green the web campaign run with climateaction.tech and a green web foundation fellow. Aside from helping other technologists take action on climate change, she also likes dogs, plants, and snow sports.

Hannah Smith: Fantastic. Hello, Kim and Lindsey. Hello, everyone watching.

Lindsey Miller: Welcome Hannah.

Hannah Smith: Thank you. All right. Okay. I have the screens. I have a few screens in front of me here. I can see what’s going on in my left eye. My slides are in front of me, so let’s get going. I’m just going to check my clicker works and then let’s get talking about today’s topic.

Okay. Great. Well, thank you to WordFest, um, for accepting this talk and thank you so much to all of you that are here, um, in difficult times. Um, it’s really nice to know that you have the head space to come along and learn about how we can make digital technology more sustainable.

Let me introduce myself. I’m already had a very nice introduction so I guess I don’t need to say an awful lot more. Um, I live in bris. Uh, I live in the Southwest. I’m a freelancer who works with WordPress and I liked dogs. So if you’re not into digital tech, you can always talk to me about dogs or plants. That’s absolutely fine. I run a meetup group in the Southwest called Greentech Southwest.

Um, I also used to run the Bristol WordPress meetup. Um, and as mentioned, I’m a fellow with the green web foundation too. And co-organizer of, uh, uh, sorry, co-founder of an, uh, an online campaign we did on Twitter called let’s green the web run with climateaction.Tech.

So today’s talk. I’m just going to reset my timer. There we go. So today’s talk. What am I going to cover? Well, the first thing I’m going to talk about with you all is I’m going to give you an overview of what sustainability is. We’ve all got probably different ideas of what that word means. So I’m going to talk about that. I’m going to talk a little bit about areas we can focus our efforts on, particularly for those of us working in the system with digital technologies. And all throughout the talk. My plan is to litter um, talk with approaches and ideas that you might find useful to investigate.

I think when you talk about what something is, it’s useful to talk about what it isn’t. So let’s just get that bit out of the way straight away. So what this talk isn’t I’m not hating on digital tape, WordPress or the internet. They bring some significant possibilities and solutions, um, but they do have an environmental impact. So we’re going to talk about that.

Um, this is not a masterclass on the whole topic. We’ve got half an hour. Um, I think you could literally, um, you know, run a whole week’s worth of content on, on what we’re talking about today.

So the idea with my talk is to give you a food for thought introduction to kind of get some conversation started and maybe to get your brain whirring in a different direction that perhaps it hasn’t worked in before. And ultimately my goal today is to empower you with some knowledge that you might take away, uh, you might choose to, to use, um, or talk to other people about.

Okay, so that’s the intro let’s get to talking about how do we define sustainability.

Um, so this is how I tend to think of sustainability. It’s meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

So it’s about not taking more today than those in the future, uh, can sustain it. It’s about taking our fair shares. Um, and there’s three pillars, uh, with sustainability. Um,

So I tend to think about these three sort of facets, which all interconnect and you definitely can’t sort of draw these very clear, fine lines between them all. Um, but you can broadly think about sustainability in three buckets. If you like. The environmental considerations, economic considerations and social considerations. So that’s three areas to think of. And I think the first thing that I really wants to get across to you in this talk is if you’re here wanting to learn about sustainability,

Yeah, as I say, the first thing to take away is that sustainability is way more than just carbon emissions. So a lot of people come to one thing to make things more sustainable or wanting to tackle climate change. And they’re very focused on carbon emissions and that is a fantastic starting point, but I think it’s really important for us to all understand that real sustainability is going to be work across those three sectors. So carbon emissions falls into environmental, but we’ve got economic and social to think about as well.

So that’s my first tip for you from today’s talk is sustainability is a lot more than just thinking about carbon emission reductions.

Okay. What I’m going to do for the rest of this talk is get into each of those three pillars and talk about how those relate to digital technologies.

So let’s start off with environmental pillar. Um, now I tend to think of this pillar as natural resources. And, uh, many, many of you may be aware of this already. Many of you may not know this already, but digital tech does actually use a lot of natural resources. First of all, we actually have to power our digital tech and a lot of that power still comes from fossil fuels. And we’ll talk about that a little bit more in a second.

We also have a lot of rare raw materials in our digital tech, for example, cobalt and lithium. Um, both of which do used in mobile phones. Lithium is a very important component in battery.

Digital tech is also using an increasing amount of land. Now you might be wondering what, where where’s that land coming from? Well, data centers are taking up an increasing amount of land land that could be used for other things, of course, and water as well. A significant amount of water is used in the production of our digital technology and also use for example, for cooling, um, power, um, uh, data centers.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the ways that digital technologies use natural resources, but I wanted just to put across to you that digital tech uses more than just energy. There are some other things that digital tech also consumes as well.

