Environment Variables
The Week in Green Software: Data Center LCA with Stani Borisová
July 12, 2023
This episode of The Week in Green Software, features guest Stani Borisová; Expert Life Cycle Management at IVL and former researcher at RISE Sweden. Host Chris quizzes her on her expertise in data center LCA and they discuss interesting news tidbits to share from a global tour of Singapore, Norway, Germany, and America. They discuss how data centers might be unnecessarily using too much heat to cool themselves down, how Germany’s Energy Efficiency Act has perhaps not gone far enough and how Norway’s investment into oil and gas affects renewable energy resources for data centers. Finally we have some fantastic opportunities for you to be part of the Green Software Foundation!
This episode of The Week in Green Software, features guest Stani Borisová; Expert in Life Cycle Management at IVL and former researcher at RISE Sweden. Host Chris quizzes her on her expertise in data center LCA and they discuss interesting news tidbits to share from a global tour of Singapore, Norway, Germany, and America. They discuss how data centers might be unnecessarily using too much heat to cool themselves down, how Germany’s Energy Efficiency Act has perhaps not gone far enough and how Norway’s investment into oil and gas affects renewable energy resources for data centers. Finally we have some fantastic opportunities for you to be part of the Green Software Foundation!

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Stani Borisová: We talk a lot about CO2 and climate change, and it's very important, but at the same time, there are other aspects of the world, such as, let's say, the water ecosystems or the depletion of minerals and such, and they happen at the same time as climate change happens, so they're inseparable.

Chris Adams: Hello and welcome to Environment Variables, brought to you by the Green Software Foundation. In each episode, we discuss the latest news and events surrounding green software. On our show, you can expect candid conversations with top experts in their field, who have a passion for how to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of software.

I'm your host, Chris Adams.

Welcome to another episode of The Week in Green Software, where we bring you the latest news and updates from the world of sustainable software development. I'm your host, Chris Adams. In today's episode, we have some interesting news tidbits from a global tour of Singapore, Norway, Germany, and America.

Then finally, we have some fantastic opportunities available if you fancy working with the Green Software Foundation, because yes, they're hiring. But before we dive into this, let me introduce my guest today. Today we have Stani Borisová from IVL, Swedish Environmental Research Institute. Stani, I'm gonna let you introduce yourself here.

So yeah, the floor is yours and maybe that's if I've mispronounced your name. Please do tell, please do help correct me because I am not sure if I've got it correct.

Stani Borisová: Hi, Chris. Thanks for having me here today. So you've pronounced my name very nicely and properly. Uh, and I work as a consultant in Swedish Environmental Institute, as you've mentioned, specifically in the area of LCA or life cycle assessment. I also do life cycle assessment of data centers. And recently I've also been involved in the development of PCR.

Uh, which stands for, um, product category rules, or basically a template for a standardized life cycle assessment of electronics. And among other projects, also a heat reuse about mealworm farming from data center excess heat, or an EU project on waste reuse in process industry. It's great to be here.

Chris Adams: Cool, thank you. So before we dive into the meat of the show, if you, if this is the first time you ever listen to this podcast, we will share all the links that we, for every article that we discuss and anything else that comes up that's interesting, we'll do our best to share the links to this as well.

Okay, so, Stani, you said a couple of things that caught my interest here. I didn't know there was any link whatsoever between mealworm farming and data centers, and I wanted to dive into that a little bit first, actually. Could you maybe expand on what was going on there and what the mealworms were for?

Because, yeah, this is the first I've ever heard of it.

Stani Borisová: Yeah, of course. This was a project I worked on before at RISE Research Institutes of Sweden, where we were focusing on sustainability of data centers and looking into different industrial symbiosis opportunities based on this excess heat. And one of them was a very nice, very circular project where we got in touch with the local brewery and used their spent brewers to actually grow mealworms.

And the idea there was to actually feed them to the chicken in a village nearby and basically farm chicken and close the loop and reuse both, both the heat, but also the spent brewers and look into how this excess heat from data center, whether it's. enhances or increases the rate of growth of these mealworms or not.

And we're actually just finishing up publishing this article about it, so hopefully you'll be able to read about it soon.

