Welcome to Sustain WP, a limited podcast series about digital sustainability and WordPress. I’m your host Nahuai Badiola and in this episode I will be talking about the environmental pillar of sustainability with 6 amazing guests.
In the previous episode Hannah and I introduced the concept of three pillars (or strands) of sustainability. And in the next 3 episodes we will dedicate one to each pillar.
I had my reservations to start with the environmental pillar because it’s usually the one it’s more known and part of the aim of this podcast it’s to broaden the view of sustainability. But in other hand, the environmental part was the entry point for almost every guest I interview and it was also for me. That reason, together with the tight relationship between the social and economical part, which I wanted to keep together (one after another), were the reasons to finally maintain this “more traditional” structure of episodes.
So during this episode we’ll have 6 different points of view on how they see the environmental pillar on digital sustainability.
I start talking with Tom Greenwood, co-founder of Wholegrain Digital a UK based WordPress agency, author of the book “Sustainable Web Design” and one of the creators of Website Carbon Calculator tool. Let’s hear what he has to say on how he would explain the importance of the environmental part on digital sustainability to someone new to the topic.
During the conversation with Tom we mentioned Tim Frick several times since his been involved with digital sustainability since early 2000’s. He has a WordPress agency called Mightybytes and it’s been one of the leaders behind the new web sustainability guidelines that a W3C community group released recently. He, and his team at Mightybytes, also created Ecograder another great tool that gives you digital sustainability recommendations.
Indeed I started asking about the aim this tool and then we moved on to the W3C guidelines.
Then we move to someone that contributes directly on making WordPress more environmentally sustainable. We listen to Adam Silverstein, who is a Developer Relations Engineer at Google, WordPress core committer and part of the WordPress Performance Team. He reflects on how we always want more and the impact that it could have. He also touches on servers, green hosting, energy needed to power every device and some examples on how a change on WordPress can have a significant environmental impact.
In this podcast series I also wanted to know other opinions about sustainability, beyond WordPress community, so I invited Richard Littauer, who is organizer of Sustain OSS community and host of the Sustain podcast. He has an interesting point of view regarding the reasons behind the environmental issues on digital sustainability.
Then we also talk, not only about digital sustainability but also events with Julia Golomb. She is a full-time contributor to the WordPress Community Team, sponsored by Automattic, and she was an organizer on WCUS 2023.
The last guest of this episode it’s, Juan Hernando, dear friend and Community Team Program Manager and WordCamp Europe 2024 lead organiser, who is sponsored by Weglot. I really liked his answer on how we could use some of the learnings on the environmental area and try to apply them to the other two pillars.
That was pretty interesting, wasn’t it?
You will be hearing more opinions of these guests and some others in the next episodes.
Taking about the guests, I feel like they were really on point. So I even doubted if a summary, from my part, was really necessary. But I guess someone could benefit from it.
So, the first point could be that when we communicate about environmental impact of, let’s say, internet, it’s important to know who are you talking to. Knowing that, you can use web performance and conversion as “selling point”, for example.
We have nice tools like Website Carbon Calculator and Ecograder that were created to help raising awareness about digital sustainability and they could be a good entry point for some users or customers.
Also having the first draft of the sustainability web design guidelines, created under the umbrella of W3C, it’s a really nice starting point.
In other hand, we mentioned how using a green hosting can help to mitigate some of the problems, but also how making a small changes on the CMS can have significant environmental impact. We’ll talk more about this in episode 5.
Event’s it’s another thing that we have to add to the mix aside from digital sustainability. Indeed we will dedicate the whole episode 6 to explore how we can make WordPress events more sustainable, not only environmentally but also socially and economically.
Thanks for listening, I hope you found the episode and our guest opinions as interesting as I did.
You can find all the resources mentioned during the episode in the show notes.
If you want to share your take on this topic you can do it leaving a comment on the website (you can go to sustainwp.com/2) and if you think that the episode could be interesting to a WordPress colleague please share it.
In the next episode we will be talking about the social pillar.
I’m really looking forward to it. Bye bye!
- Sustainable Web Design
- Website Carbon Calculator
- Web Sustainability Guidelines (W3C)
- Web Sustainability Guidelines at glance (W3C)
- Tom Greenwood’s book on digital sustainability
- Tim Fricks’ book on digital sustainability
- Sustain OSS
- Sustain podcast
- Sustain podcast episode with Nahuai
- Call for applications Green Web Fellowship 2023/24
00:00:09 Nahuai Badiola
Welcome to Sustaine WP, a limited podcast series about data sustainability and WordPress. I’m your host NahuaiBadiola, and in this episode we will be talking about the environmental pillar of sustainability with six amazing guests. In the previous episode, Hannah and I introduced the concept of the three pillars or strands, if you remember theconversation, of sustainability.
00:00:31 Nahuai Badiola
And in the next three episodes, we will dedicate 1 to each pillar. I have my reservations to start with the environmentalpillar, because it’s usually the one that is more known and part of the aim of this podcast is to broaden the view ofsustainability. But in other hand, the environmental part was the entry point for almost every guest I interview, and itwas also for me.
