UXHel community held an online workshop, gathering designers from all over Europe. In this meet-up, we explored how we can use our powers as designers for the benefit of the planet. In this article, we will share the ideas that the community came up with during the workshop. Also, you will get valuable tips on how to put these ideas to practice as well as examples of companies which are taking action.
Once in a while, we professionals take a moment to reflect on what our skills and superpowers are. You know, thinking about what our strengths are and what we still need to improve. But, do we ever wonder what we use them for?
In an online workshop with the UXHel community that gathered designers from different parts of Europe, we asked them: How can you use your powers for the planet?
We used Planet Centric Design principles to guide our thinking: responsible, systemic and transparent.
In general terms, being responsible involves being accountable for what you put in the world. Being systemic means embracing the complexity of value chains and networks of stakeholders. Lastly, being transparent includes opening up your processes and systems to inform users and accelerate behaviour change.
The principles do not have a hard distinction, they overlap, as an idea might be responsible and systemic, or responsible and transparent, or it might embed the three principles.
Check out the ideas that the community came up with during the workshop as well as our tips and examples of companies which are taking action. In addition, take the chance to ask yourself the same questions as you read.
How to use our superpowers in a responsible way
Within the main themes, here are some ideas that were brought up by the participants:
- Make a habit to start every morning by thinking about my contribution to the planet today
A big part of working in a planet centric manner starts with having the intention to do so. This helps us remember to question our work throughout the day. In addition, learning more about social and environmental impact helps us realize what we can improve with our work. For instance, reading books such as Limits to Growth, or following blogs such as Global Eco Guy.
- Push back on "quick fixes" to create longer-lasting solutions
When our mindset is focused on short-term, we might be creating solutions that have negative consequences over a longer period and across a bigger part of society and the environment. The consequences might affect people beyond your users and the environment beyond your immediate value chain. Once products, services, processes are in place, it is harder to stop and change them, then it is to reflect on these issues from the get-go. So, when working with your team, stop to discuss the long-term effects of your product or the feature you are fixing. Not only this is very important to avoid collateral damage, but it is also a chance to find new business opportunities, such as the example of Ponsse.
Now to you: how can you use your superpowers in a responsible way?
How to use our superpowers in a systemic way
Here are some ideas that were mentioned during the workshop:
- Support change from "competition" to "collaboration" between companies
The challenges we are facing as humanity demand that we collaborate, as we cannot solve them in silos. For that, actors across industries need to share developments and learnings, in order to accelerate the sustainability transition. Levi’s is an example that open-sourced a technique to its competitors that they had been perfecting for 9 years to reduce the water usage while making jeans. Nike and IKEA work with their suppliers to help them improve operations to be more socially and environmentally responsible. Many more companies are taking these actions and designers play a role here as facilitators of dialogue between all parties, as well as storytellers who make complex information easily communicated.
- Work with coders to decrease our service’s impact
It is essential to collaborate with coders to reduce the overall impact of the services we create. The internet has a considerable impact on global carbon emissions. Therefore, actions like choosing an environment-friendly server, optimising code, eliminating unnecessary moving of data, and designing lighter elements in your UI add up for a decrease of impact of the products that you create.
Think to yourself: how can you use your superpowers in a systemic way?
How to use our superpowers in a transparent way
Within the themes presented in the graph above, here are a few ideas that came up were:
- Show what the individual employees are doing to reduce their environmental impact
Our choices at work have an impact. We might start thinking of how we commute to work, what food we choose and how much we travel for events and meetings, in order to consider alternative ways that have a smaller impact. We might go beyond our individual choices and question how we organise team- and company-wide events: can we go for vegan food only? Can we avoid flying completely? Once we start making these changes it becomes easier to question the impact of our actual work, such as considering how energy-intensive our digital services are, what happens across our value chain and what kind of clients we work with.
- Make the information about which resources are used for a product or service available to the consumer
Our society works mostly with global supply chains which the average citizen doesn’t comprehend. However, being informed is the first step for people to make better decisions.
Brands like Everlane, Patagonia, Ritual are radically transparent about their processes, which not only creates trust with users as it also educates people on what happens behind the scenes of their products.
Finally: How can you use your superpowers in a transparent way?
Start being a responsible agent at work today
Put your responsible agent hat on and reflect on what you can do today to start having a positive impact through work. Consider using the ideas mentioned or find your own ways of using your powers for the planet. But start now. Don’t wait for changing jobs or a better time to start. We all need to assure our work has a positive impact regardless of our workplace or work position.
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