Chris Adams: So that's when I can find out if mealworms like the excess heat, if it's good for them, and they enjoy it, or they don't like it very much and they don't grow quite as fast,

Stani Borisová: Yes, exactly. But spoiler alert, they do like the heat.

Chris Adams: Great. That's interesting, especially in the context of some of the news articles we'll be referring to somewhat later on, actually. Okay. And as I understand it, I think you've done a bit of work with both the OCP, the Open Compute Project, and also with the SDIA, some of those working groups, the Sustainable Digital Infrastructure Alliance.

You've had some involvement with those over the last couple of years as well, right?

Stani Borisová: Yeah, that's correct. To be honest, it's been a, it's been a few months since I've been involved, but previously I have worked in, in these groups, mostly on a life cycle assessment in data centers and especially advocating for data transparency, because I would say that nowadays the biggest problem with data center sustainability is that we know too little to actually know how sustainable or not they are.

And the reason for that is that there's just not enough data from these very long value chains. And otherwise I've been trying to get people to look into broader sustainability, not just CO2 emissions, but looking into other impacts that one has on the world, on the environment, because of course, we talk a lot about CO2 and climate change, and it's very important, but at the same time, there are other aspects of the world, such as, let's say, the water ecosystems or the depletion of minerals and such, and they happen at the same time as climate change happens, so they're inseparable.

Chris Adams: Okay, so that's a nice link to the State of Green Software report that was published by the Green Software Foundation. I didn't introduce myself before properly. My name is Chris. I work as the policy working group, one of the chairs in that working group. And one thing that we did over the last year was get a report commissioned to make it easier for people to start basically getting into this field and understanding that yes, there is an environmental impact associated with software from this.

And one thing we've been doing with various guests has been sharing this report ahead of time and asking them which of the insights, which of the 30 insights the report is comprised of, seemed of interest to them that they might want to talk a bit about. And Stani, you've identified three of these here, open source solutions, essential to greening software.

Digital doesn't equal green and decarbonization alone cannot make software green. Is there any of those that you might want to start on just to touch, just to see what, just to share why you found them interesting so other people who are coming to this might get an idea of what kind of content there might be in here.

Stani Borisová: Sure. I think maybe we can start with the first one. The open source solutions are essential to greening of software and ICT. And the reason for that, at least in my opinion, is that you need to be able to understand what you're dealing with in order to evaluate it and then identify the hotspots and then improve whatever the issue seems to be.

So without the proper understanding, Which can only be achieved by seeing and getting the data and information. You can't really improve anything. You can be hoping and blindly aiming at something, but more is needed.

Chris Adams: Okay, I think I could go with you on that as well. With my green Software Foundation hat on, there's a bunch of open source tools specifically for this. Uh, so there's things like the Carbon Aware SDK, a software development kit specifically designed to make some of this available. But also with another hat on, the non profit I work for pretty much everything we do is open source specifically for this reason, because you need to be clear about some of the assumptions you're making if you want people to trust in the stuff you're doing. So I very much agree with you on that. And this second one, digital does not equal green. Maybe this is worth talking about from your perspective here as a life cycle assessment specialist.

So maybe if we could just briefly touch on that one as well.

Stani Borisová: Yeah, actually, I would say that there has been a lot of movement for switching to digital, especially during the pandemic, because people suddenly started talking about the benefits of not having to commute and not having to potentially rent office buildings and so forth. And just assuming that switching to digital would always be better, but that's not necessarily true to a certain extent, digitalization can make things much better, but of course we need to understand what it means to become digital and especially with certain things such as cloud services, I think lots of people don't understand that those aren't really located somewhere in the sky, they are actually somewhere on the ground in an actual physical location and that also has impact.

Chris Adams: And that is probably a nice segue to the next one. So decarbonization alone not making, cannot make software green as an LCA specialist. This is one thing that we do while we look at carbon a lot. You've just mentioned both water and depletion of natural resources. I'd like to get your take on this one because there's a couple of other stories where we speak about that in a bit more detail actually.

Stani Borisová: Decarbonization, it's an interesting name, but it very much depends what you imagine as decarbonization. You could say that You have your software, which produces emissions, for instance, CO2 emissions, and then you just purchase some credits and offset these emissions, which could make you, for instance, net zero or carbon neutral, but it would not make you green.

