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How I got into sustainable web design (EP.2/3)

This article is a part of the series “How I got into sustainable web design“, a three-part series about my background and how I got into sustainable web design.

I continue my education in programming.

The vibe of having a career in the technology field is so strong, especially in a technology-based city like Seattle. With technology, anything seems to be possible. Having skills in technology is like having a superpower. That’s why I enrolled in a Programming Associate Degree at Seattle Central College. I wanted to strengthen and advance my skills in web development. 

I chose Programming and not just Web Development because I wanted to learn frontend, backend, and mobile application development. In addition, I believed the Programming track would enlighten me more about what kinds of things can be created with a computer besides websites.

Funny enough, halfway into my program, I realized that I love WordPress web development more than anything else. I did exceptionally well when designing and building WordPress web projects. My teacher often used my work as an example for other students and labeled me a “star student.”

I advanced my skills further by working part-time as a Web Manager for my school’s newspaper, the Seattle Collegian. It got more challenging because I had to manage a larger-scale website with more stakeholders, not just a personal blog with only a few readers.

I scaled up my skills and knowledge and paired them the right way.

As a new member without any onboarding training from the previous web manager, I taught myself how to tackle the unknown, search for knowledge, and ask for support. I navigated through the challenges that I didn’t care much about while running my blog, such as web security, decluttering web components, content optimization, loading speed improvement, SEO, plugins, widgets, and themes management.

Beyond my routine technical tasks, I transferred my website knowledge to the next web manager by building a web manager training program. This program aims to be an online framework for a web manager, which can be learned at their own pace, referred to when dealing with problems, editable, and transferrable.

This program trains a web manager how to manage a website, their routine responsibilities, fix common issues, and onboard a new member. It includes documentation based on my experience and research and video tutorials I made. I hosted the text content on Notion and videos on YouTube, linked them together, and shared access with my team members.

My team members and the new web manager found my training program handy, easy to use, and saved a ton of time. Their feedback made me realize the value of pairing my WordPress knowledge and documentation skills to solve problems people didn’t know existed.

I combine my skills and passion for paving my future career.

My passion for a low-waste lifestyle remains strong. I practice low-waste living daily and write articles about it once in a while. I wanted to make my technical skills useful for the sustainability field but wasn’t sure how to integrate the two. Therefore, I started by making websites about sustainability in every school project to gain more clarity. These are some examples of the projects I made:

Mindful Gifts Guide Website: A website that guides readers on how to give gifts more mindfully on holidays and why it matters. I built this site with HTML, CSS, and PHP. 

Zero Waste Navigator Application introduction website: An introduction website to a mobile application that helps match users’ product search with the nearest bulk/zero waste store in their area. 

Sustainability Playground: A one-page website that allows users to play with different widgets representing different sustainability actions and problems. It builds awareness around waste problems and encourages users to start taking small actions where they can.

These projects were so fun to make and taught me so much about web design, content design, and the technical side of things. As a result, I had a clearer vision of what I wanted to do after graduation.

I want to become a freelance web developer that makes websites for small businesses. A company like Scoop has made me realize the importance of small businesses to local communities and why we need to support them. If my freelance job doesn’t work out, I will get a job as a WordPress web developer for a company that cares about reducing waste and improving the planet. 

Things started to shift.

I started exploring the market for web developers in the low-waste field. I realized the growing demand of website makers for online low-waste stores. But I began to feel its saturation, especially when more and more online stores popped up to sell ‘sustainable’ or ‘zero-waste’ products and try to pump up sales. 

Although the nature of running a business is to make money, businesses that aggressively market ‘sustainable’ products gradually shifted away from my value standpoint. The meaning of my low-waste living is to use, reuse, and repair what I already have before getting to the point of sourcing a new one. But to make money, businesses have to encourage consumers to jump to the buying stage and omit other considerations. 

It’s challenging to find the balance of marketing ‘sustainable’ products while staying true to the goal of sustainability. I don’t have the answer for that either. And that slowed me down from getting into making websites for those who sell ‘sustainable’ products. 

That might raise the question: how about Scoop Marketplace? Scoop’s mission still speaks to me because they solve my pain points at the right spots. First, they sell high-quality bulk food items, which save me a lot of money and cut down a ton of packaging waste. Second, they truly live their values by educating people about sustainability through their Podcast and encouraging us to focus on progress rather than perfection. To me, that’s the level of genuinely sustainable business I want to keep supporting.

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