Now, one of the things that we need to bear in mind is that the misuse of resources leads to interconnected ecological problems. You can see on this diagram that there are nine points in this circle. Now these nine points come from, um, a bunch of academics at the Stockholm resilience center and they are the ecological boundaries defined by them. And these slides will be made available to you after the talk. There’s links all throughout these slides. Um, and you can see at the bottom of this slide, there is a link to the Stockholm resilience center.

Um, The Stockholm resilience center have defined these nine ecological services or nine ecological boundaries within which our environments, uh, works.

So can you see in the top right there that we’ve got kind of, I’m pointing, obviously you, you can’t see what I’m pointing at. Uh, still not got the hang of online talks, um, after two years. Um, so in the, in the sort of what, just, I don’t know, like five past 12 position, you can see climate change. So climate change is typically where the consideration of climate emission falls in, but we have these eight other points as well, which are all types of ecological problems and they’re all ecological problems that the earth is suffering with at the moment.

So again, just coming back to that point, that sustainability is a lot more than just thinking about the climate change ecological problem that’s hot on everybody’s lips at the moment. There are other things to consider.

And it’s an ecosystem. It’s complicated. So an issue in one area will have knock-on effects in others as well. So this is why we need to take a holistic picture and a holistic view of the intergalactic interconnected, ecological problems that exist.

Um, so this is, I think this is a really cool diagram. I’m really into diagrams. So maybe this will resonate with some of you watching, maybe not all of you. Um, but this is taken again from the Stockholm resilience. And what they’ve done here is they have rated the severity of these ecological systems and the sort of taller and more orange, the, um, the, the segment that the more we’re we’re in trouble.

So novel entities, this is academic speak. It basically means kind of like plastics and chemicals that are in our ecosystem that shouldn’t really be there. So you can see, again, that one sort of it’s five past 12, or sort of between 12 and two that says novel entities is, is very extreme. We’re in massive trouble there.

Interestingly enough, climate change, which is just over to the left, um, is orange. So we. Operating outside of the safe space. And you’re also noticed there, maybe you can see the writing, it says increasing risk. And for any of you that are following climate change news, you might be aware of the recent IPC report that came out this week that, um, painted a rather scary picture as far as climate change is concerned. Um, so I wonder whether the Stockholm resilience center might revise where that climate change market is in light of.

Anyway, I just wanted to paint a sort of picture for you of a wider context of what’s going on. And I really strongly recommend if you’re into this kind of stuff, go and have a look at the work that they’re doing there, it’s fantastic.

But anyway, I want to sort of come back to the world of digital tech and anchor some points for you that that will be relevant to you. Um, so let’s talk about energy and greenhouse gas emissions, which includes CO2. And as I mentioned already, this is a great starting point. So if you’re new to considering tech sustainability and new to considering your place within tech sustainability, this is a great place to begin your journey, and we’ve all got to start somewhere.

So what I don’t want this talk to do is to sort of almost paralyze you with the enormity of everything. Just be aware of the wider context and hone in and start your journey. And just consider it as entering one part of one of those nine boundaries. So w we’re talking climate change.

Oh, and it’s the point here that it’s worth me just mentioning. I did talk about greenhouse gas emissions. So the sub point here is that greenhouse gas emissions do include carbon dioxide, but there are some other, um, types of gases as well that are contributing to climate change. You’ve probably heard about methane, but there’s also nitrous oxide and a couple of others, which are very long words. And I’m not going to try and say right now, but you can read those at the bottom of the slide.

So let’s talk about digital services. I mentioned already that digital tech uses natural resources and does use a lot of energy. And that energy creates greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s estimated that ICT, which is another way of saying digital services. ICT stands for information communication technologies. If you haven’t heard that term before, it’s estimated that it creates between 1.2 and 3.9% of greenhouse gas emissions. So you might be sitting there thinking I’ve really no idea if that’s a lot or if that’s not, not a, not a lot. So here’s some ways to think about it, and maybe some ways you may have already seen this talked about.

So we can think about the greenhouse gas emissions arising from tech, as bigger than aviation. Now, this is often talked about, and it is a sort of attention grabbing fact, but I would say, please do consider how many people have access to flying. It’s about 20% of the global population versus have access to the internet and digital services, which is about 60% and also the benefits of each. So I might argue that digital tech actually holds a lot more benefits for people than perhaps taking a flight. So just to put that into context, but it is still bigger than aviation. And if ICT or the digital services was a country, it would be the seventh biggest polluter in the world. So again, just putting that into context for you.

