I just shared this on LinkedIn, and it seems worth sharing somewhere on a domain I control too, as I’ve had a number of people ask about this over the last few weeks:
Hello there, professional acquaintances on linkedin. Are any of you folks aware of openly published, sustainability polices, or policies around travel for staff in your, or other organisations?
I’ve had a few people ask me, and I tend to work in smaller companies where it’s never been explicitly written down that we try to take surface transport where possible, and if there is travel by plain it must at least be offset, and attempts made in future to minimise it – it’s just been an unspoken norm.
But I know these kinds of policies exist.
Are these *really* considered a source of competitive advantage, such that they would be not be shared openly?
If you’d see one, please drop a comment below, or please get in touch – I know a number of companies where employees are looking for one, and it seems worthwhile thing to have.
I know some people are working on this as a result of the OMG CLIMATE unconference in Berlin, and you can see some notes in this gallery.
I recently had the chance to talk about building a more sustainable web at JSConfEU, and one nice thing about the conf was that lots of useful people to speak to were in one place, but also I learned something about making it easier for larger orgs to get onboard in discussions. I’ll share it here.
First, getting a platform to talk about Sustainable Web at JSConf
First of all, I’m really grateful to get a space to talk about this at a mid-size conf in my home city, and to actually have people turn up to it at the event.
Introducing the W3C Ethical Web principles
I had a 10 minute slot to talk about the OMG Climate unconferences, and greening the web in general, and it gave me a chance to highlight something that caught my eye in the recent W3C Ethical Web Principles:
The web must be an environmentally sustainable platform
The web, as a whole, is a big consumer of power. New web technologies should not make this situation worse. We will consider power consumption when we introduce new technologies to the web.
Having principles like this from the W3C is useful , but what else was interesting was some advice I received, about making it possible for larger groups to get involved.
Making it easier to contribute and discuss sustainable web
I knew that the W3C has specific terms about contributing IP when declaring specs for browser makers to follow, but I hadn’t really internalised that this largely applies for the community groups too, making it easier for groups to contribute, without going to legal departments all the time.
I think in future, it makes sense to if not share thing there, syndicate posts or content there to make it easier for others to comment, and if nothing else, it builds a body of work, and evidence that’s publicly accessible.
I’m hoping someone in my network might have some domain expertise in an area I don’t know too much about, so I’m posting this here, to make it easy to share.
As I understand it, to sell renewable energy in many countries, you generally need need to inform the regulator in your country about the renewable energy infrastructure you have, so you can be issued credits for the energy you produce (this doesn’t cover every case, but a lot of them).
I’m not sure how this data is licensed, or if you can download it in bulk anywhere as Open Data, but I do know it exists, and is collected, as it’s used by the regulators anyway.
Elsewhere in the world
I live in Germany, and I’m trying to find this information. Does the German energy regulator maintain a register of renewable energy certificates, that you can download and analyse, like these two examples above?
In the UK at least, recognise there is already policy here, and make sure it’s followed. DEFRA a UK, government department has outlined this below. Lots of it is very sensible, and with seems like a fairly uncontroversial goal:
A resilient digital and technology ecosystem, fully utilised by digital citizens, delivering a net gain for the environment and society through reduced impacts and measurable benefits
Adopt specific, existing guidelines frameworks for procurement
More than two thirds of gov’s own environmental impact comes form it’s supply chain, and in UK at least we spend 300bn BGP each year on procurement. For gov IT, it typically makes sense to buy lots of services rather than build them internally, so having clear guidelines for this would help. Thankfully these exist too in the form of OECD’s Green procurement guidelines, and would help create a market for greener services that benefit the entire sector.
Make it easier to transparently source renewable power for ICT services, and mandate it in contracts
Finally, because we don’t tend to manufacture so many electronics in the UK anymore, one of the larger impacts would be to
mandate UK ICT services use renewable power. Every large provider has an option for this now – it’s totally inline with government’s own policies, and is often cheaper than fossil fuel options now.
make it easier to support a shift from fossil fuels, by making it easier to source renewable power in the first place – remove the policy that makes it so difficult to deploy renewables in the UK right now.
Publish stats on which departments have moved to renewable power for their ICT services
This is referred to already, but given that most public services would need to have some kind of manifest of the tools and services they use to store data, as part of following GDPR anyway – reporting on which of these run on renewable power would be not be an unreasaonble ask.
a) I’m honestly curious what conversations people are having,
b) it seems a good place to learn how they get consensus on the various standards they’re adopting as an alternative to using a centralised service – something I’m thinking a lot about in my current gig
Apparently, it’s possible to RSVP through your own website, somehow, and it revolves around using some clever markup, in a microformats stylee.
If you view source on this post, I think you should be able to see what the required markup looks like:
Yes, there is a missing week. I totally fell off the wagon last weekend, and it felt extremely dishonest to retroactively add a weeknotes #4 in.
So, what’s been keeping me busy?
More investigation into definitions of green power for the green project
Open sourcing code is one thing. It’s possible to read licences, and open data licenses, and all that.
But understanding all the definitions of green power and having reliable definitions, and finding a way to make it intelligible to people who don’t have the time to understand energy markets is really complicated.
The thing is, without making this information digestible and correct, it’s difficult to defend the decisions when you have an automated or even semi automated service giving people green or not-green statuses for the infrastructure they use.
That said, it’s getting clearer.