Green would assume that you're doing something good for the environment, and that is not just then the climate change aspect. The environment, as I mentioned before, are so many more topics. So. Yeah, I think we need to look at things with a broader perspective.

Chris Adams: More than just carbon, then. Okay, and should we jump into the news now? Alright, so the first story that you shared was actually one that was initially in Swedish, I believe. And I'll be honest, my Swedish isn't brilliant, but I was able to just pass it through some automatic translators to get the general gist of this.

And the key thing that I found interesting was... This kind of quote that came from, and I'm not sure if as someone who can speak Swedish, maybe you can tell me if I've got it more or less, but essentially the kind of thrust of this article that you shared the link to was basically saying, AI experts and business leaders were seeing people talk from like open AI and organizations saying, we've got to stop doing any development on, on AI.

And we're going to have to like, make sure we do, we bring in regulation, but. For, for way in the future, nothing to do with what we have right now, all right? There's this idea of pausing development to keep things as they are. Now, there's a researcher at KTH, which I, as I understand, it's an institution in Sweden with a decent, with quite well known for actually pioneering work in sustainability and digital, digital for the last 10 years at least.

They're basically saying, no, we don't need to stop doing this. We should actually be using this because there's a bunch of. Places where this actually is very helpful and there's a number of specific use cases for this. I might ask you to maybe help provide a bit more on this because I realized I haven't actually described what KTH is and I forgot what the K in the TH is.

So maybe you can help me there and then we can talk about some of this.

Stani Borisová: So the KTH in English is basically Royal Institute of Technology. It's a university located in Stockholm. K stands for Kunglig, I think, which means the royal. And yes, it's a very surprising news. I myself was pretty surprised to find this in my newsletter because just talking with colleagues during coffee breaks, you hear lots of concern about privacy and where all of this could happen.

We've been testing chat GPT at work and playing, seeing what we can do with it. And it's very impressive, but also very scary. So I understand this. Impulse to want to stop things, to want to put it on ice and take a break. So I've been reading a book recently called the best of times, the worst of times futures from the frontiers of climate change.

And some of the issues that it discusses are actually these models that we as humans make, for instance, for climate change. And lots of these models are based on our economic models, even though these are very different issues, the environment. That we're dealing with rather than economic issues that we are so used to tackling.

And one of the the biggest problems that this author identifies is that in the economic models one tends to discount time. So basically time is money or what happens later in the future is worth more than what happens now but that's basically the exact opposite for, for the environmental problems, because we need to tackle them now, since in the future they will become much more serious.

And that is one of the biggest pitfalls of the current models that humans are developing, especially if they're taking some simplistic way of modeling based on economics. So, I think that what these researchers from KTH are suggesting, to basically let AI take... A look from all these different viewpoints and design something better could really help us tackle something that we alone cannot because we're very, we have our subjective opinions and we see things through our own filters and potentially AI could get some more objective view.

But of course, one could also polemize how objective AI can be when it's very much modeled based on our own opinions and what we feed it.

Chris Adams: Thank you for that. So following on from this one thing that may be of interest because when I was reading through some of this initially there was this idea that yes there are all these use cases where it does make sense to put it in the hands of a wider set of people. One example I think it's actually worth people paying attention to is Climate Policy Radar.

It was a nonprofit that was launched maybe a couple of years ago. What they've been doing is they've been basically taking all of the existing climate policy all around the world to put into a single model, to see what some of the kind of features of policy that gets passed in one place has, or what some of the kind of good practices might be regardless of the language.

So with the idea being that when you're at events, say COP 27, 28, or something like that, people are able to essentially compare some of the policies that have worked in certain places and see where the actual practices are able to be used regard, without having to actually speak that particular language, because we're aware that there are absolutely language barriers here. And these are some of the tools that people have been using.

There's also in this year 2023, there's a recent thing that's come out from the same organization who've been doing some work with something called, I think it's the, the stock, the Global Stocktake Explorer, which again is taking this information, which has thousands of pages of different policy of essential all the countries have been doing.

to meet their own kind of climate goals and then put it into a tool which makes it possible to skim through this and actually pull out some of this information because expecting any single person to read thousands upon thousands of pages is a bit of a tall order, right? This is more like an example of this stuff.

