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May 3 2010 / Aaron

The carbon footprint of an engineer

It occurred to me the other day, that if one is to take a big picture view, it doesn’t matter so much if I leave that light on in the kitchen, or drive to work instead of taking the bus. As a software engineer for a large company with a huge customer base, I have desicions to make daily that have a much greater impact. If I can optimize the server code than we need less giant energy sucking servers in the data-center. If I can reduce the bandwidth used in the client-server communication that means less work for the millions of clients and all the internet routers in between them and our servers, and far less coal burned as a result. At this scale it means a single thoughtless line of code I write today could mean the addition or subtraction of hundreds of tonnes of CO2. Luckily, efficiencies in the software world are good for the bottom line. Less bandwidth, CPU, and data-center footprint brings down costs, and provides headroom for future growth. But I think it’s too easy to get caught up in personal footprint and not realize the incredibly large impact a lot of us can have in the workplace, where the sheer scale of an operation makes anything personal pale in comparison.

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  1. bill / May 9 2010

    Interesting. Smart is better than blundering on according to ideology. Or something.

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