What is Green Software Development?

Desk with plants and laptop to signify green software development


Technology is a huge part of our lives, a part that has a massive effect on our climate. But how can the software aspect of technology help reduce CO2 emissions and help the climate? This article addresses Green Software development and what it takes to have sustainable software.

Technology is a massive part of our daily lives; our dependency on it increases daily. Rapid technological development has led to advances in science, medicine, education, and many other aspects of life. However, one side effect of technology that is often overlooked is how it affects nature and climate. Currently, we are facing a climate crisis that requires urgent and sustained actions. 

One reason technology is not a concern when it comes to climate issues is that the direct effect of technology on the climate could be more intuitive and easily detectable on an individual level. However, the information technology field holds the potential to help reduce overall global emissions of CO2.

Global e-Sustainability Initiative estimates that some tech solutions can help cut almost 10 times more CO2 than they emit. This article will mainly address the changes that can be implemented on the software side of tech, referred to as Green Software Development.

Green software, also known as eco-friendly or sustainable software, refers to software designed and developed to minimize the impact of said software on the environment. The goal is to reduce energy consumption, carbon emissions, and electronic waste while maximizing efficiency and performance. Achieving this goal is often referred to as finding the trade-off between the energy consumption of the software and its implementation.

The question now is, what does it mean to develop green software?


  1. Carbon Footprint Reduction. Developers should build software that offers value to users while producing fewer carbon emissions by identifying and minimizing the carbon emissions associated with the software’s development, distribution, and usage.
  2. Energy-efficient applications. This is done by using software components that don’t consume much energy—designing software that requires less processing power and consumes less energy to perform tasks. This can be achieved through optimizing algorithms, reducing the number of computations, and using energy-efficient hardware components.
  3. Carbon intensity. Huge tech companies consume a lot of electrical energy. This principle refers to the amount of carbon emissions generated per kilowatt hour of electricity the company uses to run the software. Companies should prioritize energy generated from renewable energy sources as much as possible.
  4. Embodied carbon. Embodied carbon is how much carbon is released when companies develop and dispose of electronic devices. This principle aims for organizations to build software that reduces the amount of carbon released when developing and disposing of electronic devices.
  5. Energy proportionality. Energy proportionality is the relationship between the duration the devices are used and the electrical energy it needs to run. The more a device is used, the better it can convert electricity. This principle goal is to maximize the hardware’s energy efficiency through ensuring a high utilization rate for said hardware.
  6. Networking. Most of our devices today are connected over a network; the data being sent and received travels across multiple devices, such as routers, switches, and servers. The objective here is to decrease carbon emissions and increase the software’s energy efficiency by reducing the size of the data sent/received and how far it needs to travel across the network.
  7. Demand shaping. In such cases where electricity usage can not be reduced beyond a specific point, we can move the demand for computing power to another time or region depending on the demand and supply to better distribute the available energy needed to perform the computations.
  8. Measurement and optimization. One of the most efficient and highly researched areas of the software is optimization. Optimizing software versions is a solution to using less energy and reducing CO2 emissions.

In today’s world, greening software is a necessity and not an option. As technology continues to develop and the amount of data that needs to be processed, sent, and stored increases, software solutions will help create a more sustainable environment. Software engineers need to understand the principles of green software and its potential and use that to develop better solutions for the climate. Doing so will build the future of technology and enhance our current understanding of how software can be optimized.

Educating developers and students about green software and its prospects are becoming more critical as the days go by. To advance green software and make it the new software development method, further research and development are needed in several areas, such as environmental impact, standards, and regulation. An excellent first step in this direction is the Software Carbon Intensity specification proposed by the Green Software Foundation. 

Software developers, engineers, educators, researchers, and users can come together to make a huge difference and help create a sustainable environment. 




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