Stani Borisová: Exactly.

Chris Adams: Okay, all right, that sounds pretty cool. We'll add some links to that. That's a nice link for the next part. So this is a story from, I think, the Infocom Media Development Authority. So basically this is a story about green software in Singapore, actually. Singapore have started to create some actual standards for greener data centers in their regions.

Now, this is interesting in my view, because for the longest time, you may have seen say, countries like say Sweden, where you're in, or to an extent, Germany as well, or some parts of say Northern Europe, or even parts of North America, to have a relatively clean grid. Which means that running infrastructure is actually, there are steps you can take.

But when it comes to Southeast Asia, it's been actually quite harder and there's been a lot of actual advice basically saying, if you can avoid running infrastructure in Southeast Asia, it's probably worthwhile doing because the grid is so kind of fossil fuel based. It's going to have a greater environmental impact running work over there than other places.

This is problematic because there are lots and lots of people in Southeast Asia who need to use this stuff, who need to use services, and why shouldn't they be able to access this too? And this is actually something related to the way that some people are realizing that you can actually run data centers at different temperatures to actually change the kind of cooling you might actually need.

Maybe you could come in on this one actually, Stani, because I have never had to run a data center myself, and this sounds interesting in my book.

Stani Borisová: Yeah, I think it's also very interesting. So the idea here is that most data centers cool their servers quite a lot to let's say temperature of 22 degrees. And one of the biggest reasons for that is the so called ASHRAE envelope. And the ASHRAE envelope is a combination of, I think, five different factors, which you have to adhere to in order to keep the warranty of your servers.

And some of those factors are temperature and humidity and so forth. And what's interesting is that quite a lot of people I would say in the data center world who understand that some of these conditions are very strict. And potentially stricter than they have to be, but at the same time, since all of the manufacturers based their warranty policy on the ASHRAE envelope, no one dares to get out of the envelope and operate differently.

So that means that people are unnecessarily cooling their data centers too much, data centers that don't have to be as cold, that could operate just as fine at, let's say, 2, 3, 4 degrees higher temperature. So what's happening in Singapore is that they decided to support the gradual increase in operating temperature to 26 degrees.

I think that's fantastic. I'm hoping that this will inspire even other parts of the world where maybe the countries are not so hot. The climate is maybe colder than the Southeast Asia, but still it could be applied throughout the world. And thus they're aiming to potentially save cooling energy up to 2 or 5% for every one degree increase.

So yeah, I think it's very exciting news.

Chris Adams: Okay. Cool. So, I'm really glad you mentioned the ASHRAE envelope in some of this because I honestly thought when the figures for running datacenters unnecessarily, particularly cold, might just been a human comfort thing rather than a kind of warranty thing or something equally arbitrary if basically this is not actually tied to the actual performance of the servers themselves.

I think if you're able to increase the temperature by two or three degrees, and if it's between two and five, that's like 15, 20% savings, which is nothing to be sneezed at given that this is actually a significant draw of both water when it's used to cool it down and also energy to actually cool things down as well, as I'm understanding.

Stani Borisová: Yeah.

Chris Adams: All right, following on from this, now from Singapore to Germany, where I'm based. So this is another one related to heat reuse as well, actually. This is a story from Data Center Dynamics. Germany surpassed the Energy Efficiency Act, demanding heat reuse in data centers. I wanted to share this with you and get some of your take on it because there was heat reuse, which we've now learned is good for mealworms.

But also it's one of the greatest, providing space heating is one of the significant drivers of emissions in Germany. In fact, I think it's one of the largest ones. It looks like it's going to be landing in September. And, uh, there's a few things which caught my eye. First of all, there was this kind of mandatory kind of tightening of efficiency requirements, so that data centers have to be more efficient, uh, and basically use more of their power to actually run service rather, rather than actually just be trying to cool things down through better, better design.

But there was also... A few interesting things about a shift to renewable energy. So the idea is that this act would require for the data centers to basically be using 50% renewable energy by 2024, which is pretty soon. And then 100% by 2027. That's impressive, actually. But there's a couple of caveats that I figured might be worth discussing.

So yeah, I'd like to hear your take on this one here as well, actually, because it sounds like it's good for the mealworms, definitely. But there's also some other climate implications for some of this.

