Do you consider the environmental impact of your software?

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When writing or deploying software, do you consider the environmental impact of it? Does this factor into the design process when choosing hosting etc?

I've been thinking about this more and more lately as cloud computing environments have started posting their emissions statistics. For example Google are 100% carbon neutral, AWS is 50% neutral with a promise to go 100%, and Microsoft are doubling down on sustainability

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Google is not 100% green.

Let's me explain it.

More than 80% of the energy produced is not green, it means coal, gas or nuclear plant. Why? Because they are insanely efficient than their competitors.

Now, we have Google that it's purchasing green energy. But it is not using it.

Why?.
Let's say we have a data center in Oklahoma (the main Google's datacenter is in Oklahoma and most of its generation of electricity is based on gas).

Transporting energy is expensive. Most of the energy is lost while it's transported (around 1% per 100 miles, it is a theoric value, the reality is worse) but also increases the costs of the transmission. So Google couldn't use the energy produced too far away from the datacenters.

So what Google is doing?. They are purchasing green energy but they are using non- green energy So, what Google is really purchasing? green bonds and they are just paper, nothing more.

Now, Google is also producing its own green energy and that's green. But this energy is not enough to call Google a 100% green energy.

In the case of Apple, Apple bough a forest and it is also part of the green bonds. However, Apple is not adding a forest to the ecosystem, it just purchased it. So for the ecosystem, the maneuver of Apple is doing nothing.

And, do I consider the environmental impact? Yes, and we need to pollute less, and it means to reduce production. In the case of IT, we need fewer programmers, for example, some office with 100+ programmers working on practically nothing useful. It means a lot of energy and pollution.

 

For DevLids.com I did a CO2-Offset after the first year. From some CO2-Footprint-Calculators I estimated 5.000 kg of CO2. (I don't have many visitors 😂). A good place for offsetting your footprint is atmosfair.de.

Other than that of course of course I mind performance while developing. Why would I not.

 

Jorge made some good points, but it's even worse:

Google matches 100% of the energy consumed by our global operations with renewable energy

So they aren't carbon neutral, they get their electricity requirements from "renewable" sources, this is very different.

Straight off the bat we have to ask if biomass, i.e. non-sustainable deforestation, is still considered renewable.
However, even sources that we traditionally consider renewable are bad for the environment. There are several sources discussing this, take a look at the talk "why renewables can't save the planet".

If a company would advertise having built a nuclear reactor next to their server farm, I would be inclined to make the switch. As it is, this is just marketing.

I wouldn't be surprised if in 10-20 years time we discovered renewables were a scam by big oil to keep nuclear at bay.

 

Never, ever do I consider it. What matters is the source of electricity, and for now, there's no way that I am aware of to pick "renewable energy sources only" on any of my cloud service management consoles - in which case I would unless the cost was prohibitive. Until that option is available, I'm not going to lose sleep over the environmental impact of if I used (say) a loop or recursion.

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Tom Butterwith profile image
I'm a software engineer leading Skyscanner's environmental sustainability team | Code First:Girls Lead Instructor | CodeBar mentor | Part-time pot painter