Um, I mentioned already. I love diagrams. Um, so I’ve popped this in very briefly. We’re not going to spend long on it. Um, this comes from a fantastic website called the, our world in data and it’s just there to show you. Good. What sectors are creating greenhouse gas emissions. Now you won’t see digital tech or ICT or the internet on this diagram, but you will see aviation and aviation is bottom right. So it’s about what like five o’clock. And you’ll see that that says 1.9%, but you can see the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions are being caused by the creation and use of energy. Agriculture and forestry and land use is about 18%. So anyway, just again, to put things into context.

Now the other thing that we should be aware of with digital tech is that demand and usage for ICT is on the up. At the moment we’ve only got 60% of the world who really have access to digital services. So there’s that other 40% of the world hopefully are able to join the rest of us. We’re going to see demand and usage go up and we’re going to see it go up for all sorts of other reasons as we invent new things, um, and as we’re using digital services more in our lives,

So again, I just want to put that growth into some context for you. Let’s just say for argument’s sake, the internet was built in about 1987, like it’s roughly around that time. Um, you can see that roughly then the, the amount of global IP traffic was two terabytes hop on 40 years later to 2017. And it’s 1.1 zettabyte. If you’re wondering how bit a zettabyte is that a boat is it’s that big. It’s got that many zeros at the end of it. Um, so it’s 21 zeros at the end of it. So it’s rather large. We’re a terabytes only got 12. And the really mad thing is that when this report was written, um, it was predicted to grow again in a five-year period to 4.8 zettabytes per year of, of data flying around the internet.

Going to take a quick drink.

So that’s quite a lot. Let’s move on then. Lots to talk to you about, hang on. I’m going to have a little cough. Sorry, not COVID, but I am just getting over a nasty cold.

Okay. So I’m going to very briefly talk to you about how you might calculate the CO2 emissions of a website that you have. Now I’m going to do this briefly. And the idea of this part of the talk is to give you a flavor and to send you off, uh, to find some resources that you, you can look up.

Oh, dear. I was worried I might get a bit of a tickle in my throat.

Okay. Let’s talk about the key considerations then. If you’re trying to calculate digital carbon emissions, there are three things for you to consider. First of all, what device are you using or what device is your user using? Where does your energy come from and how much data is being sent to the user or being transferred, EG per page load.

So let’s talk a little bit about devices. What devices are you using? Well, as we’ve mentioned already, digital tech uses quite a lot of rare earth materials. And I mentioned to you cobalt and lithium. And one way to think about it is that manufacturing any device literally cost the earth it’s has to be made of something. And the majority of total pollution from digital devices actually comes from manufacture, not use, which is still a very surprising fact for me, but it’s been corroborated by a number of different places and smartphones are the worst.

Um, and these rare raw materials, which are hard to find and very destructive to find and extract and do affect the communities from which these things are being extracted are also very hard to recycle currently.

So this is a cool report. Uh, the energy and carbon footprint of the global ICT and E and M sectors catchy title. Um, it was written in 2018. Um, and I just picked out a nice graphic from there, which shows you. Um, for some of the main devices that are manufactured, the gray bar is telling you basically how much CO2 is embodied in the manufacturer of that device versus how much CO2 is, is, is admitted, when uh, the device used or how much energy is, is used over the life of that device.

So you can see TVs. Okay. TVs do actually generate a lot of pollution when they’re created. And if you accept that it’s kept for seven years, you can see that the energy use is really, really high. So big, big screens, basically guzzle a lot of energy to run.

Let’s hop over to the right-hand side of that diagram. Let’s have a look at smartphones. So a smartphone generally will take a lot less to manufacture, I think we’re looking at what, 70 odd kilograms. And if you keep it for three years, the energy consumption is. Um, is much lower. So something that we can take away from this is try and use your phone for perhaps shopping or watching content or, or doing things on rather than a very big screen, because you can see that you’d be using a significant, less amount of energy.

Something else that I hope we could take away from looking at a diagram like this is how important it is to extend the life of any device that you are lucky enough to come into the ownership of. The longer that you are able to keep that device the less, um, the longer you can make the, the carbon or the, the carbon that went into manufacturing the device, the longer you can make that work for.

So for example, what I’m talking about is not switch, not replacing your phone often, not replacing your laptop often.

So how can we reframe how we value our devices? Can we reframe to think about these devices as precious and not just disposable? And I encourage you to do that. Um, I encourage you to think about, do you really need to upgrade to the latest device or is it just effective marketing making you think you need something faster and bigger and, and flashy.

So, if you’re thinking about digital sustainability, something you can do is just hold on to your devices for longer. It’s actually a really easy thing, a really easy action to do, and it will save you money. So what’s not to love hate?

