Sustainable Web Design and Mission Statements

By “Green Design” I do NOT MEAN green stuff on the page, or yoga people who look holistic while they smile at you from the screen. Instead, this is virtual design that is sustainable, or created via sustainable processes.

The principles of Sustainable Virtual Design are a bit different from common frameworks, since the web is a virtual, rather than a physical medium. However, there are many useful ideas in the following frameworks:

Here is a possible breakdown of sustainable principles for the web, game and interactive world, adapted from the list developed by Nathan Shredoff in his book, Design is the Problem: The Future of Design Must Be Sustainable:

General Sustainability Principle Sustainable Web Design Goals
Make meaningful products Make websites that are have real value, not fashion or tech-tricks
Easy design rollback Iterative or Agile design workflow
Source Renewable Materials  Switch to a “Green” webhost
Design products to work in the future  Implement classic design strategies
Design with the user in mind  Create effective User Experience (UX)
Ensure democratic access  Build accessible, responsive websites
Interchangable Parts Apply standards-based design
Minimize energy and resource consumption Web Performance Optimization (WPO)
Don’t corrupt the virtual system  Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Another possible formulation for sustainable web design comes from the Permaculture movement. Here is a list from the Staydiligent blog with some additions by myself:

Permaculture Sustainability Principle Sustainable Web Design Goals
Observe and Interact Build sites as part of an interdependent community
Catch and store energy Cache information, update sites rather the build completely new ones
Obtain a yield The site should provide positive value to the client, and larger web community, not a time or money sink
Apply self-regulation and accept feedback The site should have “reporter” technology for use, efficiency and ultimately carbon footprint can be tracked and used for revisions
Use and value renewable resources and services Use efficient virtual services (e.g. green webhosts)
Produce no waste Sites should be steady-state, not causing an accumulation of e-junk (files, stored data) in themselves or on the Internet
Design from patterns to details Start with group-design techniques like Progressive Enhancement
Integrate rather than segregate Connect your site to others, and create value by interconnection of websites instead of portal-style content provisions
Use small & slow solutions Design for the low end first, instead of starting with the bleeding edge
Use & value diversity Use local designers, developers, webhosts of big “cloud” services with low green scores
Use edges & value the marginal Support communication at the edges – old browsers, platforms, slow networks
Creatively use & respond to change Use, don’t avoid new technologies that promise sustainability, e.g. imageless design with CSS

MightyBytes Sustainable Web Design Principles, a B-Corp

MightyBytes All Things Sustainable

A few authors have considered web sustainability in the past:

How to Become an Eco-Web Designer

While many designers have a green perspective in their life and work, we’re only beginning to see mission statements with the above rules. In the following, I’ve listed , interactive and graphic design firms which incorporate part of the overall process of Sustainable Virtual design

Mission Statements

From Plyojump (my website), a draft Sustainable Virtual Design statement:

From Manoverboard, a B-Corp Design Company

From CartaNova:

CartaNova is a full service web design and marketing agency with a collective aspiration for a greener, healthier planet. We help ‘green’ small business to grow in Canada, the U.S., the UK and Africa. We establish growth through long-term, mutually-beneficial client relationships. By embracing classic small business principles, we promote individual respect for everyone.

They have one of the best summaries I’ve ever seen on the carbon footprint of the Internet, here…

It’s from their green design blog:

Yoke Sustainable Design – one of the best!

Sustainability is often described as the capacity to endure but here at Yoke we feel that that’s not enough. We think it’s important to leave a place better than you found it. By creating websites that promote positive change projects that are designed for a widespread, positive impact, we hope to improve the economic, ecological and social systems that impact all of our lives.

Yoke value statement (we put our designs on green hosts)

SWSSolutions Sustainable Mission Statement

What does it mean to be sustainable? For us it is the development of practices that are inclusive of business, social and environmental goals. We offer our clients professional yet affordable web development, and 100% green wind-powered web hosting.

Producing wind power ourselves is impossible, so our company has purchased Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to offset our energy use. RECs represent the environmental benefits of wind energy, and reduce the amount of electricity in the energy grid that’s produced by fossil fuels.

The people behind the scenes at SWS have already made eco-friendly adjustments in their lives, and we wanted to support our customers by reducing our environmental impact. That means that by hosting with us, your site is green, too!

On the social side SWS has endorsed The Bakkie Project which aims to provide logistical solutions to charitable organisations with the help of Bakkie owners.

ZeroAbove Web Design Firm “No Greenwash” Mission statement (excerpts)

Annual assessments completed each November calculate the carbon footprint associated with emissions across our business including business travel, energy consumption and waste produced…Our targets are created to be improved on and we have them in place for travel, energy usage and recycling…We have put processes in place to reduce emissions to net zero through a combination of external and internal emissions reductions…The internal reductions are both operational and behavioral, from changing all the lighting to low energy LED and putting in place recycling facilities..Each year we communicate our progress as we aim for the Carbon Neutral certification mark

[G] Wis Concepts sustainablity mission statement (brand identity and process)

Bret Glassett Web Development (green office)

By operating a digital and remote green web design & development business me and my contractors have a very low impact on the environment. We use no Paper – all data is stored digitally and not printed. We use very little energy – by operating in community offices, home offices and remotely we are using shared and community power sources. As well, we have a low Carbon Footprint – in working remotely we do not need to commute every day. Less gas, less oil, less wear on vehicles and no traffic means a happier planet.

Avtec Media’s commentary on Sustainable Web Design (these guys design ONLY for Credit Unions!)

Sustainable web design is the practice of designing a web site so it serves its purpose indefinitely without a significant negative impact on its owner  or its users.  To create the potential for long-term maintenance and perpetual “well-being” of a web site, we design sites to be accessible and usable by all regardless of the user’s type of computer operating system, browser, monitor resolution, or internet connection speed.

As a company rule, we recycle everything: hardware, paper, plastic, metal, glass, etc…The majority of our meetings are handled via phone, email and webcast so our clients rarely need to drive to meet us…We use 100% natural light during work hours thanks to skylights and extra-large windows….At our downtown location we can walk to client locations and access a number of local venues by foot, bike or transit…We only use energy-efficient computers and LCD monitors with very low levels of energy consumption. (Energy-Star Certified®). Our servers and computers all “hybernate” at low power frequencies during non-business hours…When recycling is not an option, we properly dispose of all electronic equipment. Nothing goes to a landfill…Our employees usually commute via bicycle, walking or public transit.

GreenDreamWeb Mission statement (from Steve)

For me, the design process is green because I live and work that way. I do not commute, I live and work in a net-zero energy home/office, am a vegan, have no children, ride human-electric hybrid bikes and drive an electric vehicle, all of which are powered by solar energy from the panels on our roof. All business communications are via telephone and Skype and I rarely print anything on paper. Our carbon footprint is 85% less than it was a decade ago and we continue to find ways to live and work lighter on the planet. I share my experience with others via public speaking and a regular Green Living column that is published in our state’s largest newspaper. I believe in “being the change.” I like working with clients who share a similar ethic and world view. That is what sustainable web design is all about from my perspective

Spike Design Sustainability Mission Statement (from Jay Bigford)

The main aspect we see if the holistic approach of what we do/offer.  Some design agencies recently have started popping statements on their homepage like ‘Carbon neutral design company’, which is great, but then you check their portfolio and they do sites for airline special offers etc promoting cheap airflights.  to us the main key is putting your energies as designers to support and engage people in positive change.  We have a responsibility as designers to try to communicate issues to our users as clearly as possible.  At yoke our main focus is only working on projects that promote sustainable change.

Sustainable Web Solutions on Facebook

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