Introducing the Sustainable Web Manifesto

Written by Tom Greenwood - May 10, 2019

Last week we were proud to launch the Sustainable Web Manifesto, a collaborative project that we worked on with a number of our industry peers who share our commitment to sustainability. In this post, I’ll explain the vision behind the project, the process of making it happen, why you should sign it and what we plan to do next.

Screenshot of the sustainable web manifesto website
We used colour, space and typography to create a lightweight yet engaging experience

Why did we write a manifesto?

Our team here at Wholegrain work hard to embed principles of sustainability in our work and over the past couple of years have radically changed our approach to design and development.

However, sustainability is rarely talked about in our industry and it can be a difficult topic to grasp for anyone who is not a sustainability geek. The internet provides huge benefits to society but it can have unwanted social and environmental side effects if we are not mindful of the potential pitfalls.

We wanted to provide professionals in our industry with a simple set of principles that they can follow in order to help create a web that is compatible with a sustainable planet and society.

The idea was inspired by the simplicity of Edwin Datschefski’s principles of sustainable design that inspired me and guided me as a young product designer early in my career – cyclic, solar, safe and efficient. I felt that creating an equally simple set of principles for the web could help guide and inspire the digital sector to create digital products and services that are compatible with and contribute to a sustainable future.

We chose the format of a manifesto to help make it clear that these are universal principles that we should all commit to and to encourage professionals to make a personal commitment to follow them.

How did it come about?

It was important to us that we created a manifesto that was shared by our industry and not one that only applies to our team at Wholegrain Digital. Therefore, after jotting down some initial ideas, our first step was to invite others in our industry who had an interest in sustainability to help write it. We wanted a variety of perspectives to make it truly effective.

The response was fantastic with professionals from 10 organisations joining the team to collaboratively write the manifesto in a shared document. Having so many contributors did make it challenging to create a final text that everyone was happy with but the end result was a much stronger document that meets the goals of being simple and universal, with five core principles – clean, efficient, open, honest and regenerative.

It was also a wonderful opportunity to work with a number of people who we admire and respect in our industry. I’d like to thank our fellow contributors, Andrew Boardman of Manoverboard, Mike Gifford of OpenConcept, Tim Frick of Mightybytes, Jack Amend of Web Neutral Project, Matt Hocking of Leap, René Post of The Green Web Foundation, Chris Adams of Product Science, James Christie of Sustainable UX and Pete Markiewicz, as well as my wonderful colleagues here at Wholegrain.

Having agreed the final text, we had to design and build the online home where we could share it with the world. It was essential that the manifesto site live up to its own principles and we also believed it important that it should be visually engaging and beautiful. We spent a lot of time designing a super efficient yet beautiful interface which we’re proud to have achieved in just 30kb. When tested in our carbon calculator, it’s cleaner than 97% of all other websites and it loads in less than half a second.

The process ended up taking about six months purely because we had very little time in between client work, and we thank our fellow contributors for their patience with us in pushing it over the line. Good things come to those who wait!

Have you signed the manifesto?

The manifesto website allows you to add your name as a signatory to declare your commitment to creating a sustainable internet. It doesn’t mean that you will be perfect – nobody’s perfect. But it sets your intention in trying to follow the principles of the manifesto in your work and to help move our industry in the right direction. If you haven’t already signed it, you can sign it here.

What’s next?

The manifesto is just the beginning. Our hope is that we can find the time to add a library of practical actions that you can take to make the web more sustainable. Further down the line we would also like to add some case studies of how people in our industry have implemented the principles of the manifesto in their own work.

If you want to get involved please do sign the manifesto, share it widely, use it to guide your work and get in touch to discuss how we can collaborate to take it further.