Realizing we’d overlooked the environmental impact of our websites for years was a shock. How had we missed that a website’s energy usage causes emissions?
After team introspection, we knew we wanted to change. We knew digital sustainability was our way forward. We wanted to make it our focus, so we decided to establish company-wide sustainable business practices.
Today, our efforts have been featured in a major German newspaper, we talked about digital sustainability on podcasts, and spoke at an international sustainability conference.
In this post, we’ll talk about our journey, covering these steps:
- Orientation – Identifying where to begin
- Education – Building sustainability expertise
- Technology – Learning to build low-carbon websites
- Brand – Building a sustainable brand identity
- Culture – Adopting a people- and planet-friendly culture.
- Coverage – Getting featured by media outlets
Step 1: Identifying where to begin
We had to gain a holistic overview of our business to find the right place to begin our sustainability journey.
We started with these steps:
- Mapping our business units in detail. This helped us identify areas we needed to evaluate and transform.
- Prioritizing business areas. This helped us focus on high-priority tasks such as 1) educating ourselves, 2) rethinking our brand identity and 3) scrutinizing internal practices to avoid greenwashing.
This is the overview we used with added prioritization to (1 = most important):
This business overview is loosely based on a Miro template called „Business Mindmap“ which you can copy and paste from here.
The map made us realize how big the change ahead of us was. But we were happy to push forward anyway because we believed in the cause. We figured that our work could actually make a positive impact on the environment, and we thought that was pretty amazing.
Step 2: Building sustainability expertise
For all our enthusiasm, we knew very little about digital carbon footprint reduction at this point. That’s why our first step was to dive deeper into the topic and get educated.
- Sustainable Web Design (book) by Tom Greenwood
Tom Greenwood talks about how the web affects the environment and gives tips on making websites more climate-friendly. He covers things like choosing green web hosting, coding smartly, and keeping designs simple. It was a great way to start our journey
- Sustainable Web Design (website) by Wholegrain Digital and MightyBytes
This site is a goldmine, packed with ideas from your project’s core values to how you host your site. Plus, there are loads of extra reading links if you want to dive deeper.
After digesting all the new information, our team members shared what they had learned, making sure everyone was on the same level of knowledge.
We also arranged a call with the digital sustainability pioneers from Wholegrain Digital who have been super forthcoming in sharing their knowledge and inspired us to take things further.
PS. If you’re looking for a more extensive list of resources, guidelines, and tools, head to our post about Tools for Green Designers.
Becoming sustainable WordPress pioneers
43% of all websites are made with WordPress. Typically, these websites use pre-built themes, which determine the visual and functional elements of the website.
We use a theme called Astra. It’s one of the lightest WordPress themes available. We created an even lighter version of it by removing all non-essential features and files.
To make it even faster, we use optimization plugins. We even made our own plugin to remove all the unnecessary stuff because the existing tools weren’t enough.
The result: Our sustainable WordPress theme is not only faster but also more environmentally friendly, with a carbon footprint 80% smaller than a regular WordPress page’s.
Here’s a table comparing the page size of websites we recently built with the web average:
|WEBSITE||SIZE||WEB AVERAGE||% SMALLER|
|Kapiro||1.1 MB||2.4 MB||54 %|
|Steinzeit||1 MB||2.4 MB||58 %|
|Stuckateur Will||306 KB||2.4 MB||87 %|
Step 3: Creating a new brand identity
At this point, we felt confident we could create awesome, low-carbon websites. The trouble was that neither our website nor our brand messaging mirrored our new expertise and commitment.
It was high time for a re-branding. We started with the essentials: What’s our new purpose, what’s our orientation? How can we make it easy to understand?
Why / How / What
We’re fans of the simplicity of the Why / How / What framework by Simon Sinek. Here’s how we adopted it for jut-so:
To be good for the planet and people.
Through creating products that are accessible, sustainable, and beautiful.
We create low-carbon websites and cultivate eco-conscious brands.
This framework helped narrow the brand down to three simple sentences. The simpler a brand’s message, the more resonant it becomes.
We chose a Why with broad strokes, yet one that aligns with our business practices. Whenever faced with a decision, we ask ourselves: does this serve the planet? Does it benefit its inhabitants?
A simple mission
For our mission, we wanted something simple and easy to relate to. This is the result:
Making the internet more sustainable.
On our current website (2023), the mission is part of our hero image, which reads: Green the WWW.
Sustainability as a central brand value
We didn’t ditch our existing brand values because we still live by them. But we did decide to give sustainability the pole position in our renewed focus.
