Software development is the basis for all solutions that actually help with environmental problems. Take the electric cars and their machine learning-based software. At the same time, the industry has its own negative impact.
Turning your software green is good not only for the environment. It improves your business from raising the efficiency of tech projects to increasing customer loyalty. Millennials as the largest population today tend to choose anything with less negative environmental impact. Either they are your customers or the best employees.
- Green computing technology (or green IT) represents a software lifecycle with no or little effect on the environment
- IT will account for about 14% of the total global footprint by 2040
- When implementing any feature in your app think about energy efficiency
- Green IT has benefits for business goals.
How software can damage the environment
Software is not evil by itself. The negative footprint comes from its development and following usage. The electricity we consume comes from electric power stations, which have emissions as a result of energy production. Even renewable sources have sometimes considerable environmental impact. So, the more we use electricity, the more pollution we (indirectly) produce.
According to the research, if nothing changes, the information and communication technology industry (ICT) will account for about 14% of the total global footprint by 2040 with data centers and smartphones as the most damaging technologies in the sector.
What about artificial intelligence, the whole cycle of training one model results in 5 times more emissions than an average car during its lifetime (including manufacture).
Software development environment best practices
1. Start thinking about how to minimize the impact from the early stage of software development. «What is the smallest possible environmental footprint we could make with this application?»
2. Monitor real-time energy consumption, to see what practices can be optimized to produce fewer emissions. Some companies even offer tools for managing energy consumption.
3. Control features with the highest power consumption.
4. Optimize your software deployment. Consider, for example, serverless computing, which allows more control over energy consumption through executing functions on demand.
5. Choose green hosting for your website. An average website with 10 000 visitors in a month brings as many emissions as driving a car for over 5,000 miles. Green hosting providers use renewable energy and have efficient data centers.
6. Reduce data usage. Upgrade to efficient cash policy and manage the lifecycle of stored data. Compress and aggregate data. Use smaller sizes for media and image when possible.
7. Remove or refactor unused features. Not only It improves energy efficiency but also it is easier to maintain. Focusing on common usage scenarios makes the improvements more perceivable by end users and eventually saves more energy.
8. Look after loops. So you can detect and remove those which can’t achieve their intended purpose and uselessly consume energy. For example, polling an unreachable server.
9. Make sure your app background features (downloads, location updates, etc.) are really necessary to be done in the background.
10. Adapt your app’s behavior according to the device power mode. Use device API to check if low power mode is enabled, and adapt resource usage accordingly.
11. Reduce the accuracy of mobile app geolocation to your real needs. For example, you do not need the best geolocation data of your user, if they are just looking for friends in the neighborhood.
12. Use the appropriate resources. Buy hardware that corresponds to your needs, because some of the models might consume more energy through features you do not need.
13. Consider eco-labels when purchasing IT equipment and services.
14. Inform and educate end-users on how to use your software without affecting the environment.
Benefits for business
1. Less energy and data usage equals less useless expenses. As a result, you get financial savings, sometimes quite big.
2. Customer loyalty.
3. User experience improved through great battery life, speed, and responsiveness.
4. Easier to maintain due to lack of unnecessary features and code.
Big tech companies go green too (to name a few):
– Apple runs their data centers through 100% renewable energy
– Microsoft is planning to run 70% of its massive data centers on renewable energy by 2023
– Amazon is building renewable energy plants to power its massive cloud operations
We agree that is not an easy task to implement green practices. And most companies choose flexibility rather than green and sustainable development. However, through small steps, you can stand out from competitors now and contribute to long-term business goals. Consider turning into green IT company as a continuous process: assess, document, optimize.