Efficiency Meets Sustainability: The Growing Importance of Green Software Development

Efficiency Meets Sustainability: The Growing Importance of Green Software Development

Anna Bober - Solutions Architect
7 minutes read

The IT sector stands at a pivotal crossroads, as the world increasingly recognizes the industry's environmental impact.

The processes behind software development play a significant role in energy consumption and emissions. For example, training just a single neural network model is equivalent to five cars in their lifetimes when it comes to carbon emission. And that’s just a tip of the iceberg.

As the demand for increasingly powerful hardware escalates in tandem with software growth, addressing the energy-intensive nature of software development becomes imperative. This is where the green software development approach enters the scene – a transformative methodology that combines cutting-edge innovation with eco-conscious practices to create a more sustainable and environmentally responsible IT sector.

Join us as we explore the fascinating evolution of green software development and discover why it's more important now than ever before.

Because... it really is.

What is Sustainable Software Development?

Sustainable software development is a method of developing software that focuses on reducing the environmental impact of the process.

It is an approach that seeks to reduce energy consumption, waste, and pollution associated with traditional coding practices. Its proponents strive for maximum efficiency in terms of resource usage, striving for systems that require fewer resources to maintain over time.

Implementing these strategies throughout the development process, developers can significantly reduce their environmental footprint while still producing high-quality code that meets customer needs.

8 Principles of Green Coding

To help software engineers on their journey towards sustainability, the Green Software Foundation has laid out eight essential principles that are becoming the go-to guide for eco-conscious development.

#1 Carbon efficiency

Creating software with a low-carbon footprint can have major benefits for the environment and help businesses save money. As a software development leader, you can make sure that your applications are as efficient as possible by crafting well-structured, optimized code from the start.

Having a more sustainable approach to development, you can help build a brighter future for everyone.

#2 Energy proportionality

Energy proportionality suggests that software should consume energy in proportion to its level of activity. This means that when the software is idle or less active, it should consume less energy, helping to reduce overall energy consumption and emissions.

#3 Electricity

Crafting energy-efficient software is key to reducing our environmental impact. Through well-structured, optimized code, developers can minimize the amount of electricity needed to run their applications.

#4 Carbon Intensity

Carbon intensity refers to the amount of carbon emissions produced per unit of energy consumed.

While it's not always feasible to make the switch, organizations can work together to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

#5 Embodied Carbon

This principle encompasses the carbon emissions generated during the production, consumption and disposal of objects such as hardware. Making software more efficient and optimizing for lower-powered devices, developers can help minimize their applications' carbon footprint.

#6 Networking

Networking is an important factor for minimizing energy consumption and emissions due to data transfer. Developers can reduce both the amount of data needed to be sent, as well as the distance it travels across networks, by optimizing their software in order to reduce network traffic.

As a result, they can lessen the impact on the environment associated with applications and programs that require a lot of data exchange.

#7 Demand Shaping

It involves designing applications that are aware of their carbon impact and can adapt their behavior to minimize it. This could include scheduling energy-intensive tasks during periods of low carbon intensity or reducing non-essential functionality when energy demand is high.

#8 Measurement & Optimisation

This principle encourages developers to measure and optimize the carbon efficiency of their applications continuously. Identifying optimizations, checking areas for improvement, implementing incremental changes, can affect a steady reduction of the environmental impact of software.

How to Start a Greener Approach to Coding

Step 1: Reduce

Think about your business core

It's only natural that you'd like to launch your product with all features you have in mind. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it might have an adverse effect on your carbon footprint.

Start by stripping down your product to its core and launch your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) with those functionalities only. This lean approach not only streamlines your code but also minimizes resource usage and contributes to a more sustainable software development process.

Reduce the number and/or size of assets

Minimizing the size and number of assets, such as images and graphics, can significantly reduce your carbon footprint. How so, would you think? By making these assets smaller in size, your application consumes fewer resources to run and you can also reduce the time it takes for them to load.

Opt for streamlined designs and compressed files to enhance load times and decrease energy consumption. As a result, you'll contribute to a greener web experience for your users.