Writing scripts for infrastructure
I didn’t expect to when I started on this gig, but I’m writing ansible scripts again, for stuff like incremental backups, and getting data safely offsite, where it can be recombined for analysis, or for cutting releases for publishing as open data.
Getting support and interest for an climate and tech themed unconference in Berlin in May
I’m funded on the prototype fund until August, and the next funding round theme, commit system is one I’m absurdly excited about, so I’ve been hustling like crazy to find people who might be up for working with me on future rounds to work in areas where I think there’s scope to build some useful things, which either complement what I’m working on, or make it it possible for new things to be created.
Why is this cool?
I’ll write about the others in more detail this week, as it’s 12:36 am, and I’m trying to get to sleep earlier during the week now.
Last year, I worked with a few friends to organise an unconference in Berlin, called OMGDPR.
It was mainly a response to seeing at what, at the time, seemed like an event that was landing on a very specific day, with poorly understood but extremely far reaching consequences.
And at the same time, it seemd like there was an opportunity to address loads of the issues that make tech sometimes feel like a trashfire to work in.
We’re thinking of doing another one, but for climate change this year, because jeez, have you been paying attention lately?
It seemed worth sharing how we did it, especially if others want to do something similar themselves.
Reduce, reuse, recycle… our own unconf planning material
We designed OMGDPR to be something that could easily be run anywhere people were able to get a space, and more than say… 20 people in one place try to work together, but it might be worth sharing the reasoning for some decisions.
First… why an unconf?
We ran it like an unconf, because there there’s now a decent amount of detailed content, and videos, guidance, if you care about climate change and you work in tech. These are good for explicit guidance, but there’s not so much around if you want to talk to others, and learn from practice.
During the day, we used this deck to work from – it has links to the code of conduct we used, shows how we split up the space, to allow conversations, and had guidance on taking photos, and social media, as well as a map and guidance to the post-event venue to hang out, where we had a space booked.
We ran it as a morning event, on a weekend to avoid needing to provide much in the way of food. We did think about running it during the week as an afternoon thing, getting a free venue is harder, and lots of our audience would be working.
Soundcloud let us use the venue for a free – one of our organisers works there, and there were soft drinks in the fridge available.
A local company, Uplink.tech, paid for some snacks, bread, dips and so on, in case people wanted some sustenance between sessions.
We didn’t pay travel expenses for anyone to come, and we know that made it less accessible.
Rather than have people come to the event from long distance, our plan was to make it easier to fork and run a similar events in different locales, than give people reasons to jump on planes.
This is partly because the majority of emissions associated with a conferences come from people travelling to attend them, and although my intuition makes me think unconference probably wouldn’t have so much international travel, it’s still worth considering. As an aside, been experimenting with a remote meet up, Clean Coffee, (sign up here for April), to make it easier to have these kinda of conversations – there’s still space!
Giving it a snappy name and getting a decent mix of people to come along
We mainly chose OMGDPR as it was the best pun we could come up with at the time, and it made for a nice, short hashtag. We even put it to an extremely unscientific poll:
When me and Maik were initially chatting about doing some kind of unconf, we were acutely aware of being a bunch of white programmers in our thirties – if we tried to do everything ourselves, we’d end up with an unconf full of loads of people just like us, and we’d miss loads of things that would be obvious to other folk who weren’t straight white programming dudes.
So we did two things – one was get help (which resulted in our organising group growing a Theophani, and growing to 3 people in total), and then we made a deliberate effort to publicise the event in communities outside our default ones before the usual ones we’d speak to if we were running a meetup.
In addition, we didn’t make registration public or discoverable, until we had at least half our venue capacity booked by people from these communities.
This seemed to work pretty well, and we hit our targets for attendance target of about 60 people fairly easily, with a decent mix of people.
The event largely went as outlined there, the format turned out to be easy to use, such that we’ll likely follow the same one again.
We had fun, met nice people, learned a bunch, and were able to share a bunch of resources centrally. You can see a load of them linked in the medium post.
Doing it again, about climate
OMGPDR was fun, and we want to do it again – while we jokingly used this apocalyptic planet-bound asteroid to help talk about about GDPR, in the case of climate change, we really are facing an existential threat this time.
What’s more, now that I’m working with the Green Web Foundation, I’m able to dedicate time to try to get one of these off the ground in Berlin. One thing though.
Naming things is hard.
We still don’t have a name yet though.
OMGPDR always raised a laugh, and there’s still a bunch of good will tied to the OMGPDR event, but carbon and climate change is harder to find a good pun about.
I wish I had been smart enough to come up with Environment Variables, that Merrin Macleod came up with for her Rubyconf talk – it’s easily the cleverest tech/climate change pun I’ve come across so far.
Right now, the best I can come up with is OMG ENV (oh-em-gee, ee-en-vee, or oh-em-gee env – whichever sounds better to you).
It somewhat captures the OMG reference from last year, it’s a reference to Merrin’s stellar talk, and sounds sufficiently silly saying out it loud, to capture the yes, it’s all messed but, it’s sometimes cathartic to be able to laugh about some of it tone of the absolutely fantastic Sustainababble podcast.
Update – I had the suggstion of OMGREEN from a friend, Lucy. I think it might be funnier. Might be worth putting to a twitter. I’m still open to more names
If this sounds interesting to you, please take a minute to fill out this form, so we can tell if this worth doing. We’ve got most of the stuff ready to go, but it’s sensible to check for interest before committing, no?