Um, if perhaps your phone does break or it does need, uh, to be a bit beefier, maybe you could repair or upgrade it. Now I know that that’s a little tricky with phones, but that’s becoming more easy across a whole suite of electronics. Um, and I encourage you to have a look at the right to repair movement. Could you get a refurbed or secondhand device? And it is now possible, increasingly possible to buy ethically made devices.

Now, these ethically made devices do typically cost a lot more, but the idea is that you hold onto them for a lot time, longer time. So Fairphone, I wonder how many of you here have heard of Fairphone? Um, a mobile phone manufacturer. So, this is a tweet from someone I hold in very high esteem, a lady called Kate Raworth, um, who is the originator of doughnut economics, which we’re going to touch on briefly in, in a few slides time. Um, and once this tweet, this tweet is getting on a bit now actually is from 2020. Um, but she was talking about how fair phones are made, the way that phones should be made. Um, they’re made to be repairable upgradable, and there the resources that are put into them come from ethical sources. So yeah, we do end up playing, paying a little bit more for these things, but that reflects perhaps the true cost to society.

I’m just going to talk very briefly about e-waste as well. So I mentioned in a previous slide that it can be quite tough to recycle, um, uh, that the resources that go in. Um, and so what happens is that we just I’m sure many of you will find that the same, you don’t know what to do with your electronic waste cables or laptops or phones, and we throw it away. And 50 million tons of e-waste is being produced each year. And from 2016, that UN estimated that only 20% of that waste is actually recycled. Um, and the EU parliament estimates that obsolete cables generate over 51,000 tons of e-waste per year. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a drawer of cables I don’t know what to do with.

And the key question to consider is where does our e-waste end up and who is ultimately paying for the disposal of that e-waste? Now this is a photo from an e-waste recycling facility in Ghana. It’s called ACBL blushy. It’s now been closed down. And if you’re interested in climate justice this is a fascinating case study because on the one hand You could argue that recycling facilities such as this whilst perhaps not the most technology technologically advanced do have some social good because they’re giving people jobs, they’re creating a circular economy, but on the one hand, on the other hand is unregulated and unsafe. Um, so there’s all sorts of interesting issues here. And I’ve put a few links in the bottom of these, this slide. Um, is a fantastic reporter based in Africa who has written some incredibly insightful reporting about ag Bob blushy and, um, raising the voices of the people that, that live and exist on that site. Um, as I say, it’s complicated situation. Worth looking into anyway,

I’m going to move on because I’ve got tons of slides and time is ticking.

So let’s talk briefly about that second point where your energy comes from. So worldwide 63% of the world’s electricity came from fossil fuels in 2019. So as a global society, we are still burning fossil fuels far too readily. But we should also be aware that renewable energy is not a panacea, so creating renewable energy still requires natural resources and there’s still an issue of what to do with the solar panels and wind turbines when they reach their end of life. But it is less than fossil fuels. So it’s the right direction to transition to.

However we should be looking to reduce the overall overall amount of energy needed by addressing consumption and efficiency issues. And then once we’ve reduced the amount of energy possible, we want to look for the energy with the lowest impact, which at this time is renewable energy.

This is a cool fact. Apparently 80% is the amounts if everyone in the ICT sector used renewable energy, we could reduce the car, the sector’s footprint by 80%. So that is a massive, massive, uh, motivator to, um, Switch to renewable energy.

So here we go. Here’s something that all of us listening to this talk, all of our colleagues can do is look for hosting that runs on renewable energy. It makes a big difference. And the green web foundation, which I do a lot of work with is a fantastic resource for understanding what energy sources, hosts, and servers are using. And we’ve got plans to really expand that data set and provide a lot more information and cover a lot more than hosts and servers so watch this space.

Another thing, if you’re sort of a bit more technical, perhaps you are choosing a data center to work with, um, also consider the PUE, which is the power usage effectiveness. And that basically determines how much and how energy efficient the data center is. So if it’s 1.2, it’s considered very efficient.

So just a little bit for you to think about there. I’m going to move on to talk about how much data are you sending. So there’s a third one.

So data transfer equals energy consumption. So we, if, well, I say we as developers, I’m sure that many of you listening, won’t be developers you’ll have other roles as well, but for those of us who are developers, something that we can do is reduce the amount of stuff, loading every single time a page, um, is, um, is, is requested. So this is yet another reason to care ever so greatly about web performance and optimization.

We know we should care about this stuff, but sometimes it’s easy not to, especially if you’re lucky enough to live in a Western country with a fast broadband connection, but not only should we care about making services accessible. We also have a climate change reason. The more efficient our tech is the less energy it uses. And the better that is for the planet. And the sustainable web design has a great write-up about this. And I’ve added some really useful measurement tools at the end of this slide pack as well.

