How Green is Your Software?

5 tips for Greener Software Development

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5 ways to make your software development greener

Whilst the pandemic initially had a positive impact on the environment with more people working from home, air pollution decreased and water quality improved, a dramatic shift in digital working is also having a negative impact on our carbon footprint. All the email inboxes in the UK consume enough energy to drive to the Moon and back an incredible eighteen times!  By 2040, the Information and Communications Technology sector is predicted to account for 14% of the world’s carbon footprint. 

But how does software development come into this, we hear you ask? Technically, there is no physical biproduct to dispose of when it comes to bespoke software development. It’s not like buying a toothbrush and throwing it in the bin once you’re done with it. When a piece of software comes to the end of its lifecycle, there isn’t exactly ‘waste’ to dispose of. However, powerful computer engines use vast amounts of energy. As a company we're making steps to ensure we adopt a more green software engineering approach. We welcome the efforts of The Green Software Foundation to push through industry-standard governance focused on reducing carbon emissions in the process of software development, which include building applications which are carbon and energy efficient and designing scalable software for reuse.

At Clever Software Group, we are very conscious of the decisions we make through software development itself and daily habits, to ensure we are as sustainable and ‘green’ as we possibly can be. But how can software development become greener? Here are 5 tips to adapt and develop your software to align with the demands of a more sustainable planet.

1. Recycle your unwanted hardware

Inevitably, with the continuation of software development, the release of new hardware devices comes hand in hand. Software developers are largely responsible for the adaptation of new hardware initiatives. On average, the replacement cycle length of devices such as smartphones and computer devices, is roughly 3 years. Rapid software development has led to more frequent updates of software on devices, depleting older versions of devices due to planned obsolescence.

The swift development of software, technology and low initial cost outlay have contributed to a surge in an overabundance of unused and unwanted electronic devices. Obsolete electrical gadgets, such as computers, contain valuable secondary raw materials that can be reused when recycled properly. If left to decay on their own accord, these devices are purely sources of harmful toxins and chemicals. Why not give your old electrical devices a new lease of life and dispose of them in a sustainable manner? Majority of local recycling centers now accept old electronic goods and will dispose of them in the proper way, so you don’t have to do the dirty work.

Software aside, many of the components found within electronic devices can be disassembled and recycled for future use. Materials such as aluminum, tin and various plastics are use in the manufacturing process of many electronic goods. These can all be widely recycled and reduce the cost and use of raw materials for creating new gadgets.

2. Refresh your memory

Keeping hold of irrelevant and unneeded memory can be very energy consuming. Memory units can become very large and clogged with a surplus of files, especially when working on more complex software development projects.

Clearing out your memory storage and having a better management of how you use your software memory can lead to better operational performance, creating a decrease in energy consumption. In turn, this can also reduce the likelihood of memory leaks taking place. Memory leaks can effect application performance and cause them to crash or stall, creating an unsatisfactory user experience and an increase in energy consumption.

Keeping your software up to date will also enhance memory performance and in turn, allow your software development to become greener and more efficient. Older versions of software can often become large and cumbersome; therefore they’re more likely to waste energy and recourses, slowing down operation and memory used to process an application. But more on that later.

3. Create efficient user interfaces

The design of user interfaces is an element of bespoke software development that is often overlooked. UI design is implemented to not only make a piece of software look attractive and appealing to use, but to enhance the user journey and allow an enjoyable experience.

Outwardly, it may seem that UI design wouldn’t have a massive impact on the ‘greenness’ of a piece of software. However, an inefficient user-interface can be detrimental, in more ways than one. It can lead to a drastic misunderstanding of information by a user. A poor user journey can create a sense of confusion, but also increase the amount of time exerted by a user to complete an operation or task. This in turn leads to energy inefficiency and consumption, as a user my struggle to navigate a poorly designed piece of software.

A well thought out and a coherently designed user interface will allow a user to navigate a piece of software with ease, creating a more efficient user journey, resulting in a better use of energy output. Don’t underestimate the value of a good user interface, it’ll make your software much more greener than you think!

4. Clear our your redundant data

To make sure data isn’t lost or misplaced, software developers often store and back it up in more than one location. As much as this is a sensible practice, ‘redundant’ data is also a big drain on energy resources, due to how much it takes to transport and store large databases.

To make the best use of your storage space and in turn, become more energy conscious, move only relevant and current data into storage, instead of having multiple version of the same data stored in different locations. Duplicate sets of data can take up large amounts of gigabytes within your storage space, making redundant data a huge burden on energy recourses to support the storage space used.

Not only does redundant data play havoc with database storage space, it can also affect the overall performance of your business. Having data stored in several places can become confusing and time consuming to sift through, taking up valuable time and resources that could be allocated elsewhere. Remove as much redundant data as you can, being mindful not to delete any necessary project files. This will be a very energy conscious practice, increasing the proficiency of your data storage.

5. Keep your software up to date

Software development projects are often on going and will require maintenance along the way. Such as we often replace physical objects, being mindful of the impact they may have, to ensure they’re working efficiently for us, software also needs to be updated for a similar reason.

To allow software development to become greener and in turn, more sustainable, the maintenance of software libraries and applications will allow improved functionality, performance and better quality overall. Software that is updated regularly is more likely to have better energy efficiency, as it will perform more affectively, using less recourses and time.

Updating software allows better security and stability. Features will become more current and fresh, often enhancing compatibility and create an improved user experience.

These 5 simple steps can contribute to much more efficient software development, allowing your process to become greener and more conscious of the impact applications have on the planet.



AccessAble is an online resource providing Detailed Access Guides all about a venue's access facilities ahead of their visit. The company's suite of applications used by surveyors all over the UK needed ongoing software support, data management and development as part of their rebrand and new website.

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