At Supercool, we’re on our way to becoming carbon negative. As part of that work, we’re looking outside of the cultural sector to learn more about how to be 'greener'. One business model that’s making waves in the manufacturing and production industry is the Circular Economy.
Championed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the Circular Economy is the process of designing products where each component can be either reused, or returned to the biosphere – eliminating waste altogether. It moves the production model from linear to circular. Here’s a handy intro video:
This is a great model – and you may well have some Circular Economy products in your home (e.g. SodaStreams, refillable cleaning products etc.) But while it’s easy to see how manufacturing can be more circular, how can digital technologies be more circular? How can your website be circular?
The ReSOLVE Framework
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has some useful case studies and resources, one of them being the ReSOLVE Framework.
This framework helps organisations think about each process and their wider supply chain – encouraging you to find ways to be more circular. Let’s break-down each step and see how this could apply to a digital product like a website:
This is all about regenerating the biosphere, so working with suppliers that use green energy or offset their carbon emissions is a great way to achieve this.
Also consider your own impact here and try to minimise it by using efficient digital tools and, where possible, cutting back on content.
Share as much as you can. This could be sharing car journeys to meetings with your web agency or it could be sharing webcams and mics for video calls.
Also consider sharing your digital assets. So, if you send out an email, consider sharing the content between the email and the landing page you're directing people to – you don’t have to use the same image twice!
And, an important one, share your learnings and progress with peers. It’s a great way to widen your impact and help people in the sector.
Optimise your hosting setup. Move towards greener hosting and use content delivery networks like Cloudflare to store content geographically closer to end users.
Build with reusability and futureproofing in mind. Try not to get too bogged down in small design details and lots of customisation on your website. Think about the core goals and design everything to be reusable across the site. This will give you more tools at your fingertips rather than needing custom development work and it’ll increase the lifespan of your website.
Keep your website clear, remove old pages and old images. Try to do this at least once a year. It’ll increase the lifespan of your website, reduce server storage and improve the speed of your website.
This is a tricky one because often an old website becomes so inefficient it is just time to bin it and get a new one. But by thinking about how you can loop your resources and tools you can avoid additional resources going into your website.
At Supercool, we design on a component block level, rather than page templates. This means the blocks are highly reusable. And when we look at developing new features, we consider how they can be used in different ways to make them as reusable as possible.
You can also loop learning gform an old website into a new one, so before you ditch the old one, consider investing in the Google Analytics set up and working with your new (or existing) agency to interrogate the data.
Use digital tools rather than hard, single use products. For example, Miro is a great collaborative digital whiteboard, and much greener than a pack of post-its and flip-charts.
Also consider holding meetings virtually rather than in person. There's no doubt that sometimes you need that in-person workshop environment, but often discussions are just as successful over a video call and you’re saving a huge amount of CO2 by cutting out travel.
BONUS: A bonus of visualising your activity is that it becomes more accessible. People who are unable to get to your venue, have different working hours or just don’t feel comfortable in a workshop setting are all able to contribute their thoughts and ideas by using digital tools.
Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and throw an old website out. But it’s not always a waste. By building a new, more efficient and future proof website, you could be saving a lot of energy going forwards.
Better still, if you set out with the environment, accessibility and performance in mind from the outset, it’s likely that your new website will last a very long time, helping you cut down on your carbon footprint for years.
Collaboration is key
Whether you use the ReSOLVE framework or another tool, you won’t be able to implement all your desired changes by yourself.
There’s a lot you can do – such as keeping your website tidy by removing old content and thinking about whether you really need images and videos on every page – but to achieve some of the goals, you’ll need to work with your web agency.
When it comes to being greener, you need to take your whole supply chain into account. This is a key element of the Circular Economy – it’s not something you can do internally, and not consider your supply chain. With this in mind, when you’re looking to procure a new web development agency, question their green credentials and discuss what they can do to help your website to be greener, last longer, and cut down on carbon.