Stani Borisová: Yeah, I think it's an interesting article and I think with these kind of things the devil lies in the details and it sounds very good, I have to say, 50% renewable now. If we assume that some of the data centers in Germany don't use any renewable energy is a great increase. already next year. But as you said, indeed, this can be met using certificates.

And additionally, I wonder what's going to happen with renewables as we've seen recently in the EU taxonomy, natural gas being classified as a renewable. That makes me very concerned because basically you could just operate a hundred percent on natural gas and claim that's renewable energy doing us all a very big disfavor.

And at the same time, I think This proposed law had a very big potential from my point of view. The idea was to reuse, I think, 40% of the excess heat. But there was so much effort to just keep it easy, start slowly, take our time, that as far as I understood it, next year it's going to only require that 10% of all excess heat is reused, which unfortunately is very little.

And if I remember correctly, I've spoken with a previous colleague of mine about this and how we use energy to compute, but of the energy that we use, maybe 99. 9% does not end up being in the compute power, but ends up being heat. So that just tells you. The enormous amount of heat being generated. And it's a real shame to then only reuse such a small proportion.

And from what I've seen and heard, lots of data centers are trying to advocate for their placement in the society as potential sources of heat. Obviously we need data centers. They're crucial and we have systems based on their existence. So we can't get rid of them. But at the same time, I feel like the skeptics or the conservatives have won this battle a little bit and made what could have been a really revolutionary step, something very mild instead.

Chris Adams: Okay, I really appreciate you giving that extra perspective on this because I did mention there was some of these caveats and for people who've listened to this podcast a couple of episodes ago we had Nina Jablonska from Energy Tag talking specifically about some of the issues related to using credits from other parts of the world to mark energy as green like we said here.

Technically this would mean that energy in Norway should No longer be counted as green. But whether that always happens is another matter. But let's just move on to the next story, which I believe you shared here. I was surprised to see this mentioned from a data center publication, actually. So basically, this is the Norway government approving significant investment in the oil and gas industry.

Now, I wanted to ask, do you know why this might have showed up in a data center? Publication for this, because it feels like it's an energy story rather than a data center story. And I was a bit lost on this one. So maybe you might be able to shed some light and then we can talk about some of the other things that have been going on in Norway that are also interesting in this kind of transition technology kind of field.

Stani Borisová: Sure. Yeah. I was also slightly surprised to see it on, on the data center forum, but the two main reasons I think for this is first of all, data center world, I would say is very energy focused whenever it comes to just talking about sustainability. I would say 99% of the focus is energy and at the same time, what I just mentioned with green natural gas being classified as renewable could suggest that there are some players who then will use natural gas and its abundance and its increased abundance from Norwegian supplies to claim that they are operating on renewable power.

Chris Adams: Okay, thank you for sharing that because we touched on this in a previous episode about okay, when you have significant drivers of demand, like when you're building full of servers full of GPU cards, which are extremely energy dense, it may be that the power draw you're needing is actually greater than the grid itself is able to provide, just like we have problems with the transmission of networks, there's also transmission issues related to energy.

There's also another kind of investment or a real kind of change that was actually announced in Norway in the last week or two, this massive deposit of phosphate, one of the transition materials that was, it's used for batteries and it's used for fertilizer.

And this felt like a kind of in my view, really interesting, because you do see things like oil and gas being a big thing in Norway. While Norway itself uses a very clean grid, it's one of the key places that people point to when they look at the migration to electric cars and things like that. Most of the oil and gas is exported into a massive sovereign wealth fund, which is used to basically, in many ways, provide some kind of base to set things up in the future.

Now, this discovery of at least 70 billion tons of phosphate. First of all, this is larger than any other deposit that's ever been discovered of phosphate, which is interesting, which is important for farming, but also transitions, but also it suggests that this is another route away from relying on oil and gas for a sovereign wealth fund.

And I wanted to get your perspective on some of this actually, because we do see things like data centers taking on much more batteries and things like this as another way to provide the necessary kind of way to meet the demand for power.

Stani Borisová: I thought it was an interesting piece of news. It was very exciting. Indeed, as you mentioned, most of the phosphate rock is used in fertilizers, but there is a proportion being used to produce batteries. So I think this maybe could also help the opposite direction, not just the oil and gas, but instead, as you mentioned, the renewables, maybe some on site power generation with potentially European cheaper batteries.