Our core values are:
- Sustainability – Central to our services and products.
- Creativity – The guiding principle in everything we design.
- Authenticity – The essence of our internal and external communication.
- Humor – A reminder to live and work light-heartedly.
The Jester sets us apart
We’re firm believers in the Brand Archetype Framework. The framework uses 12 archetypes based on Carl Jung’s theory to sharpen the brand personality.
These archetypes help brands tell powerful stories and connect with people on an emotional level. You can learn more here.
These are our two archetypes:
The Creator archetype embodies innovation, expression, and daring. Given the innovative nature of sustainable websites, this archetype aligns seamlessly with our brand’s essence.
The Jester differentiates us from other Creator brands. We keep it fun, and light and make sure to throw in a joke here and there.
To incorporate the Jester into our website, we added humorous comments next to our website copy. What’s life without a bit of fun?
A brand design focused on typography and color
Our new design was to be bold, creative, and yet align with our sustainable mission. We entered a world of vector-based visualizations, embracing sharp illustrations and bold typography that don’t compromise on style or load time.
Here’s a sneak peek into our creative process with initial drafts of our homepage header:
When it came to brand colors, green was an obvious choice, given its well-established link to sustainability. But we didn’t just want any old green – we hunted for a fresh and different shade that didn’t say “We’re green, so we must be sustainable“.
Balancing it with a fresh purple did the trick. Together, they create a perfect blend that’s not just a treat for the eyes but a reflection of our quirky and design-driven brand.
Step 4: Honing the company culture
Our website’s relaunch checked four boxes on our list:
- Becoming sustainability experts
- Learning to create low-carbon websites
- Rebranding our company for sustainability
- Launching our first sustainable website
In other words, things were looking good on the outside. We were embodying the change we wanted to see. But what about our internal business practices? After all, our new vision was to be good for people and the planet.
We introduced several initiatives to align our actions with our vision:
- Eco-Friendly Tech: Reducing e-waste by opting for refurbished electronics.
- Cycle to Success: Encouraging a healthy and green commute by subsidizing bicycles with up to €900 per employee.
- Green Gastronomy: Offering a complimentary veggie meal as an incentive for an eco-friendly lifestyle.
- Eco-Commuting Perks: Making daily commutes greener by covering the costs for monthly train tickets.
- 1% for the planet: Giving back to the planet by donating 1% of our yearly revenue to sustainable initiatives.
- CO2 compensation: We compensate our employees’ CO2 footprint at the end of the year using planted.green
Setting up the website carbon calculator
The discussion on sustainable websites would be all talk and no action if there wasn’t a way to measure a website’s carbon footprint.
Thankfully, there’s a tool called the Website Carbon Calculator developed by Wholegrain Digital.
It’s a fantastic resource spearheading the movement towards a carbon-neutral internet. Enter a website’s URL into the calculator, and it will reveal the amount of CO2 generated per visit. Cool, right? We partnered with Wholegrain Digital and leveraged their API to develop a German version of this calculator, which you can find here.
Step 5: Spreading the word
At this point, we were no longer just another company in the digital space. We had a vital message that we were certain would resonate with many. It was all about spreading the word and connecting with the right audience who would value our initiatives as much as we do.
Here’s how we started making waves:
- We crafted a press release about our sustainable approach and the carbon calculator and sent it to a select group of journalists.
- Our story caught the eye of the renowned German newspaper, “Tagesspiegel,” earning us a whole-page interview.
- “Factory Berlin,” a well-known co-working space, amplified our story further, sharing it with their Instagram audience of 20k+ followers.
- We shared insights about crafting sustainable websites on the “The Entrepreneurial Expedition” podcast.
- We spoke at the SB’23KL conference, rubbing shoulders with representatives from large brands like PWC and L’Oreal.
This wave of publicity has opened new avenues for us. It paved the way for collaborating with the German Green Party on an inspirational workshop, and attracted job applicants eager to join our cause.
We found that building a more sustainable web is a rallying cry that unites and inspires people, and we’re happy to be a part of that movement.
Summing it up & moving forward
We revamped our services and brand to focus on green practices and are working towards B-Corp certification. Now, we’re no longer just a business but part of a movement to create a greener internet. Our mission is simple: “Making the internet more sustainable“.
We dream of a web where innovation harmonizes with conservation, a space that prioritizes the welfare of our planet and its people. We dream of a web encouraging responsible practices and inspiring users to make ethical choices. We’re excited for what’s to come, and we hope many people will join our journey of green business transformation.