Towards a low-tech website

Research is not only about saying what should be done. It is also about action. As a team concerned with environmental justice, we deemed it necessary to build a website that gives a taste of how we think our work can materialize concretely.

This website might not look like the sites you are familiar with – we designed it in accordance with “low-tech” principles, specifically paying attention to the amount of data loaded with each webpage.

Statistics show that between 2010 and 2020, the average webpage weight rose from 0.45 megabytes to over 2 megabytes. This change is even more dramatic on mobile devices, where it increased ten-fold over the same period.

In 2020, the information and communication sector, which includes internet and cloud services, was responsible for 2% of global CO2 emissions. The Covid-19 pandemic and a rapidly dematerializing economy suggest that this sector’s impact on global emissions will continue to increase in the future.

Building a low-tech, data-conservative webpage aligns with our commitment to environmental justice.

First, the GEJP seeks to ensure that this website is accessible to anyone on the planet, regardless of the quality of their internet connection. International digital consumption is highly polarized: a small handful of rich countries are responsible for more than XX% of global digital consumption, while lower-income countries have almost no regular access to the Internet. This low-tech website is accessible from any place in the world. 

Second, the generation of electricity needed to power the servers that house our digital data (and the internet at-large) is responsible for deep environmental injustices. Coal remains one of the most common sources of electricity generation, meaning that in order to load webpages, coal must be extracted and burnt somewhere on the planet. This process inflicts irreversible damage on human health, ecosystems, and natural resources, particularly in poorer countries where people do not experience the benefits of high-speed, data-intensive internet access. This is clearly not compatible with the principles of the Environmental Justice Program.

Our challenge was to build an attractive website without using a carbon-intensive design. Hence, we have dramatically limited heavy digital content, such as videos and high-definition pictures, to include only those which convey essential information relevant to our mission.

We are conscious that, at this time, this website remains powered by carbon-intensive servers. This is why our approach represents a horizon of action rather than a definitive fact. Progress can always be made and we do not claim to have reached perfection. Recognizing this gap between reality and a desirable future should not hinder action, but, on the contrary, stimulate us to act, step by step, toward a sustainable future.

To learn more about carbon digital footprints and low-tech alternatives:

last updated: 01-25-21