We live in a time of alarming change. The earth is getting hotter at an increasing speed than ever before in human history, and it's beginning to show disastrous consequences. There is a growing focus on this dangerous future that is quickly becoming the present, and there are many who wonder what can be done to avert this crisis.
With the exception of some specific changes to your life, most of the harmful actions that have put our world in the endangered state it is in right now have not come from you. The pervasive idea that what benefits the individual, benefits the rest of society and therefore should be pursued regardless of the negative impact, has improved the quality of life of most people living today, however at a hidden cost that is revealing itself now in a not so subtle way. It has allowed a small few to have the vast majority of wealth in this country at the cost of leaving none for the rest of us, and it has allowed the same few to emit more greenhouse gases than the rest of society combined.
So what can be done? Have I just given you a philosophical excerpt into the failures of the human species, or is there something we can do? There may be. I will lay out 4 key changes that consumers who want to help save this planet can make below, and below that, I will detail how the duo of carefully considered, user-centric web design and local, socially conscious small businesses can take that effort to the next level.
1. Eat More Plant-Based
Animal Agriculture is the second leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions, caused by massive amounts of carbon-releasing after the land is deforested, the fossil fuels consumed in the production and transport of grain and fresh water, and methane released by animal waste. This industry causes an enormous and unnecessary strain on our inhabitable land, fresh water, and grain stores, and it is the single biggest change that a consumer can make to have a positive impact on the health of this planet. If the idea of changing entirely to a plant-based diet is one that inspires dread, then do whatever you can to increase the number of plants you eat. That will leave you off healthier, with less room in your stomach for animal products, and with less greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.
2. Use Public Transit More
When traveling on their commute every day, each individual operates a different vehicle, producing some greenhouse gas in the process. Multiply that by a dozen or more for the different people that need to get somewhere. Now consider the difference in greenhouse gas emissions of using one vehicle to transport all of them. By using public transportation you vastly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that you individually produce to get to the places you need to be at, and for every additional person that uses public transportation, the effect compounds.
3. Shop Your Values
People in Portland, The Pacific Northwest, and even the country as a whole are starting to strive towards more local, ethical, and environmentally friendly consumption. This is powerful. Many people are not in the position to migrate to a job that is aligned with their goals of saving the world, however, every individual is in control of what they consume. By supporting local, ethical and environmentally friendly businesses you are creating a direct and indirect benefit to your society and the world. Directly, you are producing fewer emissions and less waste. Indirectly you are voting to tip the balance away from the big businesses who have abandoned all concern for the environment and the life that inhabits it.
4. Vote and Get Others to Vote
A study by the Pew Research Institute found that America ranked 31st out of the 34 studied developed countries in voter turnout. That means 30 developed countries have a higher voter turnout than us. Those who wonder what we can possibly do to fight climate change and other existential threats to our health and happiness have an answer now. This is what we can do: Vote for representatives and laws that align with that goal, and encourage others to do the same. At the end of the day, it is representatives and policymakers that can change how society is run in the most impactful ways, and it is us, their constituents, that get to impact who is in power and what they accomplish.
A Powerful Team
What happens when you pair a small business that wants to have a positive impact on this planet with a designer that shares that goal and has the tools to help you do it? A positive impact is what happens, naturally. A website is a tool that can be used as positive propaganda, an experience that educates, and inspires, a message to a person's conscious and unconscious to make a vote for a better future.
A Goal Driven Approach
Design is by definition aiming to create a solution to a specific problem. Without this goal, it would be indistinguishable from art, something aimless in its beauty. By understanding a web designer's inherent goals, behind the success of each individual project, the underlying motivation, you can align your goals to save the planet with a designer who's goals are the same. With that consideration considered, you can rest assured knowing that every design decision, every color, every shape, every movement is tinged with the goal of helping your business succeed in having a positive impact.
Treating Users Like Humans
User-Centered Web Design is an approach to designing websites in such a way that it considers the experience of the user as he or she navigates through the site, what their goals are, and how to best help accomplish them. It is a concept that forces the designer to view the "user" as a real human, with desires and goals, rather than the popular perception of them as inputs in a process to conversion. It can appeal to the inherently good nature of each person, one that can motivate them to take positive action in the form of conscious consumption, or social support for a movement that seeks to improve the situation we all are in.
This century began with the pervasive mentality that the pursuit of benefiting the individual can benefit society as a whole. This perspective has to change. The current perspective must be superseded by the idea that what benefits society is beneficial for each individual. The pursuit of positive social change is beneficial for each of its inhabitants. And each of its inhabitants has a role to play in saving our society and our planet.