So I’m going to rattle through a few tips for you, how you can reduce data transfer, sorts of things that you can think about.

So if you are a developer, How about creating and storing the data that you actually need. So perhaps reduce backups and archives and logs. Not saying don’t have them, but maybe go back and think, do I really need these logs from 12 years ago?

Reduce analytics, data. Google analytics is very, very heavy. And I would argue that Google analytics, depending on the size of your site, but Google analytics probably shouldn’t be your default choice for analytics because of the amount of cruft it loads.

And also remove plugins and any third party services that we no longer written need.

Transfer media content on demand. So ditch auto play videos, they consume a lot of energy because they run immediately. And while there’s lots of evidence to say users don’t like them and lazy load images and video.

Other things you can do, especially if you’re a content editor is pay attention to images, use the right image format for the right type. Compress and optimized JPEGs, and display images of the right dimensions. So don’t have a 2000 pixel image in a 1000 pixel space, just load in the 1000 pixel image when you’re creating the content.

And do have a look at things like image source set or the picture tags, which are HTML tags, which really help you to serve images responsibly and WordPress has some helper functions as well that can help you with installing, uh, with making use of.

Update the latest, the latest version of PHP and WordPress, and as mentioned disabled and needed code plugins and dequeue scripts you don’t need that.

It’s basically a whistle-stop tour of what Tom Greenwood has talked about in his book, sustainable web design.

Now. If you recall at the beginning of the talk, I said that there were three pillars to deal with sustainability. We focused nearly all of our time on today’s talk, talking about the environmental pillars, but I do want to just briefly touch on the social and economic ones as well, because the thing is that making things more efficient, doesn’t always decrease consumption.

So actually there’s a lot of research that says that it can actually increase usage because we make it easier for people to use things. So making our websites more efficient is a very worthwhile thing to do, but it’s not the only thing we need to be doing. We need to be asking some bigger questions. And if you’re interested in this concept that I’ve just talked about, have a look at Jevons paradox.

So this leads us into why we need to think about economics. And a brief definition of economics is it’s a social science that studies the site it’s oh, I put science twice in there, a social science that studies the science of production, distribution and consumption of wealth. And it’s basically the bit that dues the other two pillars together. And it is also a way of articulating the systems, the decision-making systems that we exist with.

Now I mentioned one of my absolute heroes, Kate Raworth earlier, if you’re interested in this kind of thing, do you have a look at donut economics, her book, and there’s also a fantastic website called the doughnut economics action lab, which I spend a lot of time on as well. It’s full of really interesting resources about the wider questions we should be asking about the systems that we exist.

Um, and also if you’re really interested in this, I’d highly recommend a book called less is more by Jason Hickle, which is actually suggesting that I would desire to grow, grow, grow, needs to be an inhabited if we’re really going to seriously tackle climate change.

And I bring that up here because I do think that within the tech sector, we are still a little bit beholden to this idea of growing all the time. More, features, more sites, more clients, more, more, more. And I think that this is a very interesting concept to think of.

Okay, I’ve got a few more slides and then we’ll be done. Um, so apologies to the, um, facilitators. I might run over by a minute or two.

Um, social change. Oh, so this pillar I wanted just to make relevant to us as tech makers. So those of us who are creating digital services or are somehow involved in the creation.

Now we need to change the way that we are working if we want to make tech more sustainable, if we want there to be the same opportunities for future generations that we have today. We need to ask some questions of ourselves. We need to ask what do we create tech?

So I think of tech websites, digital services are simply an accelerator of solutions. Intrinsically my personal belief is that I don’t think tech is good or bad. It is a bit bad when it’s used wastefully is, as I talked about in my previous slides, but on balance, essentially, it just accelerates solutions. So we have to ask ourselves, well, which solutions are we choosing to accelerate? Who are we choosing to lift up? And most importantly, who is benefiting from what we’re accelerating? Who benefits from these solutions? Who’s standing to lose out from what we’re creating? Whose needs are we ignoring? Who has the decision-making power? And I think within the WordPress community, that’s a really interesting question at the moment.

Um, more. I was getting Morton’s full name, wrong Morten Rand-Hendriksen. I’m sure y’all know who, I mean has just done a really interesting podcast with WP Tavern talking about this. So I think this is an issue within our own community that we could be addressing as well. And who feels the burdens of our decisions.

So, what I want to say to you is that if you’re interested in sustainability, you are going to, by default, end up going down a road of realizing that climate justice equals social justice. And you’re going to realize that social issues are completely wrapped up in making things more sustainable. So it’s a core concept of climate justice to think about social justice.