00:00:55 Nahuai Badiola
For that reason, together with the tight relationship between the social and economic part, which I wanted to keeptogether one after another were the reasons to finally maintain this, let’s call it more traditional structure of episodes. During this episode, we have six different points of view on how they see the environmental part on digital sustainability. I started talking with Tom Greenwood, co-founder of Wholegrain Digital, a UK based WordPress agency, author of the Book
00:01:26 Nahuai Badiola
“Sustainable Web Design” and one of the creators of Website Carbon Calculator tool. Let’s hear what he has to say onhow he would explain the importance of the environmental part on digital sustainability to someone new to the topic.
00:01:40 Tom Greenwood
Yeah, I think it depends who I’m talking to and I, the thing I’ve learned is that that’s really important in terms of how toframe the conversation. Some people are already really engaged with environmental issues and actually it’s quite a simple step for them. If if you introduce them to the idea that the Internet is actually a very physical machine, youknow, with thousands of data centers and billions of end user devices and telecoms networks, you only really have tosay that and say, look, this is all powered by electricity, it’s switched on 24/7.
00:02:18 Tom Greenwood
Yeah, and and it’s somewhere between 2:00 and 5% of global carbon emissions, depending on which study you look.
00:02:26 Tom Greenwood
And very quickly, you know, they switch on and say, Oh my God, I didn’t know that. And and they’re already interestedbut it. But but if they’re not already engaged in kind of thinking about environmental issues, then I often find it’s easierto come from a different angle.
00:02:43 Tom Greenwood
And sort of find what they really care about. And for example if they are a hyper commercial and really all they want islike search rankings and conversion rate improvements then then I find it can be quite useful to basically just talk tothem about how.
00:03:01 Tom Greenwood
Focusing on efficiency is going to deliver what they want, and that actually there may be other people in their team likedesigners, developers, content creators, project managers who are interested in the environmental side of things. And if they can get them inspired, they’re going to deliver better results because they are being inspired by theenvironmental side will lead them to make things more efficient, which will lead to the thing that this person wants, which is better conversion rates, better search rankings, et cetera. So yeah, I find it kind of helpful to to know who I’mtalking to and then try and kind of focus the conversation on the things that they really prioritise.
00:03:41 Nahuai Badiola
Yeah, same same here. I’ve been doing quite a lot of talks about sustainability, especially in in the WordPress Spanishcommunity. I’m like the the guy that is talking about this, and since I don’t know which audience is going to be in the in the work and talk or whatever, I always do this holistic approach. So I present the context like, yeah, so the we we are already in two 4% of emissions but we are going to a 50% like in 2040. So we are going fast over there. But and thiscreates blah blah blah blah. But if this is not enough for you to change your priorities, no worries.
00:04:24 Nahuai Badiola
I’m going to hypothesized that in some years it’s going to be an official certificate for sustainability, like it is now forelectrodomestics, or for the accessibility in the web.
00:04:37 Nahuai Badiola
And also I play with the idea of Google taking into account this to to also position. So I I play with this hypothesis and then I also explain that if you have a more performant website you will have more conversions. So Google will be happy probably your clients.
00:04:57 Nahuai Badiola
So so I always play with these ideas because as you say, the priorities are different for different people and and I always joke I’m not here to judge. I mean it’s OK for you. It’s more important Google than planet. I’m not want to tellyou otherwise. I’m just saying you that maybe if you go in the same direction, you can please both so and that’s a good good enough.
00:05:19 Tom Greenwood
00:05:21 Nahuai Badiola
For me, at least for now, so because I feel like a lot of people after the talk come to me and say I never heard about itbefore, so I think I feel that we are still in these early days that you have to sell it in a different way. So people are somehow engaged with the idea.
00:05:42 Tom Greenwood
Yeah, definitely. And I think it’s interesting how there’s been the the concept of web performance has been around fora long time and there’s a whole kind of group of people who are obsessed with their performance and they’re like, theylove it. And they that’s what they live.
00:05:58 Tom Greenwood
But actually if you look at the mainstream like your average website is not well optimized, doesn’t it’s not actually veryperformant.
00:06:08 Tom Greenwood
But when you bring in the environmental angle and explain to people, look if you like, really focus on efficiency and likereducing waste.
00:06:17 Tom Greenwood
You get really good performance suddenly. It’s like when these two things come together. I think a lot more people getengaged in the topic and.
00:06:24 Tom Greenwood
So yeah, even if it’s like a back door to. Yeah, to care about web performance. You know.
00:06:35 Nahuai Badiola
Yeah. Yeah, it’s it’s like a Trojan horse that you can use.
00:06:41 Nahuai Badiola
When you created a tool like the website carbon calculator, what were you aiming for? I guess that was raising someawareness, but what was in your mind when you did it?
00:06:57 Tom Greenwood
Yeah, sure it was. It was almost entirely just that so.
00:07:01 Tom Greenwood
When we created the first version of of website carbon.
00:07:05 Tom Greenwood
We could. We were struggling to find.
00:07:08 Tom Greenwood
Anybody really who was even talking about the topic and there were there were a a small handful of people like Tim Frick, for example, but it was a very small group and and even then there wasn’t any real awareness of like specificsaround energy and carbon emissions. It was a sort of a general concept and and we thought it be really powerful toactually.
00:07:30 Tom Greenwood
Engage people in the topic to have something where they could put in.
00:07:35 Tom Greenwood
You know, simple test that they can put in a page could be their website, it could be somebody else’s.
00:07:40 Tom Greenwood
And just get a sense of like, oh, this is this is a real thing. There is energy associated with this. There are emissionsassociated with this and and really for it to be a starting point.
