Is It Really Sustainable?

1-day Course

How sustainable is digital?

During this course, we will start building a critical view on the sustainability of digital products. Where sustainability is an umbrella term for globally embraced values that help create solutions that make the world a better place, it is sometimes hard to determine what “sustainable” really means. With concepts and frameworks like the Sustainable Development Goals, the Doughnut Economy and circular design for example, we are becoming more and more aware of how to organise ourselves and our organisations in a more sustainable way. However, often the digital space is not – consciously – included in these discussions and decisions. Do you know what impact your website has on the physical environment? What is the CO2 footprint of your inbox, and why? And is it really that sustainable to store and share pdfs on the internet instead of printing all of them on paper? With a huge part of our world and work now happening digitally or online, we need to move beyond physical products and business models, and educate ourselves on sustainable digital design as well.

In this course, we will help you get clarity on the impact of our digital world on our physical environment. We will start with exploring why sustainability is an ambiguous term, and which challenges exist in the digital space when wanting to create a more sustainable world. Using sustainable design principles, you will learn what is needed to design for people ánd planet, and directly apply this knowledge through a predetermined brief of re-designing a digital product that you think can, or should, be more sustainable.

What you will learn:

  • The bigger philosophies colliding in the universal term ‘sustainability’. What type of sustainability are you interested in and how can you talk about it?;
  • How sustainability can inform your choices in a personal and professional context;
  • How to assess the sustainability of a digital product or service;
  • Sustainable Principles within Digital Design and how to re-design accordingly;
  • Paper prototyping;
  • How to define sustainable choices, from an individual and societal perspective;

Covered DSS competencies:

  1. Applied Human-Centred Design
  2. Collaboration and Co-creation
  3. Social Innovation & Sustainable Mindset

What you will do:

The course consists of 2 sprints that are trained in blocks of 2 in a period of 1 day. During the sprints, you and your team will be guided by our trainers. In the sprints, you will be introduced to theory, practical examples, useful methods and fun!

  1. Morning: What are your preconceptions of sustainability? We talk about sustainability, the Digital Society School philosophy and Sustainable Principles for Digital Design. How do you design digitally ánd sustainably? How do you design a digital product that has the least possible impact on the environment? What are changes you can do to improve the sustainability of current digital products? What are key examples of Sustainable Digital Design?
  2. Afternoon: Re-design a digital product or service according to Sustainable Design Principles. Create your lo-fi prototype and test it among your peers. Present your ideas in the group and discuss your key learnings.

Whom is this course for?

You 👇:

You love your sustainable mindset or want to develop it further. You are an aspiring change-maker looking for ways to reflect critically on your area of work, taking sustainability and ethics into account.

Questions you may have:

Q: How theoretical will this course be?

A: At Digital Society School we work through experiential learning, or learning-by-doing. This means theory is always balanced with hands-on methods, followed up by deeper reflections to learn and further implement the process. Expect action!

Q: I am not a (digital) designer specifically, is this course also for me?

A: Yes, for sure! We believe that a sustainable mindset is valuable to everyone even if you are not a designer per se. You will learn how to use a mindset that goes beyond the area of design, and definitely feeds into your own work and life in general. The methods used will also be relevant and applicable for non-designers.

Q: I am not an expert in sustainability, but would love to learn more. Is this for me?

A: Yes! The morning makes sure everybody is able to connect through a common language around sustainability, and different perspectives and understanding are explicitly welcomed – as this enriches the process. We cannot solve the current global challenges on our own, neither can we leave anyone behind in the journey.

Q: Who will I work with during this course?

A: The Digital Society School community consists of makers, doers and thinkers across nationalities and disciplines. Most likely the group will be a mix of different professional backgrounds and ages. The course is open to max. 25 participants, and you’ll work in groups of 3-5 people. The course will be facilitated by instructors from Digital Society School.


Meet your instructors 

Ilaria Zonda
Digital Transformation Designer 
I love to combine user-centered design skills and my creativity in everything I do. I find very stimulating to mix different disciplines and cultures for a greater impact.



Anneke van Woerden
Impact Producer 
Experienced trainer and facilitator working on the intersection between design, social innovation and sustainable development. I work on tools, events and content that bring in sustainability and social impact. From time to time, I try to spark up teams with some energisers when needed and team culture tools.

Mick Jongeling
Digital Transformation Designer 

I research the visual and social impact of rapidly developing technologies on individuals and society. I strive to create pieces of work that questions the current state of the Internet and our involvement in it, being it by speculative design, participatory design or field research.