And as I mentioned before, it may be difficult doing these things because we exist within systems that don’t make it easy for us. So we have to think beyond current paradigms that we’re in and you might hear the phrase system change, not climate change. And that’s what that means. It means that the systems that are making the decisions around us are not fit for purpose at the moment. They don’t allow us to tackle social injustice in the world.

Okay, I’m going to skip this slide. That’s a terribly scary diagram. So as technologists, we need to challenge how we think and behave as individuals as well as challenging the systems we exist within.

So summing up, this is a diagram I’ve been working on recently. Two highlights what it means to build a sustainable internet.

Um, a lot of people may have come to this talk, expecting my talk to talk loads about efficient tech and renewable energy and maybe even buying offsets. So the stuff on the left-hand side of the diagram. But actually, if we’re interested in sustainable internet or in sustainable digital services, there’s a whole myriad of interrelated, social and economic factors that we need to think about as well as efficient tech and using renewable energy.

And again, I just want to stress to you if you’re new to this journey. Because it is a journey and it’s a journey. We’re all going to have to go on. If you’re new to this and your starting steps are to make the tech that you’re using more efficient, then good for you. That’s a fantastic thing to be doing. Once you’ve done that and you’re ready to move on there’s a myriad of other things that you can put your time and energy into that will make a difference.

And of course, there’s lots of co-benefits.

So improving the sustainability of digital services creates all sorts of lovely side benefits to humans and the planet we can reduce resource use, improve accessibility in UX, improve performance and speed, and ultimately make us more fulfilled and happier humans, which is good for everyone. It’s good for the social good.

So there’s lots and lots of reasons to do this. Um, and I look forward to hearing any questions, any reactions to what I’ve talked about today and hopefully meeting some of you in the communities that are seeking to make these kinds of changes for everybody’s good.

So, thank you very much. That’s the end of my talk. Thank you for bearing with me and apologies to the organizers for running a few minutes over.

Um, my slides will have been published on Twitter by now. So my handle is hanopcan, so you can find the slides there and there’s loads more to go. There’s all these sort of resources that I’ve put at the end for you as well. So you can have a look through those and kind of go on a really fantastic journey of discovery.

Thank you very much.

Kim Coleman: Thank you so much, Hannah.

Lindsey Miller: Great Hannah. Yep. We’re both excited way to go. That was really awesome.

Hannah Smith: Good. Good. Okay. I’m just going to stop sharing my screen a second and I can come back to you and like look at you square on because otherwise you’re on my profile.

I’m a big Roman nose right. There we go. Hello Kim and Lindsey.

Kim Coleman: Awesome. I’m going to kick off the questioning with just kind of a background. How did you personally get invested and involved in this topic and the topics in general that you presented?

Hannah Smith: Yeah. I mean, I’ve always been really interested in environmental issues ever since a little kid.

Um, I worked for the environment agency is, as you mentioned in my intro, um, and then about two and a half years ago, I went to word camp Europe in Berlin and heard Jack Lennox give a talk at WordCamp Europe about making websites more efficient. And I’d been thinking for quite some time, I didn’t think that the WordPress community had been doing enough around sustainability. I wasn’t hearing enough conversations. Um, so love to hear Jack’s talk, Jack and I, and our good friends. We’ve been working on a few projects together. But it was that, and the work of whole grain digital that really made me realize, Hey, they’re all people in the WordPress community who are talking about this. Um, and you know, there’s hope for us. We can, we can do this.

Um, so yeah, so it was sort of other community members really that, that kind of. Really pushed me on this direction. And then I’ve sort of been finding my own path, um, since then as well.

Lindsey Miller: Absolutely. I see that you’re not alone. Oh, sorry. We’re not good at this.

I know they have so many things to say, like, Hannah, I was slacking Kim, as you were talking, like, I just felt like my jaw dropping through so much of your talk and I can’t wait to download the slides on Twitter. Um, cause it really was absolutely fascinating. And as you mentioned, there are other people in the community that are interested in leaning into this area. Um, but I haven’t seen it presented in quite the way that you had. So, um, thank you for that.

Hannah Smith: Um,

Lindsey Miller: no, it was really good. Um, at least, I mean, even as I was paying attention and wanting to like learn more, so, um, Um, so I have a question from from the chat she asks, does recycling e-waste with our, does recycling the waste also increase the CO2 and if so, what is the best way to dispose of it?

Hannah Smith: Oh, that’s such a good question. And thank you for asking that.

Um, there’s no easy answer. So, so recycling something. Any kind of e-waste, as I mentioned, e-waste will, um, contain these rare raw materials that are hard to find and extracting those from the earth and producing them in the first place is crazy, crazy, bad. Like it’s not good.

So any way that you can find to recycle or reuse those things. It’s definitely going to be better for carbon emissions, because if we were to extract the same amount of resources, again, that’s going to be way more policing than recycling and reusing.