00:07:51 Tom Greenwood
For their own learning to just engage them in the topic, because I think once they’ve done that, they can then go and learn more and.
00:07:59 Tom Greenwood
00:08:00 Tom Greenwood
Figure out what it means to them and what they’re going to do about it, and get into the details.
00:08:07 Tom Greenwood
I think what we felt we needed was was sort of mass awareness. If if it’s just, you know, you, me and Tim and Hannah Smith and a few other people talking about.
00:08:22 Tom Greenwood
Web sustainability then, like it doesn’t really matter like cause the Internet so huge. What we need is widespreadawareness. We need kind of every web designer, developer agency in house team like they should all know about itand care about it. So yeah, so website Coven really was an awareness raising thing to try and.
00:08:40 Tom Greenwood
Help generate this sort of more widespread awareness that would then hopefully lead into people.
00:08:47 Tom Greenwood
Doing other things that are actually kind of more detailed and more specific.
00:08:51 Nahuai Badiola
Yeah, yeah, I can assure you that it is a tool that people like to use. I I always put it in my thoughts because it’s aneasy way to have, like a first impact of how your website is doing.
00:09:04 Nahuai Badiola
And it’s really visual. And so it’s a good entry point to to say, OK and if they are not doing so good they they can startthinking why is that so and they can go further. I also like what team is doing in.
00:09:19 Nahuai Badiola
Grader, that is another of the tools and I also really like one website that you created together that is sustainable.
00:09:28 Nahuai Badiola
Design, which already has a lot of resources and I was also I I wanted also you to talk about it because I think it’s a great resource and maybe the in the workers community is not that well known and I think it’s really interesting. Maybejust explain what are you aiming to achieve with this website and what is already there.
00:09:49 Nahuai Badiola
And what is going to come?
00:09:51 Tom Greenwood
Yeah, sure. So so sustainablewebdesign.org was a website that Tim and his team at Mighty Bites created a long time ago. Actually, I’m not sure exactly how long, but I think it was one of the first websites that I found kind of years back when I first started looking into this. And and it was very much.
00:10:08 Tom Greenwood
I kind of, I think it was a one page website that was really talking about the concept of the Internet having anenvironmental impact.
00:10:16 Tom Greenwood
And then and then obviously the whole grain started doing a lot of work in this area few years back.
00:10:24 Tom Greenwood
And Tim and I became good friends and sort of collaborated on that. And and then he said, well, why don’t we work ona new version of this? Because times have moved.
00:10:32 Tom Greenwood
On there’s a lot more.
00:10:35 Tom Greenwood
There’s just a lot more information now, and actually we could take this. Take this further. So the idea of the websitewas really to have a kind of a central resource that.
00:10:44 Tom Greenwood
Shares like best practice approaches to creating a web that is better for the environment and better for humans as welland and so that’s why it’s at the moment. It’s mainly a sort of.
00:10:56 Tom Greenwood
A library of strategies you could apply in your project at different stages in your project, whether it’s in.
00:11:02 Tom Greenwood
Of the the content or design phase or the development phase as well as a central place to kind of share open information about collaborations we’re doing together. So for example.
00:11:17 Tom Greenwood
The first version of website carbon, the methodology behind it, was something that we’ve done entirely in house at whole grain. Then the second version on.
00:11:25 Tom Greenwood
Worlds became an open collaboration initially just with with mighty Bites and.
00:11:30 Tom Greenwood
Their team but but as times gone on, more people have.
00:11:33 Tom Greenwood
Joined that group through.
00:11:35 Tom Greenwood
And we we, you know, we publish the information on sustainablewebdesign.org. So that’s become the kind of a central hub for that as well as like providing details of any books that people have.
00:11:46 Tom Greenwood
To do with this topic. So it’s it’s really a sort of a central place for the community. Initially it was sort of whole grain ofmighty bites, but increasingly bringing others in and and the the new WTC guidelines are a perfect example of that.
00:12:01 Tom Greenwood
I think fairly soon it shouldn’t. It should be fairly soon that that will get integrated into the website so that there’s a kindof a really user friendly interface for digging through those guidelines and getting the most out.
00:12:12 Nahuai Badiola
Of them, yeah, I was super pleased to to know about it when I it was commented in the W3C Group. And then I alsohad a chance to talk with with Tim.
00:12:23 Nahuai Badiola
That will be also in this podcast series, of course. And he’s really kind too. And I I think that it’s really nice. They are also planning to somehow pull some resources of this to echo greater. So maybe you are planning to do somethingsimilar with website carbon calculator, I don’t know. But it could be an idea.
00:12:43 Tom Greenwood
Yeah, yeah, nice idea.
00:12:43 Nahuai Badiola
00:12:45 Nahuai Badiola
During the conversation with Tom, we mentioned Tim Freak several times since he has been involved with thesustainability since early 2000s. He has a WordPress agency called Mighty Bites. He also wrote a book about thesustainability and it has been one of the leaders behind the new web sustainability guidelines that the W3C community.
00:13:05 Nahuai Badiola
Group released recently, he and his team also created ECHO Grader, another great tool that gives you detailedsustainability recommendations. Indeed, I started asking about the aim of this tool and then we move on to the W3C guidelines.
00:13:23 Tim Frick
Sure. Yeah, absolutely. Well, so. So as back story Eco Grader was released on Earth Day 2013, initially our team tookFriday afternoons off for about 11 to 12 weeks and we put together a custom script and and launched a tool thatbasically allowed you to crawl a URL.
