2. May 2024
Matthias Wagener

Part 5:
GREEN DATA – Green Coding
"Every Line Counts"

Green coding! But why?

What is green coding? Is there a standard? What needs to be considered? What cannot be measured cannot be managed….

Information and communication technology currently accounts for five to nine percent of global electricity consumption – everything we do on a computer generates greenhouse gases. The numbers hardly reflect the dimensions involved. Experts estimate that a Google search releases about 0.2 grams of CO2. If you wanted to offset the emissions from all the searches in a year by planting trees, you would have to plant about 40 million trees.

The potential to minimise is obvious: if developers make their code just a little more energy efficient, the scaling effect can result in extremely large savings.

GFT Technologies, among others, has launched the “Green Coding” initiative. The idea is to design, develop and operate software in a more environmentally friendly way, working towards “zero emission code” (if possible). You can read more on it here.

"Webpages are nearly four times larger than they were in 2010." HTTP Archive

Nothing new in software development?

GREEN DATA – a concept that concerns all areas of our digital environment: from individual communication behavior with email, video calls or the use of tools, to daily data handling in projects, filing, storage and exchange, to “looking under the hood” of our projects, in the programming and architecture of our products.

“Green IT has been around for a long time and is mostly used to optimize hardware, for example in data centers. We have written about this in more detail on our blog here. Today, we take a closer look at sustainable programming and how we use “Green Coding” to turn web development into an essential part of our VAST GREEN sustainability strategy.

Digital activity is emerging as the next frontier in the sustainability movement...Expect data sustainability to be a major keystone in companies' climate-change goals over the next decade. Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, Digital Sustainability

not a standard

As a first step, we looked at “coding for the web” for our own websites – as described above, the idea of “green IT” and “green programming” is not really new. And it is also clear that in the early days of programming, “code” had to be lean and “fast” – therefore sustainable – simply due to hardware constraints on memory and processing speed.
Today, memory is cheap and processor power doesn’t force anyone to write their codes sustainably.

During the assessment of our own environment, it quickly became clear that there are several good approaches to making programming code, the digital, binary heart of all digital products and assets, sustainable. At the same time, however, there are no established standards in a scalable and broadly applicable form.
Why is this?

Everything stays as it is?

We believe there are similar forces at play as in many other areas of (slow) sustainable progress: forces of inertia, such as “we’ve always done it this way”. Or the belief that certain compromises are okay if too many resources are necessary for the completion of sustainable solutions. So what to do? The idea, at least in our pragmatic VAST GREEN understanding, is to make our own contribution first.

So everything new?

Right from the start: “everything new” would not be sustainable.
Our pattern: “We don’t just compensate” means, first and foremost, “to do.” Our goal is to actively rethink our processes and adapt them wherever economically feasible and sensical.

The most important first step is to understand our own status quo and identify relevant starting points for sustainable optimization.

Step two: Starting with our own VAST FORWARD websites, with the projects we plan for our clients and in our supply chain. We are aiming to develop a common understanding for sustainable coding and establish optimising standards which efficiently arranges resources sustainably.
Because sometimes, as entrepreneurs, we have to invest to make missing standards accessible and redesign existing aspects for the future.

Together with the extended VAST FORWARD team in our network, we have therefore developed a “Green Coding Guide”. We want to take small steps toward our goal of reducing energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions not only at our company, but throughout our supply chain.

Extrapolated to servers and devices around the world, every line of code has the potential to reduce energy consumption and emissions. If developers incrementally make code more energy efficient, the scaling effect can make a big difference at the same time. As a compendium of many researched optimization approaches, this GREEN CODING Guide can be used to get new developments on the sustainable track right away; and we can use it to optimize existing websites and digital assets in many steps – pragmatic and transparent.

Web and code optimization essentials

  • Use optimized media such as images, graphics, and video
  • Reducing the data “weight” of a website
  • Avoidance of unused code
  • Use appropriate image formats for each display
  • Avoid duplicate modules in JavaScript bundles
  • Reduce third-party code

Some of these points from our Green Coding Guide may sound redundant, but the goal is to reduce data transfer where it matters.
It is especially important that meaningful GREEN CODING ideally follows the conceptual structure of a website. Without a comprehensive and detailed understanding of the goal, it is not possible to implement a project that can be used efficiently and sustainably.

Our Green Coding Guide describes VAST FORWARD’s new standard for programming and defines the way in which our products are conceived, designed and implemented.
We hold the keys to sustainable software in our hands.