Unsubscribe newsletters you don’t read

Keeping your inbox in full hygiene is not only an ideal way to declutter your mind but also a huge contribution towards reducing energy consumption. Unsubscribing from newsletters you don't read can make a real difference in the amount of data that's being transferred over networks, thus helping you reduce your application's carbon footprint.

Fewer unnecessary emails mean energy consumption associated with data storage and transmission – so make sure to be mindful of what you're subscribing to.

Send only necessary emails to your customers

The same applies to you... sending the actual emails. While this may sound obvious, it's worth mentioning that you should only be sending emails that are essential for your customers. Unnecessary emails can cause digital waste and increase your carbon footprint.

You can avoid unnecessary energy consumption and maintain your customer relationships while still being conscious of the environment.

Use Agile methodology – deliver only valuable functionalities

Agile methodology is a huge help when it comes to developing software in a more sustainable way. Agile teams are able to develop functionalities faster, as they are focused on delivering only the most valuable features and adding new ones only when necessary.

With that in mind, you can focus on delivering valuable functionalities, minimizing unnecessary code and reducing digital waste.

✅ For example a mobile app could prioritize essential features, like seamless navigation and quick access to information, while forgoing flashy animations that consume resources.

This sustainable strategy benefits both developers and users, promoting efficiency and environmental responsibility.

Turn off your computer if you don’t use it

How many times did you forget to turn off your computer last month?

33% of people don’t shut down their computer at night.

We tend to forget that computers consume energy even when they're not in use, and this wasted electricity can lead to an increased carbon footprint.

It only takes a few seconds to turn off your computer when you're done with your work, so make sure to do it each day as a small gesture of environmental responsibility. Start tonight!

Turn on the night mode for your app

This one is an interesting take on reducing your application's carbon footprint. You can save energy and reduce light pollution by turning on the night mode for your app or website.

Night mode changes the color palette of a page to darker hues and reduces glare from screens. This way, users can easily use their devices without having to strain their eyes, contributing to a healthier web experience and reducing electricity consumption at the same time.

Step 2: Reuse

Minimize development workload by removing custom implementation (where it's removable)

Opt for custom implementation exclusively for your core business needs, rather than building everything from scratch. Utilizing existing tools and frameworks for non-critical components, you can save valuable working hours, assets, and resources.

✅ For example, if your company specializes in data analysis, prioritize creating unique algorithms while utilizing pre-built libraries for basic UI elements. This approach streamlines development and lets you focus on what truly sets your business apart.

If you leave some (rather unnecessary) customization out, you can also save a lot of energy that would otherwise go into testing and development. Leveraging existing solutions helps ensure compatibility with most major platforms, reducing the need to constantly update your product (as we'll cover in a second).

Use existing services, open source modules and libraries for non-core functionalities

In the sea of tools and services available, it sometimes makes very little sense to reinvent the wheel. Simply – capitalize on existing services and proven solutions to accelerate development.

For example, you may want to consider:

implementing a trusted open-source analytics platform saves time compared to building a custom one, allowing you to concentrate on perfecting your core offerings,

applying a third-party e-commerce platform helps you quickly set up an online store,

adding geolocation capabilities to your application via Google Maps rather than building a custom solution from scratch,

integrating other services like customer service or logging tools with just a few clicks helps streamline your workflow.

And that's not even the cherry on top yet.

Do you know that by tapping into open source communities, you can share code, resources and ideas with other developers or companies worldwide? This creates an environment where everyone involved is encouraged to contribute and develop together, which may result in even more efficient (and better) products. And the world, in general.

Write code that is easily extended and adapted for the new applications

Craft code with an emphasis on extensibility and adaptability, enabling seamless integration with new applications. Employing modular design principles and adhering to best coding practices, you can create a flexible foundation for future updates and improvements.

And that's something that not only your team but also Mother Earth would thank you for (well, maybe not personally...).

✅ For example, separating core logic from the presentation layer ensures that adapting the UI for new platforms becomes a straightforward process, ultimately promoting maintainability and scalability.