00:13:42 Tim Frick
And it would give you digital sustainability recommendations on how you might improve that URL. And we did thatbecause in 2011, we became a certified B Corp and when we became a certified B Corp, we learned a lot aboutsustainability and and started thinking about that, how how that applies to us as a digital agency.
00:14:01 Tim Frick
And started really applying sustainability principles to the digital products and services that we create and use. And So what happened is when we started talking to clients and other stakeholders about digital sustainability, we realizedvery quickly that they had no idea what we were talking about like they just had no clue what we were.
00:14:22 Tim Frick
What we were talking about and and, you know, somewhere admittedly a little skeptical. And they didn’t, you know, they didn’t see how sustainability applies to a website. They they still thought the Internet was a green mediumbecause it replaced.
00:14:35 Tim Frick
Yeah, you know, So what we wanted to do with eco grader when we launched it was to create an awareness toolbecause we realized that education was going to be a huge mammoth hurdle around all of this stuff. And it still, youknow, education is still a threat through everything that we do as well as, you know, as an important part of digital sustainability overall. And so we launched Eco Greater in 2013.
00:14:57 Tim Frick
We’ve done multiple variations of it over the years. At the most recent of which was launched on Earth Day of thisyear, 2023.
00:15:06 Tim Frick
And you know, we’ve done all sorts of additional metrics to help people kind of understand things like data transfer and page weight and page performance and and interactivity and and user experience and and how all of these things can potentially rate relate to digital sustainability. So that’s eco greater.
00:15:25 Tim Frick
Goal, purpose and then moving forward, our goal is to make it an ESG platform for all digital products and service.
00:15:32 Tim Frick
So that’s a much more longer term ambitious, you know, kind of kind of hill to climb for sure. Right now it just crawls a single URL. We’re working on a version that will allow you to crawl a full domain or a section of domains or a selection. You know based on traffic or based on a number of different criteria with the idea being that it can be an improvementtool.
00:15:52 Tim Frick
To help web teams, you know, make digital sustainability improvements, which of course you know also impact userexperience and energy use and.
00:16:01 Tim Frick
You know, there’s all kinds of. There are really no downsides to taking a digital sustainability approach to, you know, your website or something similar. And so the goal is to kind of help people down that journey.
00:16:13 Nahuai Badiola
Yeah, I really like the last update. It was a really revamp in design and also.
00:16:21 Nahuai Badiola
I think it’s much more actionable now, so you can see your grade, which is nice based on color or whatever, but thenyou have different sections and if you click you can see more information about it and what you can do about it. So I.
00:16:36 Nahuai Badiola
I think that’s with the educational purpose in mind. I think that’s really powerful and I’ve I’ve been recommending itquite a lot since since you adapted.
00:16:46 Tim Frick
Well, thank you. I very much appreciate that. That’s that’s great and I appreciate. I’m glad you appreciate the designupdates that we were. That was absolutely our choices. We wanted to make it more visual, more interesting and andyou know, use a lot of data visualization without weighing down the page unnecessarily. I mean, we’re still trying.
00:17:04 Tim Frick
To apply digital sustainability concepts to eco, greater itself and make it as lightweight as possible and such. But itdoes, you know, it does do a lot on the back end. You know that the people may not be aware of in order to give youthose lists of recommendations you know and and hopefully our our goal is and also to create to use thoserecommendations.
00:17:24 Tim Frick
To create checklists so you can actually say all right, well, I’ve got 20 things I need to do. Here’s my low hanging fruit. I’m going to check off these five things, and it’ll, you know, essentially help you kind of work through that process.
00:17:37 Nahuai Badiola
Nice. Nice. And I think this.
00:17:39 Nahuai Badiola
Those hand by hand with the next question and the next thing we are going to talk about, that is the the new, the brandnew and it is a draft is so new that it’s a draft still, but it’s the the new guidelines for the web sustainability that it wascreated under the umbrella of W3C. We are a part of our group working group.
00:17:59 Nahuai Badiola
I don’t know if this is the.
00:18:00 Nahuai Badiola
00:18:01 Nahuai Badiola
Group Community Group, right, because it’s important to.
00:18:05 Tim Frick
Distinguish for sure.
00:18:05 Nahuai Badiola
To to extinguish. Yeah, I learned about it during these meetings. We went because there is a lot of bureaucracy, whichmakes sense because it’s a huge consortium and it has to have some structure. So can you explain a little bit whatwhat they are? What are they aiming for and how they can in the future?
00:18:25 Nahuai Badiola
Get integrated with ECHO, grader or other websites or.
00:18:29 Tim Frick
Sure. Absolutely happy to do that. Yeah. And and I’ll do the same with with Eco grader. You know, the the Communitygroup actually started in 2013 with a similar goal of saying, all right, well.
00:18:40 Tim Frick
You know there needs to be education and awareness around all of this and there and and you know, there needs tobe, you know, best practices and and you know kind of how do you do this and and you know basically answerquestions that people are going to have. And so I and Jacobs who at the time I believe was the head of marketing forthe World Wide Web Consortium.
00:19:01 Tim Frick
Which is the standards body for the web.
00:19:04 Tim Frick
You know, encouraged me to create a community group and so for the first, you know, probably 7 years, it was just a handful of people sharing things that they found and, you know, kind it was a very small, very loosely defined group. But then the pandemic hit and a bunch of different things.
