9 ways to save the planet

These ideas have an open source twist.
149 readers like this.
Pixelated globe

Geralt. CC0.

What can be done to help save the planet? The question can seem depressing at a time when it feels like an individual's contribution isn't enough. But, who are we Earth dwellers if not for a collection of individuals? So, I asked our writer community to share ways that open source software or hardware can be used to make a difference. Here's what I heard back.

9 ways to save the planet with an open source twist

1. Disable the blinking cursor in your terminal.

It might sound silly, but the trivial, blinking cursor can cause up to 2 watts per hour of extra power consumption. To disable it, go to Terminal Settings: Edit > Preferences > Cursor > Cursor blinking > Disabled.

Recommended by Mars Toktonaliev

2. Reduce your consumption of animal products and processed foods.

One way to do this is to add these open source apps to your phone: Daily Dozen, OpenFoodFacts, OpenVegeMap, and Food Restrictions. These apps will help you eat a healthy, plant-based diet, find vegan- and vegetarian-friendly restaurants, and communicate your dietary needs to others, even if they do not speak the same language. To learn more about these apps read 4 open source apps to support eating a plant-based diet.

Recommendation by Joshua Allen Holm

3. Recycle old computers.

How? With Linux, of course. Pay it forward by giving creating a new computer for someone who can't one and keep a computer out of the landfill. Here's how we do it at The Asian Penguins.

Recommendation by Stu Keroff

4. Turn off devices when you're not using them.

Use "smart power strips" that have a "master" outlet and several "controlled" outlets. Plug your PC into the master outlet, and when you turn on the computer, your monitor, printer, and anything else plugged into the controlled outlets turns on too. A simpler, low-tech solution is a power strip with a timer. That's what I use at home. You can use switches on the timer to set a handy schedule to turn the power on and off at specific times. Automatically turn off your network printer when no one is at home. Or for my six-year-old laptop, extend the life of the battery with a schedule to alternate when it's running from wall power (outlet is on) and when it's running from the battery (outlet is off).

Recommended by Jim Hall

5. Reduce the use of your HVAC system.

Sunlight shining through windows adds a lot of heat to your home during the summer. Use Home Assistant to automatically adjust window blinds and awnings based on the time of day, or even based on the angle of the sun.

Recommended by Michael Hrivnak

6. Turn your thermostat off or to a lower setting while you're away.

If your home thermostat has an "Away" feature, activating it on your way out the door is easy to forget. With a touch of automation, any connected thermostat can begin automatically saving energy while you're not home. Stataway is one such project that uses your phone's GPS coordinates to determine when it should set your thermostat to "Home" or "Away".

Recommended by Michael Hrivnak

7. Save computing power for later.

I have an idea: Create a script that can read the power output from an alternative energy array (wind and solar) and begin turning on servers (taking them from a power-saving sleep mode to an active mode) in a computing cluster until the overload power is used (whatever excess is produced beyond what can be stored/buffered for later use). Then use the overload power during high-production times for compute-intensive projects like rendering. This process would be essentially free of cost because the power can't be buffered for other uses. I'm sure the monitoring, power management, and server array tools must exist to do this. Then, it's just an integration problem, making it all work together.

Recommended by Terry Hancock

8. Turn off exterior lights.

Light pollution affects more than 80% of the world's population, according to the World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness, published (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0) in 2016 in the open access journal Science Advances. Turning off exterior lights is a quick way to benefit wildlife, human health, our ability to enjoy the night sky, and of course energy consumption. Visit darksky.org for more ideas on how to reduce the impact of your exterior lighting.

Recommended by Michael Hrivnak

9. Reduce your CPU count.

For me, I remember I used to have a whole bunch of computers running in my basement as my IT playground/lab. I've become more conscious now of power consumption and so have really drastically reduced my CPU count. I like to take advantage of VMs, zones, containers... that type of technology a lot more these days. Also, I'm really glad that small form factor and SoC computers, such as the Raspberry Pi, exist because I can do a lot with one, such as run a DNS or Web server, without heating the room and running up my electricity bill.

P.S. All of these computers are running Linux, FreeBSD, or Raspbian!

Recommended by Alan Formy-Duvall

User profile image.
Jen leads a team of community managers for the Digital Communities team at Red Hat. She lives in Raleigh with her husband and daughters, June and Jewel.


I'm glad Michael Hrivnak mentioned darksky.org. This is a real help to astronomers!

Stop buying bottled water! Stop buying phones that only last a year and then must be replaced!

Thanks for the great article Jen -- this list is a good start - and I really like Terry's idea of load shifting to match a renewable energy profile. What is clear, however, is that we need to start harnessing OS far more aggressively to save the planet. There should be OS apps for all the major energy savings tips, OS development of renewable energy, OS controls etc. We have a lot of work to do.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.