Free Software *Is* Sustainable Software
2022-04-23, 13:00–13:25 (Europe/Vienna), HS i7
Language: English

Values that we in the Free Software community may take for granted, values such as user autonomy and transparency, as of January 2020 these values are now officially recognized as fundamental for sustainable software design through the Blauer Engel eco-label award criteria. When users decide how software is used, when software development is open for all to see and participate in, communities are empowered. They are empowered to drive down the energy consumption of their programs, with no loss in functionality. Or users may install only what they need, no more and no less, and opt out of advertising and data-mining, thus reducing the number of unnecessary processes running in the background and consuming resources. Additionally, developers may continue to support otherwise unsupported hardware, giving users up-to-date and secure devices, preventing waste landing in landfills. All of the above promote higher energy and resource efficiency, which means lower energy consumed, less CO2 produced, and a longer operating life for devices. Free Software is sustainable software! In this talk I will focus on the energy and resource consumption of software, and I will walk the audience through the 3 steps for obtaining Blauer Engel certification: (1) Measure, (2) Analyze, (3) Certify. I will end the talk with an open call for community engagement, both specifically in applying for Blauer Engel certification and more generally in supporting a resource-efficient, Free Software future.


KDE has a vision: "A world in which everyone has control over their digital life and enjoys freedom and privacy." From this vision, every word laden with meaning [1], there is a straight line to the new KDE Eco project [2]. The world and its limited resources, the looming threat of the climate crisis ... KDE Eco aims to change the world we live in by making software sustainable and accessible for everyone, wherever they are. Free Software and the four freedoms [3] put users and their communities at the heart of our digital society, giving users autonomy over their software and devices. Having users control their software, and not service providers or hardware vendors or even an application's developers, is crucial to freedom and privacy in our digital lives.

Overlooked is that these same qualities make for resource-efficient software [4]! Values that we in the Free Software community may take for granted, values such as user autonomy and transparency – as of January 2020 these values are now officially recognized as fundamental for a sustainable software design through the Blauer Engel eco-label award criteria [5].

When users decide how software is used, when software development is open for all to see and participate in, communities are empowered. They are empowered to drive down the energy consumption of their programs, with no loss in functionality [6] – in contrast to the software bloat all too common in software design. Or users may install only what they need, no more and no less, and opt out of advertising and data-mining, thus reducing the number of unnecessary processes running in the background and consuming resources. Additionally, developers may continue to support otherwise unsupported hardware, giving users up-to-date and secure devices [7], preventing waste landing in landfills.

All of the above promotes higher energy and resource efficiency, which means lower energy consumed, less CO2 produced, and a longer operating life for devices!

Free Software entails user freedom. And this freedom means software, and the hardware it runs on, will be more sustainable. For you. For me. For all of us. For the world.

In this talk I will focus primarily on the energy and resource consumption of software, and I will walk the audience through the 3 steps for obtaining Blauer Engel certification: (1) Measure, (2) Analyze, (3) Certify. This 3-step workflow will be described in detail, with concrete examples from KDE software. I will end the talk with an open call for community engagement, both specifically in applying for Blauer Engel certification and more generally in supporting a resource-efficient, Free Software future.

[1] https://community.kde.org/KDE/Vision

[2] https://eco.kde.org

[3] http://fsfe.org/freesoftware/freesoftware.en.html

[4] https://eco.kde.org/blog/2022-01-25-resource-efficient-software-and-blauer-engel-eco-certification/

[5] https://produktinfo.blauer-engel.de/uploads/criteriafile/en/DE-UZ%20215-202001-en-Criteria-2020-02-13.pdf

[6] https://www.umweltbundesamt.de/en/publikationen/entwicklung-anwendung-von-bewertungsgrundlagen-fuer

[7] https://media.fsfe.org/w/kGvs3JNADvvQfkC1dR9FGr

The BE4FOSS project was funded by the Federal Environment Agency and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV).

See also: Slides

Joseph P. De Veaugh-Geiss is the project and community manager of KDE e.V.’s "Blauer Engel 4 FOSS" project, which is part of the KDE Eco initiative. He supports the project by collecting and spreading information about Blauer Engel eco-certification and resource efficiency as it relates to Free Software development.