Evaluating the environmental impact of software

Electricity Meter

Article from Issue 224/2019
Author(s):

It's getting easier to measure the environmental impact of software. A new study suggests criteria for determining how the choice of software impacts resource use.

For many years, enterprise organizations have been concerned with the efficiency of information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructures. Efficiency studies have mainly focused on hardware-specific problems. Devices with labels such as Energy Star, Blauer Engel, or the EPEAT eco label are particularly resource-friendly.

Now more attention is turning to the environmental impacts of software. Researchers have discovered measurable differences in energy efficiency between different applications that perform the same task. And not only does the choice of software affect electricity usage, but it may also necessitate new hardware purchases at regular intervals.

Among organizations that have been looking seriously at software resource efficiency is Germany's federal environmental agency, which commissioned a research project launched in 2015. The project has been conducted under the direction of Germany's Öko-Institut, partnering with the Trier University of Applied Sciences and the University of Zurich. The long-term goal of the researchers is to develop the criteria for a new eco-friendly label for software. In fall of 2018, they released a study called "Development and Application of Evaluation Principles for Resource-Efficient Software under Consideration of Existing Methodology" [1].

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