I had the huge fortune and pleasure of attending the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance’s (SDIA) Green Coding Summit in November 2023 in Berlin.
Here are my biggest takeaways:
1. We need to reduce carbon now
At a time when we should be reducing carbon emissions, the footprint of the Internet and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector keeps growing. But carbon is just one thing: we also need to consider the damage we do to our environment from water use, mineral extraction, e-waste (not to mention societal effects).
2. We need to practice sufficiency
While IT enables decarbonization in other sectors, it’s all the more important for software itself to become sustainable. And while improving efficiency is necessary, we need to emphasize sufficiency: we need hard limits that help with reductions.
3. You can instigate change
Three steps to raise awareness for green coding:
- Start or join a grassroots movement in your organization
- Get support from C-level management
- Discuss with suppliers, vendors and customers your and their commitments to sustainable software.
4. What devs can do now
One thing devs can do now to help make the environmental impact of software more transparent: monitor energy use and integrate checks into CD/CI. Check out @schaDev’s overview of green coding tools or The Green Web Foundation’s tools overview.
5. Education is key
Without sustainability training, you can’t expect to be the company of tomorrow. Companies and organizations need to make their workers aware of sustainable IT practices.
6. Legislation is needed to help curtail emissions from ICT
The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive in the EU and similar legislation in California will require large corporations to show the public how they impact the environment and society and what they’re doing to reduce that impact.
7. All models are wrong, some are useful
There currently is no standardized or perfect way to measure software carbon. Start with general models such as the Sustainable Web Design model and include more granular data where you can get it. Start measuring and refine measurements over time.
8. You can calculate software carbon emissions today
CO₂.js can help you estimate the carbon emissions of bytes transferred in particular locations and whether a web host is green.
9. Browser tools are available
Firefox is the first browser to surface energy data along with an estimate of carbon emissions. Measure the efficiency of your front-end code using the Power Profiler.
10. The tech community can make meaningful change
Community events and conferences are so important to help forge new connections and create synergies that can make meaningful, impactful change. Governments should actively support and promote them.
- Tech workers interested in using their skills to take climate action should join ClimateAction.Tech
- Listen to The Green Web Foundation’s excellent Environment Variables and Gaël Duez’s Green IO podcast to stay up-to-date about what’s happening in green software
- If you haven’t read Gerry McGovern’s World Wide Waste, you should