So I find this to be a very optimistic news. What is also important to keep in mind is the mining and the emissions related to that and the health and environmental concerns from that. But it seems like the Noria mining, they keep that in mind. So hopefully they are planning to do the apply carbon capture and sequestering as I, if I remember correctly.

And then another maybe important aspect is to make sure that this phosphate is being recirculated and that it's not being emitted somewhere into water because that can actually cause a lot of problems with eutrophication, which basically means this phosphate, which basically is very nice as a fertilizer, ends up in water.

Which sounds nice because then plants have more food to eat, but what it does if it happens in two big quantities is that you suddenly get a lot of biomass that is growing and expanding, and as it decomposes, it prevents the ecosystems and the fish from getting their oxygen, so then they die. So there are all these different aspects to look into, but I would say that generally it's exciting and hopefully we'll have some better and more accessible batteries for renewables.

Chris Adams: And ideally, no longer needing to export quite so much oil if you have, if there's another massive natural resource that people might be using instead. So I think you just spoke about, I think, is it an algal bloom? The algae growing, using up all the oxygen, then suffocating all the fish. That's the, essentially the runoff effect of phosphate fertilizer there.

That's the other kind of flip side of this.

Stani Borisová: Exactly. Yeah.

Chris Adams: Okay, we'll share a link to a really good newsletter called Green Rocks, which is specifically about the environmental aspects of mining. And we'll also share a link to mining.com, which also provides another kind of industry view on what's happening here. All right, we're just coming up to the last story now, actually.

So this one, I shared this because... This really caught my eye, and because you have a focus on lifecycle, I figured you'd probably have some opinions about this one here. So this is a story in Ars Technica about the Fairphone coming to America. And I understand that you're familiar with the Fairphone, so maybe it might be useful for you to explain this to the uninitiated who may not have purchased or had to own a Fairphone themselves.

Stani Borisová: Sure. So Fairphone is a Dutch company that is selling modular phones. And I would say that they're doing their best to really look into all of the supply chains and reuse as much material as possible. As a coincidence, one of my very good friends works at Fairphone. So I do have a lot of information from them and they are really in touch with the suppliers, even traveling to the local places.

Here in Europe we might think that you bring your electronics to the dedicated separation place and therefore everything is fine and everything is solved and you did your part. But in reality, oftentimes these electronics and dangerous parts of them end up somewhere on the streets in Africa where people don't understand which parts are dangerous, which are not, and children are playing there and such.

So it's very good that someone has this in mind. And another great thing is that it's a modular phone. So if anything breaks, you can just. Get another piece and keep on using your phone as long as possible. So I think it's a very good news that a Fairphone is coming to the U. S.

Chris Adams: So this is one thing that I wanted to ask you about because I owned a version, one of the original Fairphones, which I'll be honest, I loved the idea. The idea of using it was probably better than the experience of the first iteration of the product. And I got the second one as well, which was nice enough to use.

And I really did appreciate the modular aspect because I actually was able to eek out the life by literally just upgrading a camera. It cost me 40 euros to swap out. One of the old cameras for new cameras, and the rest of it was still more or less working, actually. And I know that Fairphone was initially set up largely almost like to prove a point, rather than actually be an enterprise initially to set up to make a bunch of money.

For example, as I understood it, Fairphone initially came out of organizations who were essentially campaigning for labor rights in electronics and basically said, Look, this needs to be changed. They were so sick of people pushing back saying we can't possibly treat people fairly where they've decided to make a phone themselves just to show that it could actually be done.

And I wanted to ask you, have you seen any examples of this being adopted in industry or some of these practices filtering down? Because in my view, at least early on in the industry, before they started growing. It was very much like a kind of demonstrator of a company compared to other things. Just showing that this could be done and to raise some of the bar.

And I know that we have some laws coming forward, which seem to be informed by some of what's happening here. But again, I don't get to speak to a life cycle and that assessment specialist all that often. So I figured I'd ask you, have you seen any of this percolating down into other fields or other examples in the industry?

