Developing Sustainably

Ben Kotch Technology Director

At A Hundred Years, we often ask ourselves the same question we ask our clients: How can we create the greatest long-term positive impact? This applies to both who we work with, how we work, and in my case, as Director of Technology, how we approach technology and digital engagements.

With every collaboration, we strive not only to create impact but also to measure it, and learn if we are reaching our goals. Measuring our impact can be challenging, but energy use (and by relation, sustainability) can be tangibly tracked. And so we can—and must—hold ourselves accountable.”

With that in mind, I’ve recently been asking myself whether we are taking the most sustainable approach to technology. The answer, I realized, is no.

So I set out to make some changes. My research led me to Tim Frick’s book Designing for Sustainability: A Guide to Building Greener Digital Products and Services (O’Reilly), a great primer on what it means to create sustainable technology. Frick suggests  beginning any endeavor by asking yourself, “Is this the most sustainable, efficient solution?”

In answering this question, he offers a number of actions that we now consider at A Hundred Years when working with clients, such as creating apps and sites that are less energy-intensive, designing and developing lighter web pages, and examining our tools—from software to hardware—to see where efficiencies can be gained.

The book dives even deeper, questioning the entire development process beyond individual projects to lifestyle choices and ways of practicing business. Is your office run on renewable energy? How much energy do you use? Can you reduce your emissions every month? Do your employees take public transit? Do you even need an office? Completing a Life Cycle Assessment, which can measure the environmental impact of an organization and its products, is one way to answer these questions. The book is full of approaches businesses can take to become better stewards of our world and environment, which, when we think about the long run, is a necessity.

As we look ahead and resolve to make positive changes in 2017 at A Hundred Years, we’re committing to designing and living as sustainably as we can, and we’ll encourage our partners to do the same. Here are our three resolutions for the year:

  • We are going to move our website to a host that runs on renewable energy as well as identify and use green hosts for all future projects. Thankfully, this is quickly becoming an easier task: Google just announced that all of their data centers will be running on renewables in 2017.  Amazon, we are waiting!
  • We will continue to follow best practices in development and work to build the most energy-efficient sites and applications.
  • We will commit to continuing to educate ourselves on the best ways to improve our sustainability efforts and with that, identify targets that we can track.

Reducing our energy usage and becoming more sustainable is just one avenue that we can take to provide long-term positive impact. In the future, we hope to not only reduce our footprint but create new technological solutions that increase our positive impact just as many organizations use Google mapping tools for good.

Success depends on all of us. Shifting the way we do things isn’t always easy, and it requires all hands on deck. Everyone in the organization needs to be engaged, involved, and aligned with the goal of creating and delivering the most impactful solutions.

So no matter where you work or what you do, as you embark on a new project or look around at your environment, start asking yourself the same question: “Is this the most sustainable, efficient solution?” And of course, we’re here to help.

Related Practice Areas:

Design & Technology

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