Improve quality (good practices, review your code, test your code, document your code)

With quality, the tricky part is that it takes time and resources to implement and maintain – also in the light of green coding. But on the other hand, failing to invest in code quality often leads to negative consequences like slower development cycles and more work down the line.

That's why it's essential to review your code regularly (with an emphasis on reusability - as we discussed earlier). With peer reviews, finding – and fixing – bugs is made easier (For example, Alice spots a logic error in Jack's code, preventing a future headache).

As well as test it extensively to identify any potential bugs or vulnerabilities.

Documenting your code (as soon as you've written it) is also a must when aiming to establish long-term sustainability. You don't want to find yourself in an uncomfortable situation where no one remembers how a particular feature works, leaving the entire project at risk or making it difficult and time-consuming to adapt existing components for newer applications.

This also includes consistent naming conventions and proper indentation, which simplify maintenance and collaboration.

Apart from all these activities' clear benefits for workflow, functionality, and even onboarding, they also contribute to a healthier and more sustainable development environment.

And, of course, there's a lot more you can do in that regard - we're just scratching the surface here.

Step 3: Recycle

Go serverless

Monolith architecture is like keeping all the lights on in a mansion even when you're only using one room, wasting energy when a simple, targeted solution would suffice.

And serverless architecture... is a source of light in that one room you're using.

Take advantage of a serverless architecture to harness resources precisely when needed, minimizing waste and improving efficiency. Picture a monolith architecture, where a server runs 24/7, even during idle periods. In contrast, serverless design empowers you to activate services and resources on-demand, catering to fluctuating workloads.

Even when you stumble upon a sudden surge in user traffic, you can effortlessly scale up to meet demand, then scale down when traffic subsides. Embrace serverless for a responsive, eco-conscious approach to resource management. Monolith doesn’t give you that option.

Use component libraries

Component libraries can be a game changer when it comes to green coding. Using a component library allows you to reuse components, reducing the amount of code that needs to be written and maintained over time. This helps keep dependencies low, minimizing potential risks for long-term development.

In practice, you can leverage component libraries, such as Storybook, to accelerate application development while conserving energy. These libraries enable you to write components once and recycle them across projects, easily tailoring elements to meet individual client needs.

✅ For instance, your CTAs buttons can be swiftly customized with a fresh color scheme, saving you precious time and effort. Embracing component libraries fosters consistency and maintainability in the best possible way.

Use design systems

Design systems, when properly implemented and maintained, can significantly benefit the sustainability of your development process. A design system is a comprehensive collection of standards, guidelines, and rules to help define a consistent UI across platforms. And moreover, they offer a compendium of reusable components, like Storybook does - but on steroids.

Use design systems to achieve a cohesive, efficient, and scalable user experience. These systems, which encompass style guides, reusable UI components, and design principles, enable a unified visual language and streamline development.

✅ For example – you have a team creating another e-commerce platform. Another – because they already coded seven dozens of them in the past. With a design system in place, they can effortlessly assemble UI elements, like buttons and forms, that adhere to a consistent style.

As a result, developers and designers collaborate effectively, accelerating project delivery and maintaining aesthetic harmony – all using the resources they already have.

The Triple Bottom Line: Balancing People, Planet, and Profit in Software Development

Is green coding about going crazy with sustainable solutions and environmental trends?


It's vital to be fully aware that not everything sustainable is profitable, even though a well-balanced approach can generate both sustainability and profitability.

However, eco-friendly coding practices must be a priority for us all, as the environmental impact of software development is real. Your journey to green coding starts now - with conscious resource management, smart strategies, and a keen eye for efficiency.

Start with small steps but strive for big goals. Like we all should.


We discuss the topic of sustainable software development also during our on-demand webinar: "How to save momey on software delopment". Get the recording now and get inspired!

On-demand webinar: How to save money on software development

We unveil tested strategies and methods that will revolutionize the way you approach your projects.. You'll discover how to maximize your budget, streamline your processes, and deliver top-notch software – all of that without sacrificing quality and performance.

How to save money on software development webinar

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