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Saturday 4th of February 2023

What is green coding? A contribution to save the environment


What is green coding and why is it important?

Green coding goes hand-in-hand with existing coding practices and should not be seen as ‘separate’. It should be considered an integral practice that can be combined with traditional coding methodologies to create software that requires less energy consumption. 


A research paper titled ‘How Green Are Java Best Coding Practices?’ found there to be two main considerations to understand green coding and how best to implement it – structural and behavioural. Structural considerations relate to energy measures that need to be considered relating to codes of blocks (also known as units of code). Behavioural considerations relate to how energy consumption varies depending on which user scenarios are being run at that particular time. For example, sending an email or checking social media.  

It can be tricky to highlight particular examples of green coding as their use is subtle and tends to have low footprints.

However, in order to increase an application’s performance and reduce the energy output through green coding, programmers often use a tool called Big O Notation. This tool helps them to calculate the efficiency of their coding algorithms, making them more ‘green’.  

In 2018 alone, online video streaming resulted in the same amount of harmful greenhouse gas emissions as the country of Spain. Data centres use vast quantities of energy just to stay afloat. According to IEA, in 2020 alone, they drew between 260-340 TWh which equates to approximately 1.1%-1.4 of the total global electricity use. With 7.2 million data centres worldwide, it should come of no surprise that the tech industry is now focusing on more ways to become green as part of their digital transformation strategy.  

It is crucial at this time of increased digital interactions (thanks to the pandemic) that we search for greener, more energy efficient solutions to our energy consumption habits.

Tech and software development companies have an important role to play in this move to a green and sustainable future, not least to reduce the impact that they have on the environment.  

Germany has been a pioneer in the field of green tech in recent years with their 2030 plan to reduce emissions by 65% and their 2050 plan to be entirely carbon neutral. Other countries and organisations are following suit, with big players such as AWS pledging to run 100% of their operations with renewable energy by 2025. 

The benefits of green coding


Green coding is an important method of developing sustainable software development and practices which in turn reduce a company’s carbon emissions. Fewer emissions means a lessening of any negative harmful environmental impact that the software may have. By refining systems with eco-designed alternatives, we can save huge amounts of unnecessary energy wastage, perhaps as high as 30%. There are many advantages of green coding. Have a look at some common benefits below.

Faster page speed

Green coding allows applications to reduce the number of server requests it makes and therefore, page speed increases. When pages run faster, user satisfaction and engagement increases because they can access your content more quickly and not suffer from frustration. The decrease in application server requests results in less energy being demanded of it, ultimately reducing the amount of energy usage and, by extension, wastage.

Server load is decreased

Following on, due to the reduction in server requests from applications which have been optimised by green coding, the overall server load is less. As the amount of bandwidth required to run a web page or application is reduced, the amount of waste is similarly reduced due to the more efficient running of the applications. This is a huge advantage given how much power data centres and servers demand worldwide.

Improved SEO

When applied correctly, green coding helps to improve SEO and increases a website’s ranking. The website then becomes more visible as its standing in search engine results pages is improved. Although not an environmental advantage, it is undeniably an important business benefit.

Adopting green coding into your business

Don’t get us wrong, green coding alone will not solve all the issues we have that are related to carbon emissions through energy waste. However, it is an important tool to add to your metaphorical toolbox when it comes to making positive steps towards a more sustainable world.

Clever coding can help utilise more renewable technologies through workload orchestration.

It can enhance the use of silicon-aware coding to reduce granular energy consumption and it can minimise the amount of data which is transferred over a particular network by optimising its applications. All of these are very worthwhile pursuits.

For companies who are interested in taking steps to adopt green coding principles into their operations, here are some key starting points to follow.

Training

Train your staff to make them aware of green coding and its benefits so that they understand what it is and what benefits it offers. This is the first important stage to adopting it in your company culture. Provide ongoing training and awareness raising sessions so that everyone is working with the same philosophy on their daily tasks. With good training, programmers will be motivated to scale back on superfluous lines of code and really optimise their systems and reduce waste.

Provide incentives

It is important to incentivise programmers who leverage green coding practices in their daily tasks. Reward good work and encourage innovation. Help them to see a valuable reason for pouring their efforts into adopting greed coding and show them with real, tangible compensation when they adopt this strategy and hit important milestones.

Encourage a company-wide adoption and accountability strategy

Build the ‘green’ and ‘green coding’ philosophy into every aspect of the business. After all, it’s not only up to the programmers to drive their company forward in the fight to become sustainable, every single employee has a shared responsibility. Build it into the very fabric of your company in a multifaceted manner as this will be a constant reminder that you want and need this to work, for the betterment of our world.

Summary

The environmental problems we are currently facing in the world are not going to be solved overnight with coding optimisation. However, it is a key piece of the puzzle and has an important part to play in reducing emissions and lessening the damage we are unfortunately doing to the planet. Bit by bit, piece by piece, we are finding ways to work better, faster, more economically and with less energy usage. Green coding is an important aspect that, if adopted by the millions of tech organisations and programmers out there, will certainly make a significant impact. Although it’s a relatively new approach, green coding will be a part of a bigger solution to propel us into a more energy efficient world.


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