The second part of the question is to how we recycle. Well, that’s not easy. There are some companies that now allow you to send electronics back to them. Um, certainly the bigger manufacturers. Depending on where in the world you live, maybe you have a local council that’s good enough to accept those resources for you.

But honestly, there’s no easy answer and it’s kind of the tragedy of, of a lot of this that we, we don’t know, and we’re producing all this stuff and it just goes into landfill. So, um, it was so [audience name], I think that asked the question. I’m sorry that I can’t give you like an awesome answer because I don’t think there is one, um, just consume less buy secondhand if you possibly can and reuse what you can, you know, if you’ve got that big drawer of cables or that big drawer of stuff, see if you can donate it to somebody else to a local school or a community group that that maybe could make use of it.

It’s a great question. Thank you for asking it.

Lindsey Miller: It may not have an easy answer, but that’s the point of having this conversation, I think right? Is continuing to bring this topic up, um, until we do have answers. Um, so anyway, just wanted to throw that out there. Um, what’s our next question.

Kim Coleman: Oh, great. I was just going to add my son at their school they have an interesting wall hanging. That’s a weaving and there’s kids brought in found objects and they included an old keyboard. And I think like a computer mouse, some interesting things. So while we won’t all make art out of our unused cables, it’s an option and something that kids are even seeing, you know, as beautiful and, and recreate.

So cool thanks. Um, add this question from Fahim, uh, what are some alternatives to Google analytics you mentioned, um, that it may not be needed and it’s kind of a heavy load on a site. Do you have some preferences you can recommend?

Hannah Smith: Absolutely. I do. Thank you for the question Fahim. I wanted to put it in my talk, but there was so much to talk through so I’m glad that we can talk about this now.

Um, A couple of options. There’s plausible analytics and fathom analytics. Now I believe that both are paid for services, but the thing is with Google, like they are giving us stuff for free, but it’s not free to society. Somebody somewhere is paying for that society as a whole is paying for. Now that’s a real moral thing. Um, It’s not always something that a small startup or a small charity wants to hear. Um, so a free option at the moment is called cabin analytics. I love cabin analytics, their analytics loads in like, I think it’s less than two kilobits. Whereas I think Google analytics is like somewhere between 60 and 80, like massive, big difference.

Um, so having a look at a cabin now they’re in beta at the moment, which is why the service is free. If you get in there quickly, and then an open source option is matoma analytics. I think I’ve said that, right? My tone, my Toma Miitomo it’s either an OER and a at the end, their analytics is entirely open source. So you can actually run that yourself, but it requires a lot more effort than Google analytics.

So if you’re techie, you might get on well with Miitomo Metova I hope somebody will correct me on which it is. Um, I think they do also offer a subscription as a service type type thing as well. So there are options out there and within the WordPress community as well. There’s one more that I should mention, which is Koko analytics, which is a free plugin, um, written by the same guy that does the main MailChimp plugin.

Ah, his name’s gone out of my head at the moment. I remember on my drive home. I’m sure. Probably have a look at Koko analytics. If you just want simple information about page loads, Koko is a really great choice, but you need something more in depth than more complex. You’re probably looking at plausible or fathom. I mentioned that at the beginning.

Lindsey Miller: Perfect. Thank you so much for answering that for us. There’s a lot of you mentioned, I hadn’t heard of any of those analytics programs, so, um, thank you. I will definitely be Googling them afterwards.

Hannah Smith: Um, and we’ll do. Uh, just say Lindsey on that point as well, that not only have a more efficient programs to use, but they also care a little more about privacy as well in Google.

So for those of us, and, you know, in Europe, thinking about things like GDPR, we’re being pushed a bit more in that direction, but there is that added benefit of privacy. Um, better privacy, um, handling as well. Anyway, we could like do analytics.

Lindsey Miller: We could, and the WordPress person is Danny Van Kooten. You’re welcome.

Kim Coleman: Yeah. And I’m going to close that tab down so that I’m not loading any anymore on that tab. Like Googled it. And I closed it.

Lindsey Miller: Which gets us into the next question, which is how do we begin talking about this with our teams, our colleagues, and anyone else, especially as we’re talking about really changing entire workflows and what people are used to. So what are your suggestions, um, to approach those conversations?

Hannah Smith: I think that’s an excellent conversation.

And I think one of the key things that I’ve learnt is that. Often, if you just talk about sustainability for sustainability sake, you’ll only get a very small amount of people that are really interested in making a difference. But if you talk about it as sustainability plus performance, plus cost-saving plus making it more accessible plus improving the UX. If you talk about it in all of those ways, you are far more likely for people to go, right? Yeah. So basically we just need to kind of do better. And I find that that’s a really great way to get the conversation going. I didn’t get time to really talk about all the tools, which is a shame, but there’s a fantastic tool called website carbon calculator, websitecarbon.com.

