The Environmental Impact of Software: How to Make Your Digital Tools More Sustainable

Jason Martin
Managing Partner

In today's digital age, software plays a vital role in our daily lives. From communication and productivity tools to entertainment and social media, software helps us connect, work, and play. However, the production and use of software can have a significant environmental impact. From the energy used in the manufacturing process to the resources required for data storage and transmission, the environmental cost of software is often overlooked. In this article, we will explore the environmental impact of software and ways to make your digital tools more sustainable, including through sustainable software code writing practices.

The Environmental Impact of Software Production

The production of software has a significant environmental impact, largely due to the energy required for manufacturing and data centers. According to a study by the Environmental Defense Fund, the production of software and hardware accounted for approximately 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. This is equivalent to the emissions of the global aviation industry.

One of the major contributors to the environmental impact of software production is the energy used in data centers. These facilities house the servers that store and process data for websites, apps, and other digital tools. The energy required to power and cool these servers can be substantial, and much of it is generated from fossil fuels.

The Environmental Impact of Software Use

In addition to the environmental impact of software production, the use of software also has an impact on the environment. The energy required to run and update software, as well as the resources needed for data storage and transmission, can add up over time.

One way to reduce the environmental impact of software use is to choose tools that are energy-efficient and have a small footprint. For example, cloud-based software and services can be more efficient than on-premises solutions because they allow for shared resources and infrastructure.

Ways to Make Your Digital Tools More Sustainable

There are several steps you can take to make your digital tools more sustainable:

Choose energy-efficient software and hardware

Look for products that are ENERGY STAR certified or have other energy-efficient certifications. These products use less energy and have a smaller environmental impact.

Use cloud-based solutions

As mentioned earlier, cloud-based software and services can be more efficient than on-premises solutions. They allow for shared resources and infrastructure, which can reduce energy consumption and lower the overall environmental impact.

Use open-source software

Open-source software is developed by a community of volunteers and is freely available to use, modify, and distribute. It often has a smaller environmental impact because it is not tied to a specific hardware or platform and can be run on a variety of devices.

Turn off your devices when not in use

This may seem like a small step, but turning off your devices when they are not in use can save a significant amount of energy over time.

Practice sustainable software code writing

There are several ways you can improve sustainability through your software code writing practices, which we use here at AppEvolve. Here are a few examples:

Optimize data storage

Carefully managing data storage can help reduce the resources required for data transmission and storage.

Use eco-friendly hosting

Choose a hosting provider that uses renewable energy and has a commitment to sustainability.

Writing efficient software code

Sustainable software code writing practices refer to the set of principles and best practices that help ensure that code is maintainable, scalable, and easy to understand and modify over time. These practices are critical for ensuring that software applications can continue to meet the needs of users and organizations over the long-term, and they are particularly important in large, complex projects that require ongoing development and maintenance.

Some of the key practices of sustainable software code writing include:

  • Writing clean, readable, and well-documented code. This means using consistent indentation and naming conventions, and providing clear and concise comments that explain the purpose and functionality of the code.
  • Adhering to software design principles and patterns such as SOLID, DRY and KISS, that help ensure code is maintainable, flexible and easy to understand.
  • Using version control systems such as Git to track and manage changes to the codebase over time. This allows developers to easily collaborate, review, and test changes before they are implemented in the production environment.
  • Following test-driven development (TDD) principles. This means writing automated tests for all new code, to ensure that changes don't break existing functionality, and making sure that tests are covering all the important scenarios.
  • Modularizing code, this means separating different functionality in different modules, classes, or functions, with clear boundaries, to make it more reusable, testable and manageable.
  • Keeping an eye on performance, it's important to be mindful of the code performance, to avoid creating code that is difficult to scale and maintain, especially when it comes to memory, CPU usage, and database access.
  • Continuously learning, it's important to keep learning new tools, libraries, frameworks, and design patterns and evaluate their usefulness for the specific context of your project.

By following sustainable software code writing practices, developers can ensure that code is easy to understand, maintain, and modify over time. This helps to reduce the risk of bugs and other issues, and makes it easier to add new features and functionality to the application as needed. Ultimately, it's a way of working that helps to ensure that the software will be able to meet the needs of the users and the organization for a longer period of time.

Software plays a vital role in our daily lives, but it also has an environmental impact. By choosing energy-efficient software and hardware, using cloud-based solutions, using open-source software, turning off devices when not in use, and practicing sustainable software code writing, you can make your digital tools more sustainable and reduce their environmental impact. Every small step we take towards sustainability helps to create a more sustainable future for all.

AppEvolve follows best practices to contributing to a more sustainable method of software development, as it's in our core values. Writing software code with sustainability in mind can lead to a more efficient software application build and not only reduce carbon emissions, but also the budget spent on software development. Get in contact with us today if you're looking for a team who thinks outside-the-box and understands the importance of sustainable software development.

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