00:19:23 Tim Frick
Happened, one of which was that people were because everybody was working from home. Awareness around theidea of the fact that, you know, every device that we use requires electricity and.
00:19:34 Tim Frick
Out of it and there are billions of those devices around the planet. People were starting to have a much broaderawareness of digital sustainability. And so it seemed that the time was right to, you know, kind of kick the idea ofsustainability guidelines into high gear. And so we started doing some recruiting, you know, at the time.
00:19:54 Tim Frick
I think the the the, the Community group only had about 50 members of it wasn’t very active and then in 2021, youknow we kicked it into high gear and and I asked a bunch of people in my network to say, hey, can you share with yournetworks, this is a thing that we’re.
00:20:08 Tim Frick
About doing without the goal of creating some guidelines, you know that could help Web developers and productmanagers and business leaders and UX designers help digital professionals actually manage the process of digital sustainability. And so for the past.
00:20:25 Tim Frick
Year and a half for two years.
00:20:26 Tim Frick
Or so we’ve been meeting every month we’ve been.
00:20:29 Tim Frick
Talking about our goals and how we meet those goals and and specifically leading up to W3C’s annual conference, which took place in place in Spain in September, we were our goal was to get our first draft of the guidelines done. And so we had.
00:20:44 Tim Frick
Over 50 contributors.
00:20:46 Tim Frick
Total and and a core group of about 25 that was really working diligently every month on that. The group broke downinto five different committees around metrics, UX design, web development, business and product strategy, hosting and infrastructure. You know essentially different disciplines that kind of fall under the umbrella of digital sustainability.
00:21:07 Tim Frick
Each of those committees had chairs, and those chairs took care of kind of overseeing.
00:21:12 Tim Frick
The getting those first draft guidelines done and then Alex Dawson and I Co chaired the overall group and he and I shepherded the guidelines through to the final final, you know, kind of the final edits for consistency from set to set toset. And then we worked with Lucas Mastalerz to present at Tpac.
00:21:32 Tim Frick
September and that was kind of the official launch of the first draft and our second draft is actually right around thecorner and will be done in time for our monthly meeting, which is at the end of October.
00:21:44 Tim Frick
So we already are, you know, working on that and and you know kind of to to differentiate your earlier point, right nowit is a community group which means it’s made-up of mostly non W3C members in order for us to get on the standardstrack. Now remember W3C is the organization that created the accessibility standards for the web in order for us to geton a similar track which is our eventual goal.
00:22:05 Tim Frick
We need to create a working group. You know there needs to be several W3C members involved with that working.
00:22:11 Tim Frick
Group and we need it. There’s a number of different steps that we need to go through. So we are at the beginning of a very long journey, you know, to to standardize all of this, but you know, it’s also been a very exciting time becausethere really haven’t been any other guidelines. They’re build their guidelines that have been produced. I think therehaven’t been any other guidelines that.
00:22:32 Tim Frick
Have the potential to reach as many people as these do.
00:22:35 Tim Frick
You know, we there are guidelines that have been done in the EU and in France and and a few independent groupshave put together guidelines and we definitely referred to those guidelines and looked at them as inspiration for ourown. And so they were definitely included. But I think with the W3C behind us.
00:22:55 Tim Frick
It’s a really exciting, you know, way for us to get these guidelines out to a.
00:22:59 Tim Frick
Much broader audience.
00:23:01 Nahuai Badiola
It is. It is indeed. We are in a point that we are looking forward to, to have feedback about them. So if someone justheard about it and I I will of course put the link in the show notes, how would it be the the best way of giving somefeedback?
00:23:15 Tim Frick
Or sure. So I I think the simplest thing to do is literally if you Google Web sustainability guidelines.
00:23:21 Tim Frick
There you should have a number of links to not only the guidelines themselves.
00:23:26 Tim Frick
But a few posts.
00:23:27 Tim Frick
Discussing them and, you know, and at a glance, there’s an at a glance file.
00:23:30 Tim Frick
That kind of just.
00:23:31 Nahuai Badiola
Super nice. That document is really nice. I will put it also.
00:23:35 Tim Frick
Yeah. So I think that’s probably.
00:23:38 Tim Frick
The easiest you know, just look for the W3C Web sustainability guidelines and they’re they should be easy to find and there are active contribution options there, especially if you go into the GitHub repository, which is where the theguidelines live.
00:23:54 Nahuai Badiola
That’s that’s really cool.
00:23:56 Nahuai Badiola
Now let’s move to someone that contributes directly on making WordPress more environmentally sustainable.
00:24:02 Nahuai Badiola
We will listen to Adam Silverstein, who is developer relationships engineer at Google, WordPress core committed and part of the WordPress performance team. He reflects on how we always want more and the impact that it could have. He also touches on servers, green hosting energy needed to power.
00:24:22 Nahuai Badiola
3 device and some examples on how.
00:24:27 Nahuai Badiola
A change on WordPress can have a significant environmental impact.
00:24:32 Adam Silverstein
Yeah. I mean, I think I like I’m, I’m sure you would guess, I am super interested in the environmental aspect of inabilityand and I feel like probably there’s a lot of improvements we can make there. What I would call low hanging fruit orsort of like easy things to fix because by and large in in web development and kind of tech in general, but certainly in web development we’ve taken this approach of like.
00:24:52 Adam Silverstein
Always having more resources, you know the Moores Law.