Stani Borisová: Maybe not in as much in depth, I would say, but there are lots of different initiatives where companies have to look into their entire supply chain and look also into the social aspects of their business. There are lots of different standards on how it's done. And then there is something called social life cycle assessment, which is a sister of This traditional environmental life cycle assessment, where one really looks into all the different shareholders and stakeholders involved, and even interviews the communities and sees how things are done to once again, point out the hotspots and show what can be improved and how, and potentially even compare that.

So I would say that there are some initiatives. Oftentimes it's because of the regulation rather than. because of some extra incentive internally from the company. And hopefully we'll see more of that. What we also see, for instance, the social LCA, that's mostly used in different EU projects. So that's where it's being used quite often.

At the moment, I have two colleagues in Portugal where they're part of a social LCA. And they're interviewing local communities about cement production and how that impacts them, but also talking with the workers on site and, and such. And of course, the society should be considered as well when it comes to sustainability.

So hopefully we'll see more and more of that.

Chris Adams: So not just carbon. So this is one thing I was going to ask you actually, because, so you mentioned before you were working at RISE, which is a research institute, and now, rather than just doing work for the kind of the state as it were, you're working in a company which is essentially helping organizations like maybe corporates understand some of their own responsibilities or what the impact of their products actually have. Is it different when say a researcher asks for data versus a company asking for data in their supply chain? Maybe you could share some of that because we've spoken before about how data is really a real problem and I figured I should ask you about some of this as well.

Stani Borisová: Yeah, I think that's a very good question. So indeed, I was working as a researcher before. Now I work as a consultant. The biggest difference I see, for instance, two years ago, I was trying to do a life cycle assessment of a data center in Buden in the north of Sweden, and the project was already at its end and we were asking from the former suppliers, which we had collaborated before with, but it was just not interesting. And at the same time, it felt like we were a research Institute. We didn't really have any purchasing power to leverage, to get some data and potentially buy more in the future. And that's something that is very different now. I would say when I work with private companies and when they are doing their data collection. I would say that they have a much bigger access to data. Of course, you would want to start collecting your data as you're, let's say, building in the initial phase. As you're, as you start with your project, start also with data collection for future sustainability purposes, because of course, once you finished your data center and sold it to someone else, of course, for that new person, it's much harder to then contact people and convince them to send something, but still you are a company that is a potential consumer, potential future consumer that comes back and purchases more. And that really helps getting the data to the consumers. That of course, doesn't make the data open to everyone, but it allows for hopefully some future benchmarking where we know that the results that the companies are presenting to us are really based on the real data and very accurate data.

And then instead of comparing PUE, we can start comparing actual data center, let's say climate impact or I don't know, depletion of resources, impact and such and start to understand. What is good and what is not good?

Chris Adams: Okay, thank you for this. So, following on from this, I'd like to ask you about the role that software plays at the data center level for this, because we spoke a little bit about the Fairphone, and one thing that I found really interesting about the Fairphone was they have quite a long warranty compared to other places.

So they have like between five, some cases even seven years of basically a commitment to have it to support it and uh, we've seen essentially the lack of software support in many cases updates are inducing people to move away from what would otherwise be functioning hardware. Do you see any patterns like this in the data center when people are working with hardware in a data center kind of context?

Because my intuition would think yes, but I don't really know enough about it and once again it sounds like maybe this is actually a pattern we see more, uh, occurring in other places as well.

Stani Borisová: Yeah, absolutely. Actually, there's a British company called Techbuyer that basically works a lot with refurbishing old hardware. And they've also done some studies on comparing the performance of servers. And let's say taking two generations older servers compared to the new ones refurbished and such, and it can be done and the performance can be almost identical. And at the same time, this allows for immense emission savings in terms of CO2, in terms of everything else. I would say, even if you don't have enough power to influence your energy supply and where it comes from, just reusing the hardware for longer than you would intend to initially can do so much difference.

Chris Adams: Ah, okay, I think I know the paper you're talking about, and the nerd in me loves this paper. This was Optimizing Server Refresh Cycles, the Case for a Circular Economy with an Aging Moore's Law. This is by, I think, Rabih Bashroush, Nour Rteil, Rich Kenny, Astrid Wynne. This was a really cool paper, I thought, because there was a really eye catching stat that I remember, like, when I read through it.

