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Green computing is a relative concept. Until it is possible to create a computing device that is entirely carbon-neutral, to run it entirely on renewable power and to transfer data to and from it over carbon-neutral networks, and absolute definition is not possible. Rather, green computing is about continually making better use of energy inputs into both the manufacturing and use of computing devices.

Accounting for the energy used by computing systems is difficult. Accuracy requires enormous attention to detail, breaking systems down into their component parts and examining the trade-offs between them. The task is complicated by the way that the carbon footprint of a single end-user activity depends on a large network of connected systems all working together.

On the internet, there are many articles that suggest ways of making your computing "greener" or more "sustainable". While these should always be taken with a pinch of salt, the list of ten rules below was published by the academics who developed the ACT carbon footprint model:

present_to_allRules for green software engineers
  • Rule 1: Calculate the carbon footprint of your work
  • Rule 2: Include the carbon footprint in your cost–benefit analysis
  • Rule 3: Keep, repair, and reuse devices to minimise electronic waste
  • Rule 4: Choose your computing facility
  • Rule 5: Choose your hardware carefully
  • Rule 6: Increase efficiency of the code
  • Rule 7: Be a frugal analyst
  • Rule 8: Releasing a new software? Make its hardware requirements and carbon footprint clear
  • Rule 9: Be aware of unanticipated consequences of improved software efficiency
  • Rule 10: Offset your carbon footprint

(Lannelongue, Grealey, Bateman, et al., 2021)


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