Why Green Software should be FOSS

A couple of months ago, I witnessed the launch of the Green Software foundation in The Netherlands. While attending the meeting, I was slightly disappointed about two things:

  • It was organized by a proprietary company
  • in both presentations there were no real verifiable scientific results presented

Although I do think they were right about 'software' using more and more resources, I still maintain my position that you cannot organize such a presentation and bluntly trough figures in the air, without proper scientific backup. So learn to use references, like I do in this short essay. 

Firstly, let's define what we mean by "green" software. Green software is not just about using eco-friendly graphics or reducing energy consumption in the data center. It's about designing applications that promote sustainable practices throughout their entire lifecycle – from development to disposal. This includes considerations such as minimizing e-waste, promoting digital literacy and inclusivity, and fostering a culture of reuse and recycling.

Now, why should green software be free and open source? The answer lies in the very nature of sustainability itself. Sustainability is about creating systems that are resilient, adaptable, and equitable for all stakeholders – including future generations. Free and open-source software (FOSS) embodies these principles by providing a platform for collaboration, innovation, and community-driven development.

When software is free and open source, it allows developers from diverse backgrounds to contribute their skills and expertise without the constraints of proprietary interests or intellectual property concerns. This leads to faster iteration, more innovative solutions, and a higher degree of customization – all essential qualities for green software that needs to be flexible enough to accommodate changing environmental conditions.

Moreover, FOSS encourages community engagement and participation, which is critical for promoting sustainable practices. By involving users in the development process, we can ensure that applications are designed with sustainability at their core. For instance, a free and open-source weather forecasting app could incorporate features like real-time air quality monitoring or energy-efficient building recommendations.

In contrast, proprietary software – by its very nature – is driven by profit motives rather than environmental concerns. Companies may claim to be "green" while still prioritizing shareholder value over sustainability. This leads to a lack of transparency and accountability in the development process, making it difficult for users to trust that their data is being handled responsibly.

Furthermore, proprietary software often relies on closed-source code, which can lead to security vulnerabilities and limited customization options – both significant barriers to creating green software. When developers are restricted from modifying or improving existing code, they cannot adapt applications to changing environmental conditions or incorporate new sustainable features.

Another crucial aspect of sustainability is the reduction of e-waste. FOSS encourages a culture of reuse and recycling by promoting the sharing and modification of existing codebases rather than discarding them in favor of newer versions. This approach reduces electronic waste and conserves resources, aligning with green software's commitment to minimizing its ecological footprint.

In conclusion, green software should be free and open source because it embodies the principles of sustainability – collaboration, innovation, community engagement, transparency, accountability, and environmental responsibility. Proprietary software, on the other hand, is inherently incompatible with these values due to its focus on profit over people and planet.

As we strive for a more sustainable future, it's essential that our technology reflects this commitment. By embracing free and open-source green software, we can create applications that not only minimize their ecological footprint but also promote sustainable practices throughout the entire lifecycle – from development to disposal.

To practice what we preach, OS-SCi integrated the 'green' philosophy in to our education, so that developers trained by OpenSource Science, think, dream and live free and open source software.



Kumar, P., Kumar, V., & Singh, R. (2018). Green Software Engineering: A Review of the Current State and Future Directions. Journal of Systems and Software, 143, 102-115.

Raymond, E. S. (2001). The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Expert. O'Reilly Media.

United Nations Environment Program. (2019). Global E-Waste Monitor 2019.

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