Yeah. According to this study, From Eureka, which is a research institute. So they did some research of 300 data centers in Europe. And the thing they basically said was 40% of the deployed servers are around older than five years old. And they were consuming 66% of the facility energy, but providing only 7% of the compute capacity, right?

Okay. So just flip that around. That means that there's the other half is providing 90 plus percent for using less than half of it so if you wanted to reduce emissions swapping out those obviously would be the thing to do having a kind of cash for clunkers kind of thing would be an immediate climate gain but later on in the paper they do talk about this idea that yes if there would be over more than five years old yes but some of the newer ones They don't need to be that recent to still be quite effective, like you mentioned.

This is something that blew my mind when I saw it, to have both of these extremes in one paper, actually.

Stani Borisová: Yeah. And I think also the emissions from the energy itself are so dependent on the source of energy. So it could happen that you're located, let's say somewhere in Scandinavia and you're using very clean grid. And in such case you could obviously optimize the energy efficiency, but you could achieve a much bigger impact in that particular situation just by prolonging the service life of your hardware.

Chris Adams: cool. All right, we'll share that link to that paper for people. I would actually love to know if there's any more recent studies, because this paper that was published, I think last year, it was based on a study from from 2018, which had these crazy, this wild differentiation between older than five years is terrible.

Younger than three years, not so bad, right? And it'd be really interesting to see if that is the case or how the kind of fleet of infrastructure has and what kind of changes you would target if you wanted to reduce the environmental impact from using software for this. All right. Stani, I think we've covered most of the stories here.

Normally we do like a set of announcements and the thing I might share is that at the Green Software Foundation, they're currently hiring for a couple of roles. The first one is a kind of technical project manager role. And, uh, a content, uh, project manager role, both of these are available and we'll share some links to that.

So if people are interested in working in this field, they, that's an option. But I think the last thing I want to say before I thank you actually is this closing question from our producer, Chris, are there any particularly green games that you've played that have a real kind of focus or message that you would like to share or that you've enjoyed that people might know about?

Because we mentioned Doom and stuff before, but there are also other games which might not be quite so violent and might be a bit more, kind of, friendly to mealworms, if nothing else.

Stani Borisová: I do have a recommendation, but it's not a recommendation to, uh, Uh, video game, but rather, um, a board game, uh, it's called Regenerate, a cooperative resource management game, where one is trying to regenerate the environment. And what I really like about this game is that if you just go to their website, you can actually print everything out on your own at home, along with all the instructions, all the parts, and just play and enjoy the good feeling about making something good for the environment, at least in the game.

Chris Adams: So basically you just, you can just download the PDFs and print all the things that way, right? So it's a bit like a... Ah, open source applied to board games,

Stani Borisová: exactly. Yeah.

Chris Adams: That's pretty cool. All right. I kind of wanted to say something like SimCity, and I believe there's another game. Is it like Planet Zoo or something that's in this field, which is a little bit like a kind of computer game like SimCity?

Stani Borisová: Yeah. Planet Zoo is very fun as well and you really get immersed in this nice good vibes of a good zoo and you're trying to take care of your animals and make them happy and such. Yeah. That's also very fun.

Chris Adams: Cool. If people want to be inside to get away from some of the heat this summer, then maybe those are two things to catch people's attention. All right, that's all for this episode of This Week in Green Software. All the resources for the episode will be available in the show description below at https://podcast.greensoftware.foundation And you can see more episodes available for you to peruse and listen to at your leisure. Stani, I've really enjoyed having you on here and I've learned a huge amount and I think some of our listeners probably have as well. So thank you very much. This has been loads and loads of fun, Stani.

Thank you.

Stani Borisová: Thank you so much as well. It was great to be here.

Chris Adams: All right. Take care of yourself and have a lovely day. Ciao, Stani.

Stani Borisová: You too. Bye.

Chris Adams: Hey, everyone. Thanks for listening. Just a reminder to follow Environment Variables on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. And please do leave a rating and review if you like what we're doing. It helps other people discover the show and of course, we'd love to have more listeners.

To find out more about the Green Software Foundation, please visit https://greensoftware.foundation That's https://greensoftware.foundation in any browser. Thanks again and see you in the next episode.