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How independent is software from hardware? Unlike the tangible material of hardware, software is intangible, non-material. Or so it may seem. Often overlooked is the fact that the resource consumption of hardware is determined by the software running on it!
*How much energy is used?* Look at the software: the same machine doing the same task with different software can have drastically different energy demands. *How long is the operating life of a piece of hardware?* Again, software is critical. Software bloat requiring more and more powerful hardware results in new devices being manufactured and sold, while perfectly functioning devices are discarded.
So when thinking about sustainability, we at KDE Eco think software – especially Free Software – is a good place to start. Free Software means users and their communities have the freedom to control the software they use, not the other way around. These freedoms provide real choice: choice in what to install, or uninstall; options to modify software to run more, or less, efficiently; opting to continue support for older, but functioning, devices; and so on.
Each of these choices has a cost and/or benefit. For instance, the more (unnecessary) processes a piece of software runs in the background, the more resources the hardware will need. Multiply such costs by hundreds of millions, or even billions, of computer users worldwide, and it quickly adds up.
In short, software efficiency means resource efficiency.
Recently, the interdependency between software engineering and sustainability issues was officially recognized by the German Environment Agency (*Umweltbundesamt*, or UBA). As of 2020, UBA released the award criteria for desktop software to obtain eco-certification with the *Blauer Engel* label. Categories for certification include energy efficiency, extending the potential operating life of hardware, and user autonomy ... all of which fit seamlessly with Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).
The Blauer Engel 4 FOSS (BE4FOSS) project from KDE e.V. seeks to collect, summarize, and spread information related to eco-certification and resource efficiency as it relates to FOSS development. In this talk I will focus primarily on the energy consumption of software, which is also the focus of the Free & Open Source Software Energy Efficiency Project, or FEEP for short. 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.