IT Carbon Footprint, Green Code, Green Hosting

Interesting article with facts and data on the IT-industry’s sustainability impact, tools to develop greener code, and a company that offers hosting with air cooling only.

The digital impact: best practices for a greener web

Environmental impact

The least known consequence [of Digital Design], one of which we are gradually becoming aware, is the one least observed: the ecological impact of the digital world.

The problem with this impact is that it is invisible. When using a phone, we’re using a product that has been designed, manufactured, delivered, and sold: we have purchased (or rented) a material good which depletes certain resources little by little and consumes different energies in order to arrive into our hands. It is a visible product that prompts us to think about both the finite resources extracted from the planet for the product’s design and also those resources which we continue to exhaust to supply ourselves with the electricity essential to its operation.

Where the web is concerned, it is much more complicated. We don’t think of using an application as polluting, since its use is immaterial.

In summary the article describes that “There are some solutions”:

  1. Extending the lifetime of our devices
  2. Improving digital design

Then it presents: Software eco-design and offers a number of best-practices to adhere to.

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This is a great subject area, @schmidtke, and one I would like to see we give more attention in Humane Tech Community. Besides the green tech side of things there’s also an aspect of low-energy internet technology providing web access to people in under-developed regions where reliable power supply is often not a given.

(Note that Big Tech has big plans for providing internet coverage to areas of the world that are currently having no access. While the access in itself is a good thing the role of big tech and the way they roll out their internet, extend their dominance, is problematic).

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Here’s an interesting article along the same lines:

Some remarkable results. Look for instance at the difference in electricity use between Javascript and Typescript - both very popular server-based languages - where the latter uses more than 5 times the energy. Functional Programming is more than 50% more energy inefficient than Object-oriented Programming.

More interesting findings in the paper. A good read for any deliberate developer who cares for the environment.

It is really surprising but there is a (literally, in terms of heat) tangible difference with the lower-energy languages. I recently had to move some Python code to Swift. If you scale this up – in particular, as many webservers are implemented in languages high up on the energy consumption scale – the choice of the language could make a non-negligible proportion for data center carbon footprint.

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Via Marko Saric the developer of Plausible Analytics I came upon this interesting low-energy website via this toot:

This website automatically adjusts its look & feel depending on the amount of renewable energy that is available to it. When there is less energy it downgrades the experience and e.g. high-res images are omitted in the transfer when loading a page.

They have defined:

The low impact manifesto

A Low Impact website:

  1. Does not load any images before they are actively requested by the user.
  2. Minimizes the power consumption on the users device.
  3. Adapts to reflect the amount of renewable energy it’s currently running on.
  4. Informs the user of the impact of their browsing behavior.
  5. Does not make use of videos.
  6. Stores data locally on the user’s device to minimize data transfer.
  7. Compresses all data to the greatest extent possible.
  8. Loads only the most crucial programming scripts, frameworks and cookies.
  9. Limits the amount of light emitted by the screen.
  10. Optimizes and limits the use of custom fonts.

Hopefully not too late. Guardian published an article, yesterday, that it seems that the arctic methane reservoirs have started to melt.