00:24:55 Adam Silverstein
Of everything doubling and even in the web we see like the size of images have just grown and grown and grown, and like our phones, you know, modern phones take these gigantic super high resolution images that probably no onereally needs all of those additional kind of like features that we’ve sort of grown to love also have a cost to them. Theyhave an energy cost, they have a storage.
00:25:15 Adam Silverstein
Cost. So I am sort of a fan of of like going back to simpler, simpler times, I guess on the web five years ago.
00:25:25 Adam Silverstein
Sure. I mean, we talked about this a.
00:25:27 Adam Silverstein
Little bit but first.
00:25:28 Adam Silverstein
Of all you know, when you’re hosting a site, there is that sort of overhead of running the web server. There’ssomeones got to maintain that whole infrastructure of server farm, you know whatever they’re called it and and thosetypically consume a lot of energy.
00:25:45 Adam Silverstein
There are a lot of people who are investing in green energy, so I think when you’re choosing hosting, you can choosea green host now pretty.
00:25:50 Adam Silverstein
Easily. So that’s really on us to to make that choice. The other part of it is, you know, anytime someone visits yourwebsite, there’s there’s an environmental or energy cost there because you have all that data that has to be bothloaded and and sent over the network to those users.
00:26:10 Adam Silverstein
There’s probably some calculations about how far away those users are probably makes it cost more. Obviously, typically as a website owner you want more traffic, so that’s not something you’re going to be able to reduce, but thereare things that that the web server does that maybe can be read.
00:26:28 Adam Silverstein
So like the example that we were talking about before, it was is a very small example, but one of the features thatWordPress has had was the an HTTPS checks. This is a check to make sure that your website is running HTTPS orhas a secure certificate in place so that it can be accessed securely and it was a big initiative.
00:26:48 Adam Silverstein
Several years ago to kind of improve the the rate, you know, the number of sites that use HTTPS just to make the web more secure in general.
00:26:56 Adam Silverstein
It used to be very expensive to implement and only like e-commerce stores really could could justify the cost. Now it’svery easy, you know, to get a secure certificate and have a secure site and something like 85% of sites are already onHTTPS and the the excessive thing that WordPress was doing was checking to see if you had https://support.
00:27:17 Adam Silverstein
After you already had it, and after we already know that most people already have it. So it was kind of an oldsomething that was left in there. But but what the result was, is that every WordPress site in the world was makingtwice a day was making a request to itself.
00:27:32 Adam Silverstein
To to check to see if it had HTTPS. So does it sound like a lot 2 requests a day, but when you multiply that by thehundreds of millions of sites that run WordPress, that’s a really significant amount of energy being consumed foressentially A pointless task.
00:27:46 Adam Silverstein
So those are the.
00:27:47 Adam Silverstein
Kind of low hanging fruits where I feel like, you know, having a website you shouldn’t necessarily be incurring.
00:27:53 Adam Silverstein
Those costs, you know, I think as a website owner you you can make choices about where you place things, but butfor core for WordPress core, we have a responsibility to be as lean and as efficient as.
00:28:05 Adam Silverstein
You know, we already do some things really well, but we could improve them, you know, and another example isimages. You know, when you upload an image that you’ve taken on your phone, that’s a huge image and WordPress helps you by by taking that image and then creating multiple variations of sizes for the front end of your site. So thatwhen a user comes on a mobile device.
00:28:26 Adam Silverstein
That has a much smaller screen. We can serve them a much smaller version of that image and that’s an example ofsaving resources because if you serve them, that huge original image, they’re getting all this data that they don’tactually need. They can’t see. It’s not useful, it slows down the.
00:28:41 Adam Silverstein
The site and at the same time it wastes all this bandwidth and and I think actually that brings us to the the connectionbetween performance and sustainability. So we’ve been very active on the performance team in WordPress core. Youknow we’ve been working on it for a year and a half and a lot of the things we are doing are really do improve.
00:29:01 Adam Silverstein
Sustainability. So just for example, reducing excess database calls or doing better caching so that when you visit a page and the page needs information about a post that gets cached so that you know all the other components of thepage can use the cache instead of hitting the database multiple times.
00:29:19 Adam Silverstein
So those are like their their internal things that aren’t necessarily interesting to end users, but they are making theplatform itself more efficient. And in general, you know most of the performance related initiatives are also sustainablerelated because they’re they’re about reducing.
00:29:39 Adam Silverstein
Resource consumption making things faster typically means reducing what the work you’re doing.
00:29:44 Adam Silverstein
It’s not always true. There are some exceptions so and and I like to point them out just because I think it’s it’s good.
00:29:50 Adam Silverstein
For people to be.
00:29:51 Adam Silverstein
Aware of things like I did.
00:29:53 Adam Silverstein
It 1 exception that I’ve thought of recently is we’re, you know, trying to introduce the idea of preload and prefetch in WordPress, so this is something you can do on the front end.
00:30:04 Adam Silverstein
Just as a as a simple example, when a user goes to click on a link, as they’re hovering over that link, you can sort ofprefetch that page that they’re about to click.
00:30:13 Adam Silverstein
One and then when they do click on the link you get that page to load much faster. Now if they decide not to click onthe link for some reason, you’ve wasted the resources of trying to load that page for the user in advance. And themore you do that, the more you’re sort of wrong about those guesses. The sort of worse the situation gets. Of course, you can actually wait till they put the.