And the creator of that Tom Greenwood was giving a talk this morning. Maybe it came up in Tom’s talk. I bet it did. Um, a really fun thing that you can do as a team is just put your website in that tool and it will tell you what the carbon emissions are of that site.

And again, I think like when I’ve tried to engage people in the topic for the very first time using that little measurement tool is great because it tells you not only does it give you a number, but it tells you how good or bad your site is compared to the rest of the world. And it’s green, if you do well, and it’s red, if you’re not doing so good and, and people often go, oh my gosh, like we had no idea it was this bad. Um, and that can galvanize a bit of motivation and action as well.

Lindsey Miller: Yeah, it reminds me of, um, there’s a WordPress agency in Texas called cause labs that Cheryl Gillihan owns. And I wonder if. She and others, like her could make that part of their process, even with our clients is like in the, um, discovery phase or the pitch phase of saying we ran it through this calculator because that therapy court right. And so. That’s what they’re, um, part of their mission is focused on. And so adding that as part of your, um, space could be really interesting.

So thanks for sharing that.

Hannah Smith: An absolute pleasure. And the other thing that website carbon calculator have as well as a little badge that you can put in the footer of your site. And we’ll give you, um, a carbon emission in the footer for each single page as well. So is ongoing measurement. That can be quite useful too. And just making sure. Um, yeah, your emissions, are you keeping an eye on, but yeah, I love the idea of including, including it in the delivery, in the discovery phase. I think that’s a great suggestion.

Kim Coleman: Awesome. We might have time for one or two more. So I’m going to throw this one in, um, since we’re all more working remote these days, have you seen any positive or negative impact on the sustainability and digital technology as we’ve moved to working from our independent homes and environments?

Hannah Smith: Hmm. That’s a really great question. And I don’t think anybody’s really asked me that before. Um, I do wonder whether we have started to question how much digital technology is in our lives. Certainly for my own experience in lock down, I existed entirely in the digital arena, as I’m sure many of you did. It’s the only way I was talking to people and the only way I was speaking with my clients.

So I wonder perhaps whether there’s been a bit more of a wake up of gosh, you know, digital technology everywhere in our life. And certainly we’re having more conversations and, you know, Big Orange Heart are having those conversations as well about mental health and the impacts of digital technology on mental health.

Mental health does have a link to sustainability. You know, I was talking about these social issues. It may not be like a really like obvious, strong link, but there is a relationship there as well.

So I mean, Beyond that I, I couldn’t really say whether I’d seen a sort of specifically. Um, specific spin one way or the other, but it’s an excellent question and one I’ll have a little think on, um, might pop back up with a blog post on that.

Kim Coleman: And if you love to read that, I would love to read that. I think a lot of people during the pandemic, while they did absorb themselves in more technology, I think they found these like non-tech hobbies that they nurtured. And, um, I’ve seen more conversations about that stuff then bingeing, Netflix every day, so.

Hannah Smith: Oh, good. Well, that’s good for everyone. I think.

Lindsey Miller: Well, awesome. I think we’re out of time. Um, Hannah, thank you so much for your presentation today and answering all of our questions. Um, and we’ll continue the conversation on Twitter.

Hannah Smith: Excellent. I hope so. Tap me up. If you want to chat any more about surf, if you want advice on things I’m always happy to share, um, and always happy to strike up conversations with people too.

This is an important topic. So, you know, let’s chat as a community and, and, and make some moves in the right direction.

Lindsey Miller: Yep. Perfect. Thank you so much. Thanks. Okay. We want to make sure that. And tell our sponsors. Thank you one more time. So that is thank you. A big thank you to BlueHost Cloudways GoDaddy Pro Nexcess Yoast and Weglot.

And please be sure to visit their tents and chat with them, and you may even win some prizes and also get your photo snapped and the photo. It’s sponsored by multi collab and DreamHost. And don’t forget when you take your picture to tweet it out with the hashtag #WordFestLive, and also a big thank you to all of our media partners and micro sponsors that are helping put this on today.

Kim Coleman: We’re going to take a short break. Um, we’ll be back at the top of the hour, but you can head over to the community tent. Um, for the next hour, you’ll be able to meet with Cloudways and have their QBO tent takeover with Elena QBO. GoDaddy pro are running a panel on web security with Nestor and Gullo and guests.

Uh, you can join Nexcess, uh, with a chance to win a mystery prize and Yoast are also running games with your sisters. Uh, thank you so much. Enjoy the break. We’ll see you in a bit. You make our Big Orange Hearts full.

Share this session