“The biggest problem the Eurocentric world is facing right now is…” is a sentence with no valid ending to it. Every contribution has its costs, and far far, far down on the list is Green Software. Still, there is no reason that we cannot implement some basic measures to curb climate change, especially if it takes zero mental or physical effort.
The Usual Suspects of a Greener Future
We start with the obvious contributions to negating climate change, which is taking fewer commercial flights and not using cars, when you really don’t need them. Biking, walking, taking the bus, etc. are all possible viable alternatives.
In the case of walking and biking, they’d also benefit your health, curbs your appetite, acts as a painkiller and fuels creative processes.
Speaking of food, a report suggested that a switch to a vegan diet would decrease all CO2 emissions by 15%, globally. Even only giving up beef instead of also dairy makes a huge difference. Give up all cheeses and milk products and one’s emissions become pretty optimal, without many health risks. If you then source your foods to nearby countries or regions, one’s own carbon emissions fall even further.
There are plenty of tricks when going vegan, such as supplementing one’s diet with vitamin B12 (which is present only in animal foods), balancing protein and fats, etc. But once one finds a diet that fulfills all one’s needs, one contributes daily, without even noticing.
The other big energy sink is heating. When I lived on my own, I usually turn down heat (or even off), especially during the winter. I don’t recommend it, but most of the time, we don’t need as much heating as we think we do. The body sleeps best at around 19ºC, which is why keeping the heat on for temperatures higher than this, at night, is silly.
Additionally, some don’t spend that much time at home anyway, so that the heat can effectively be turned off during the day. Pets and one’s partner might interject here, hence why this is not always a realistic scenario. But we can use energy more efficiently.
This is the most apparent use of energy in our homes after heating. While I know that we all spend too much time on them in our free time and professions, we cannot disconnect and still live comfortable lives. Note however, that the energy that computers use, all eventually goes into heat energy.
Letting it compute some infinite program then, will heat one’s home. The question is simply what infinite program.
It turns out, the world of science is always looking for computing power. BOINC, a distributed computing platform, allows you to run scientific projects on your home computer, the results of which are eventually used in scientific publications solving problems of protein folding, prime number theorems and other things.
Running it 24/7, especially with a heavyweight computer, can very quickly heat one’s feet (when placed near the computer), and solves otherwise intractable problems while doing so. And hey, maybe the research your feet are leaning on will discover a protein that will cure you from whatever illness it is you might be having, either right in that moment, or 40 years from now.
The only two limitations of BOINC is your computational power, which is sadly stretched thin, if you need your GPU/CPU for other intensive jobs. The other is overheating.
A big electricity use is RAM. This type of memory is typically dynamic RAM (DRAM), causes your computer to recharge the capacitors within it, thus heating it. In other words, the more memory is sitting on your computer, the more energy you are using. Our machines today come installed with memory on the scale of Gigabytes, much of it is wasted on stupid things (HD ads, Chrome, etc.). Closing applications that are not needed then, releases the RAM, which reduces the amount of electricity needed to keep the computer running.
The light that is emitted from the screen partially escapes one’s windows, and in general heats the walls, which act as energy sinks, dispersing heat outside. In contrast, the CPU releases the energy in a concentrated form, heating a specific part of one’s room, making it “heating significant”. Dark Mode can still cause you to use around 3% less energy and it isalso better for your eyes.
While a tiny effort, there is something to be said about such a small, seemingly irrelevant change making a noticeable difference in energy use. 3% is not enough to passively notice it, but it’s something (
Medium Staff, figure out native dark mode please!)
This is the largest energy user of this list. Powering the global internet costs in 1) having it serviceable, and 2) in actual use. So why not downgrade one’s downloads from HD to lower qualities? Or download all music once, so that one does not need to redownload it every time one wants to hear a particular song, such as one does on YouTube?
One spam email can take up around 0.3g of CO2, which means that the fewer things you are subscribed to the less your carbon footprint, as bizarre as this sounds. Deleting your data from the cloud (e.g. your old email account) will also save some energy, when it comes to refreshing the data, or moving it from one location to another. It’s really then, an exercise of getting rid of your online data, which also privatizes it at the same time (!).
This one is controversial. One often hears of the DarkNet, or the DeepWeb, suggesting murkiness, though they’re fairly easy to access if you know how. You download TOR, connect to the network, and tada! Connect to the Hidden Wiki (I’m not including the link here) and you are on your way! The feature of this network is that it passes along one’s encrypted data through a bunch of TOR nodes around the world, before it spits your data out of one of them, from which it then communicates with the server you’re trying to access.
This way of connecting to the internet is unabashedly terrible in energy use. But one wouldn’t expect criminals and other nefarious organizations to use this network in order to be environmentally friendly, but for secrecy. Despite this, the network also serves as a way for whistleblowers and journalists to relay information, which means that it is a double sided sword: You work to decentralize all powers that be, good or bad.
To support TOR, you can donate your computer as a node on the network. If done correctly, you’d be first, helping journalists go unnoticed, but also, giving criminals more wiggle room to do their deeds. Up to you. Also heating.
Beyond The Computer
There are plenty of other ways to help without doing anything. Reuse bottles, keep those bottles everywhere (so that you can drink whenever you feel like it), find satisfaction with the things that you have, refuse imported alcohols, drink tap water, don’t rake your yard, replace coffee for tea (tough, tough, I know), find a cheap hobby, and finally, live a quiet, but good life.
If everyone could do this, we’d crash the economy and save the world in the process.