Insights

Making visible the CO2 in iPhone updates

At least half a million tons of CO2 are caused by annual iPhone updates. To deal with this sort of pollution, you’d need to plant at least 50 million trees every year. The number of updates has almost doubled in the last 10 years. The latest iPhone update I got was 4.7 gigabytes (GB). There are about 1 billion active iPhone users. So, ... Read More »

Principles for designing sustainable, environmentally friendly websites

When it comes to Web design, the best thing you can do for the environment is nothing. Decide not to have a website or app or chatbot. Decide not to publish that new content. Even better, decide to remove an old website, to delete lots of useless Web pages. There’s about 1.8 billion websites out there. One website for every four people... Read More »

The environmental cost of search

An average Google search is responsible for 0.192 gEqCO2 (gram equivalent of CO2), according to a fascinating study published by Greenspector in 2020. On average, the brain is responsible for 0.0025 gEqCO2 per second. So, using Google is the equivalent of spending about 75 seconds thinking. We could do a lot of searching in our brains in... Read More »

Designing digital to last

Digital is fragile, impermanent, flexible, malleable. This creates a strong impulse to create things with digital that are fragile, impermanent, malleable. How many developers and designers set out to create a website or app with the idea that it should last? Very few. When creating websites or apps the very idea is that they will change... Read More »

In a climate crisis, text should be default option for communication

Text is the most environmentally friendly form of communication. 1,000 words of text weighs about 7 KB and takes up about two A4 pages. Two A4 pages with images could easily weigh 100 KB, and that’s for well-optimized images. Poorly optimized images weigh in the megabytes. We’ve been analyzing a lot of Web images recently and have foun... Read More »

The tech cult of collecting and hoarding data

When it comes to deleting data waste, “In my opinion, social media is the worst, really,” states Virginie Guerin, who co-founded the French Digital Cleanup Day team. “It’s very hard to do. We created lots of small how-tos. For example, how to delete your photographs from Facebook. How to go into your social network and find the feature t... Read More »

Making digital waste visible

“The problem is that you don’t see anything. I think that’s the worst thing and why it’s so hard to make it real to people.” So says Virginie Guerin about digital waste. Virginie is a French urban planner, who is co-founder of the French NGO World CleanUp Day France, which also runs Digital Cleanup Day France. I keep hearing about wond... Read More »

Hidden role of data in climate crisis

(Long read) Half of the roughly 13 trillion photos taken since 1900 were shot in the last five years. In fact, more photos were taken in 2020 than in the entire twentieth century. Digital is the great accelerator. Digital puts everything on speed: extraction, production, consumption, waste generation. Digital is physical. Data consum... Read More »

Data center planned obsolescence (part 2)

If you’re constantly trashing your architecture and always buying the latest, most ‘efficient’ stuff then of course you can parade around saying how ‘efficient’ you are. The fact that your wasteful behavior is hidden underneath your creative accounting, and that this behavior is accepted and almost encouraged by established media and ind... Read More »

Data center planned obsolescence (part 1)

Data centers are about as far away from a circular economy model of design as you can get. They are quintessential models of planned obsolescence and e-waste. And yet, every couple of months, you get a ‘The Internet, it’s not that bad, really’ or a ‘Watch as much Netflix as you want’ article. “New research by two leading scientists says ... Read More »