00:30:34 Adam Silverstein
Now click down and start the prefetch and that still gives you like 100 millisecond advantage to waiting to the browser to actually start.
00:30:42 Adam Silverstein
Navigating so this is something like Chrome can actually do but, but on the WordPress side like I have a ticket open for example so that when you add navigate to the posts list page, very likely the next page you’re going to go to is theeditor page. So we we should probably prefetch that so that users get this great experience of clicking on edit and thenthe editor just loads instantly. That’s an amazing.
00:31:03 Adam Silverstein
Improvement in experience for users, which is really what performance is about, right. We’re actually we callperformance, but we’re chasing a better user experience. Yeah, that’s our underlying goal. So here we can have a situation where creating a better user experience doesn’t actually equal.
00:31:18 Adam Silverstein
A more sustainable approach because you’re you’re guessing the user is going to go to this page. You’re preloadingthat page some percentage of the time you’re wrong, and therefore you’re wasting resources at the same time you’remaking the experience better for user. So I think there is a balancing act sometimes to choose a path that you knowmaybe you are going to use more resources, but your users will get a better experience.
00:31:38 Adam Silverstein
Then maybe that trade off is worth it so.
00:31:41 Nahuai Badiola
In this podcast series, I also wanted to know all their opinions about sustainability beyond WordPress community. So I invited Richard Littauer, who is organizer of sustained wise community and host of the Sustained podcast. He has aninteresting point of view regarding the reasons behind the environmental issues.
00:32:00 Nahuai Badiola
On digital sustainability, let’s hear it.
00:32:04 Richard Littauer
I was at a conference last week and there was a running joke that you knew that the conversation was about to endbecause all conversations around software sustainability ended with we have to fix capitalism first.
00:32:19 Richard Littauer
00:32:19 Richard Littauer
It’s really similar to environmental sustainability like, yes, social and capital and politics. Yeah, we got to fix thosethings and they all sort of.
00:32:24 Nahuai Badiola
00:32:28 Richard Littauer
Come back to.
00:32:29 Richard Littauer
Well, there’s long standing ways that humans work together that are just inherently screwed. So how do how do wefix?
00:32:36 Richard Littauer
Those things in terms of open source sustainability, that’s something where I differ from most of the other people in sustain OS. So I think are a lot more focused on open source as a community on communities of open sourcepractitioners on code itself. And I’ve always sort of wondered why we don’t tackle more the environmental aspect.
00:32:57 Richard Littauer
And for me this is partially I feel.
00:33:01 Richard Littauer
Because a lot of conversations around open source sustainability are myopic.
00:33:06 Richard Littauer
They’re focused on the issue of open source, as if that’s the biggest issue in the world. It’s not the biggest issue in theworld. The biggest issue in the world is what are we doing here as a as a species? And why do we?
00:33:16 Richard Littauer
Exist the second biggest?
00:33:18 Richard Littauer
Issue is how do we not like destroy ourselves by making the environment horn?
00:33:23 Richard Littauer
And so for me open source is part of the way that we build a shared data Commons so that we can togetherminimalize duplicated effort so that in this very short period of time when we’re alive as humans right now, this centurywe’re able to make it not die horribly.
00:33:43 Richard Littauer
In the next, you know 50 years. And so for me it’s it’s it’s a through point to environmental sustainability.
00:33:50 Nahuai Badiola
And now let’s move to talk not only about digital sustainability, but also about events. With Julia Golomb. She’s a full time contributor to the WordPress community team, sponsored by automatic. And see what’s an organizer onwelcome, US 2023. Let’s hear her reflections.
00:34:09 Julia Golomb
So what I’m thinking about WordPress specifically and this is not digital sustainability more broadly, but in the contextof WordPress. I am working in the Community space and so I’m thinking.
00:34:17 Nahuai Badiola
00:34:20 Julia Golomb
About it, when I think about sustainability and WordPress, I’m thinking from the lens or the perspective of WordPress community events and how they could be more sustainable. So that is a bit different than digital sustainability more broadly, which is about where quite literally where the Internet.
00:34:41 Julia Golomb
Lives where, what? How are data centers powered? How is all of this information that’s getting stored in the cloudpowered?
00:34:51 Julia Golomb
Where is that energy coming from?
00:34:55 Julia Golomb
That’s I suppose.
00:34:56 Julia Golomb
Those are some of the questions that as we think about digital sustainability that, yeah, I would digital environmentalsustainability that I would.
00:35:05 Julia Golomb
That I would ask.
00:35:06 Nahuai Badiola
The last guest of the episode? It’s Juan Hernando. Dear friend and community team program manager and work onEurope 2024 lead organizer who is sponsored by Weglot. I really like his answer on how we could use some of thelearnings on the environmental area and try to apply them to the other two pills.
00:35:28 Juan Hernando
I think the environmental pillar is something that.
00:35:34 Juan Hernando
00:35:36 Juan Hernando
That small gestures can improve.
00:35:41 Juan Hernando
Quite a lot in in, in the general terms and and for the other pillars.
00:35:46 Juan Hernando
There are still many, many things to to to talk about because.
00:35:53 Juan Hernando
We don’t really know. Like is this something that we can really help with or this is something for governments or justbig industries or or whatever. And I think that.
00:36:08 Juan Hernando
It would be nice if we can translate these things that we’ve been doing about environmental to the other pillars, because everyone can realize how.
