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Open Source is Already Naturally Green

Fewer Lawyers, Fewer Showers, More Real People Add Up to Big Green Wins

  • February 11, 2009
  • By Tina Gasperson

For years now, there's been talk brewing about the concept of Green IT. Pundits have predicted in years past that sustainable IT would be job one soon, really soon. Gartner said in 2007 that in 2008 it would be THE most important checklist item for IT managers. 2008 has come and gone, and I don't remember hearing a whole lot about green-ness being the top priority for tech executives. Perhaps that has something to do with sustaining the company being more important than sustaining trees. In any case, it looks like green IT is still in the forefront of executive minds, and with a new administration it may become even more important even than Gartner said it would - it may become the law. So where does open source software fit into the mix? How green is the GPL? Pretty green, if you ask me. In fact, companies that already use open source software are well on the way to greening their IT departments.

Open source lives in the cloud

Companies and individuals usually get their open source software via download, which means that packaging waste is eliminated. You can copy the software over and over again, so even on the off chance that it does arrive in a pretty box, you only need one pretty box for the entire company, as opposed to a separate copy and license for each person. Heck, if you play your cards right, you only need one pretty box for the entire office building. Open source software documentation, if it even exists, is almost always online or distributed inside the program, and almost never printed into an actual book, meaning even more trees get to live and no plastics were killed in the making of your favorite Linux distribution or Microsoft Office replacement. Because open source software lives mostly in the cloud, fuel costs could decrease dramatically since downloading eliminates fighting traffic to get to Best Buy. Not only that, but it eliminates daily UPS shipments.

Open source uses power more efficiently

Open source developers think it's fun to make software that runs as efficiently as possible. Commercial software companies probably think the opposite since their marketing partners can sell more hardware if it burns up quicker or you need more of it to gain the same amount of computing power. Open source runs cooler and quicker and uses fewer resources. It also runs on commodity hardware, so when a server does need replacing you can use recycled or resurrected equipment instead of spending big coinage on a new proprietary piece of metal.

Open source is made at home, by real people

Open source software is developed organically by people, not by corporate entities, which means those people are writing software right where they're at. Because open source software development lends itself to telecommuting, developers don't need a special commute, a special office, or even special clothes to create open source software. And even if they do all those things already because they have a "real job" at a corporate software development company, they only have to do it once. Even corporate-sponsored open source projects are more eco-friendly because of this. Open source saves water, too, since software developers who work from home don't need to shower as often. More cows live longer lives too because when you code at home, shoes are optional.

Open source means fewer lawyers

Open source software negates the existence of software "piracy", so if enough people began using open source, the industry surrounding the pursuit and prosecution of software "pirates" would go away. All that money and energy could be spend doing something more important. Do you know how many natural resources it takes to manufacture a three-piece suit like lawyers wear? Eliminate "piracy" and you eliminate the need for thousands of three-piece suits every year. Lawyers who work for open source projects don't need to wear suits. And they probably don't need to shower as often, either.

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