Anne-Laure Le Cunff is an ex-Googler and the founder of Ness Labs, a product and strategy studio based in London. She builds products and writes content aiming at helping us be better humans. She also runs Maker Mag, the first magazine for indie makers. She joined The Climate Fixathon as a judge because she believes makers can and should use their skills to help fix the climate.
We recently had the chance to interview Anne-Laure about the Fixathon and how she feels about climate breakdown.
Hey! Thanks for volunteering to judge The Climate Fixathon. What motivated you to get involved?
Thanks for inviting me! I think it’s such a great initiative. I care about a lot of things, but none of them will matter if we end up destroying our planet. I’ve been involved in the maker community and I truly believe we have both the ability and the responsibility to help fix the climate.
Have you made any changes within your own life to help with the climate issue?
I quit eating meat when I was younger and haven’t looked back. I also do as much as I can to reduce my use of plastic, such as not using bottle shower gel or plastic bags. Finally, I try to buy local whenever I can.
I’m lucky that my roommate works for Loop, a closed-loop reusable packaging platform which aims at reducing waste by eliminating single-use items. He’s passionate about the topic and always shares about what he read or watched, so I get to learn a lot.
You’re a maker, what advice would you give to other makers who want to help fix the climate but aren’t sure how?
As a maker — whether you’re a developer, a designer, or a writer — you have the unique ability to create tools and content that can impact the way people behave. It’s a superpower that would be criminal not to use!
First, read about climate change and which of our behaviours are having a negative impact. Drawdown is a great place to start, listing a hundred solutions to reverse global warming. Pick one that either resonates with you or that you have already implemented, and ask yourself: how could technology make this easier for other people?
Then, start building. The good thing is that you don’t have to do it alone. It’s actually probably better if you team up with other makers with complementary skills. It could be a tiny project at first: there are so many areas to address that no initiative can be too small.
One of the big challenges in fixing the climate is to create solutions that actually drive behaviour change, whether at a micro or macro level. Make sure to research your target users, design a user experience that works, and craft the messaging in a convincing way.
Are there any problems related to the climate emergency that you think we’re well placed to help solve with software and the web?
Instead of inventing something completely new that would require users to completely change their habits, I think there are many current software solutions that could be made better for the planet.
One example: shopping for sustainable products. We currently have to go to hundreds of small, independent e-commerce stores to buy what we need. Sometimes the only options we found are in another country, where shipping the product would offset the benefits of buying a plastic-free option, for example. It wouldn’t be too hard to build an Amazon-like platform listing sustainable, local shops.
Another example: transportation. Most of the leading apps focus on time to destination. What if we could add a layer on top of these to calculate the most eco-friendly transportation options to get to our destination? Better: why would it have to be a separate app? The less friction for the end user, the better.
But building solutions won’t matter if we don’t educate people better and make them actually feel the acuity of the climate crisis. The Internet is extremely powerful at disseminating ideas, good or bad. How can we use it to our advantage to shape people’s attitudes?
What do you think is stopping people from doing more to fight climate breakdown?
People do not feel the pain caused by climate change yet, or they don’t think they can feel it. It’s similar to people who don’t quit smoking because the potentiality of cancer seems to be so far away. It doesn’t impact their day-to-day. That’s why, in addition to building solutions, we need to better communicate the urgency of the situation.
Are there any climate projects or movements that have impressed you or you’d like to draw attention to?
I’m in awe of Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate activist that inspired an international movement. She’s living proof that you don’t need a lot of cash to start having an impact today. I think everyone should follow her and support her.
I also really like ClimateChoice, a project launched by fellow makers on Product Hunt earlier this year. What’s great about it is how simple it is: they offer actionable guides that help people take action in their daily lives.
Finally, what’s your advice to participants of the Climate Fixathon?
Whatever your level of coding or design skills, you can contribute! Again, there is so much work to be done that no project can be too small. It can be a library of content or a simple API. But if you can, team up with other makers so you can maximise your super powers and build something that’s bigger than the sum of your skills. And of course, have fun!