00:36:20 Juan Hernando
Recycling something or don’t wasting whatever they have. It’s good for the global.
00:36:30 Juan Hernandoå
World, but we don’t see that for for the other pillars or I don’t.
00:36:35 Nahuai Badiola
Know maybe. No, no, no, you’re you’re right on point. Indeed, when we talk about digital sustainability, I I’ve beendoing some.
00:36:42 Nahuai Badiola
Talks. You, you.
00:36:43 Nahuai Badiola
You’ve been lucky enough to see some of them. We use a lot the CO2 metrics and these kind of things to to explainthe impact the the possibility of positive impact in WordPress or in a WordPress plugin that has a lot of installs or thesekind of things because and we use it because it’s we have the data that’s the first.
00:37:03 Nahuai Badiola
And then because it’s or visual or or, you can imagine and you can see the impact. So one of the reasons I’m doingthis limited series podcast is because I want also to talk about the other two pillars and maybe we don’t have.
00:37:17 Nahuai Badiola
Cool metrics as we do now with with the CO2 and the energy part.
00:37:22 Nahuai Badiola
But yeah, I I want just to surface them and talk about them.
00:37:28 Nahuai Badiola
That was pretty interesting, wasn’t it? I mean, the whole episode, not my last commentary. Of course you will hearingmore opinions on this guest and others in the next episodes talking about guests. I feel like they were really on point. So I even doubted if a summary from my part was really necessary. But I guess someone could benefit from it.
00:37:49 Nahuai Badiola
So the first point could be that when we communicate about the environmental impact, let’s say of websites, it’simportant to know who are we talking to knowing.
00:38:00 Nahuai Badiola
You can use web performance or conversion as a selling point, for example.
00:38:06 Nahuai Badiola
Also, we have nice tools like website carbon calculator and Echo Grider that were created to help raising awarenessabout detail sustainability and they could be a good entry point for some users or custom.
00:38:21 Nahuai Badiola
Also, having the first draft of the sustainability Web design guidelines created under the umbrella of W3C, it’s really a nice starting point. In other hand, we mentioned how a green hosting can help mitigate some of the problems, but alsohow making changes on the CMS can have.
00:38:41 Nahuai Badiola
Significant environmental impact.
00:38:43 Nahuai Badiola
We will talk more about this in episode 5. Events is another thing that we have to add to the mix. Aside from the detailsustainability of WordPress. Indeed we will dedicate the whole episode 6 to explore how we can make WordPress events more sustainable, not only environmentally, but also socially and economically.
00:39:07 Nahuai Badiola
Thanks a lot for listening. I hope you found the episode and our guests opinions as interesting as I did. You can find allthe resources mentioned during the episode in the show notes. You will also find more information about this episodeguest.
00:39:23 Nahuai Badiola
I would love to hear your opinions on the topic. For that you can leave a comment on the website. You can go tosustainwp.com/two then the number or share it in the social platform that you are more comfortable on. And if youthink that the episode could be interesting to other workers colleague.
00:39:41 Nahuai Badiola
Please share it in the next episode. We will be talking about the social pillar.
00:39:46 Nahuai Badiola
I hope you join me there. Bye bye.
Role: Developer Relations Engineer
Bio: Adam is a WordPress core committer where he works to fix bugs and improve modern web capabilities. Adam is a Developer Relations Engineer on Chrome’s Web Platform team at Google, where he focuses on making the open web better for everyone. Adam loves long rafting trips, playing mbira, travel, taking walks and tending his over-sized garden.
Role: President, Mightybytes
Bio: Tim Frick is the founder and President of Mightybytes, a digital agency and Certified B Corp located in Chicago. He is also a speaker, community organizer, and author of four books, including, Designing for Sustainability: A Guide to Building Greener Digital Products and Services, from O’Reilly Media.
Role: (Weglot sponsored) Community Team Program Manager / WCEU 2024 lead organiser
Bio: I’m Juan Hernando, Program Manager of the WordPress.org global community team, one of the lead organizers of WordCamp Europe 2024, sponsored by Weglot within the Five for the Future initiative and a very active member of the WordPress community in Spain and in Pontevedra, Galicia in particular.
Role: Wholegrain Co-founder
Bio: Purpose driven digital agency on a mission to help create a sustainable and equitable world. We work with positive organisations including private sector, non-profits and public sector to deliver low carbon, high performance and accessible web solutions that deliver real value. Since 2007 we have been working with environmentally and socially responsible organisations to help them maximise impact online. We were the first specialist WordPress agency in London many moons ago and develop custom WordPress solutions for organisations including Ecover, Network Rail, UNICEF and Article 19.
Role: WordPress Community Team Program Manager, sponsored by Automattic
Bio: Julia Golomb is a full-time contributor to the WordPress Community team, sponsored by Automattic. She delights in bringing people together around a shared love of WordPress, and is dedicated to promoting the open source values of transparency, collaboration, inclusiveness and community. With a background in conflict resolution and mediation, Julia helps WordPress meetup and WordCamp organizers worldwide build inspiring and inclusive WordPress communities. Julia has a masters degree in Environmental Management from the Yale School of the Environment. Before coming to WordPress, she worked for 8 years as an environmental mediator, facilitating multistakeholder collaboration on complex social and environmental projects. When Julia’s not busy with WordPress, you’ll find her biking, befriending dogs, and spending time in the forest.