What Can Programmers do for the Environment?

I’ve stumbled upon a couple of online discussions on the theme of programmers reducing their environmental impact. The answers tend to be: print less, shut down computers before leaving the office, use compact flourescent light bulbs. I find these suggestions akin to treating a shark bite with a bandaid.

Here’s what bio-ethicist extraordinaire Peter Singer, recommends for people wanting to make a difference:

Reduce your greenhouse gas emissions. Use public transport, walk or ride a bike whenever you can. If you must drive, get a fuel-efficient car, perhaps a hybrid. And remember, factory farming is a wasteful form of production that requires a lot of fossil fuel, so eating fewer – or no – animal products will cut the amount of emissions for which you are responsible.

I suspect that as a vegetarian programmer you could leave your monitor on 24 hours a day and print out every e-mail you get, and still have far less negative impact on the wider environment that your omnivore colleague who follows the bandaid tips above.