#35 – Digital Carbon Footprints, Passion Projects, and Purposeful Work

with James Christie, Co-Creator of Sustainable UX

35 - James Christie

SustainableUX Founder James Christie works as director of user experience at Mad*Pow, which partners with the likes of inspiring companies like Cigna Health and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to make their interaction with clients more inclusive and accessible. 

But as he started tapping more and more into his internal drive for purpose, he knew he sought more of it than what he was getting there. Yes, he enjoyed teaming up with fantastic nonprofit partners, but wasn’t as into collaborating with other clients driven by the bottom line. He wanted to make more of a positive impact. 

And he was increasingly scared by how quickly climate change was intensifying. 

In software, I can help, but it’s not going to do you much good if the world’s on fire,” he says. “I began feeling increasingly irrelevant against that backdrop.” He began looking more deeply into the effects of his personal and professional carbon footprint, and how to measure digital impacts. 

“What became more urgent was climate change,” he adds. “It’s become increasingly scary for me, as it has for many.” That led him to create, in a very hands-on and grassroots way, the SustainableUX Conference, to dig deep into how our ubiquitous digital habits affect energy use, pollution and more. He is also an active presenter (and writer) on topics including responsive design; in addition to SustainableUX, he has shared his research at South by Southwest (SxSW), IA Summit, UXPA International and UX Scotland.

He and his small volunteer team hoped the first SustainableUX would attract 40 visitors. It drew 400. Year two, 1,300 attended online, with hundreds watching presentations after the fact, absorbing insight into everything from green web-hosting to biomimicry in design.

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“All the challenges are basically personal. This is a spare-time project and it’s a passion project…there are a lot of competing priorities. [One strategy is] to de-distractify [my] life, to focus on what matters, to prioritize beyond the noise. I’m getting way more focus and able to unblock myself there. It’s definitely a work in progress.” -James Christie

digital footprint

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Topics Discussed: 

  • How to draw purpose from work—and how to find it in your spare time too.
  • The amazing amount of pollution and waste generated by the digital world.
  • The way SustainableUX grew as a conference with a little goodwill, luck and very few other resources.
  • The motivational factors of autonomy, mastery and purpose. 
  • How to affect climate change from within the digital industry.
  • BitCoin’s carbon footprint.
  • The uptick in ethical introspection happening in the design world.
  • The challenges of growing something like SustainabilityUX as a side project.
  • The mindfulness movement, particularly tech mindfulness, and how to map out personal priorities. 
  • Strategies that SustainableUX is using to reach more people.

Give this article from James Christie a read to get to know even more about SustainableUX and what they do!

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