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KDE's Okular becomes the world's first eco-certified computer program


KDE's universal document viewer Okular is the first software to be awarded the Blue Angel ecolabel. The FSFE congratulates Okular to this milestone that confirms more environmental benefits of using and developing Free Software. Together with our Upcycling Android initiative we campaign for universal user freedoms in the EU in the upcoming months.

Free Software comes with multiple benefits regarding user's freedoms, transparency, modularity, and control - just to mention a few. Beyond these rather technical aspects, control over technology directly influences our societies and democracies. Ultimately, the reason why the FSFE is your charity to empower people to control technology.

Less well-known are the benefits that Free Software offers towards a more sustainable digital society. Contemporary research shows an increasingly problematic correlation between the ongoing digitization and its impact on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Most of these greenhouse gas emissions stems from the production of hardware, its worldwide delivery, the energy to run that hardware and the energy needed for data flow and to connect all these devices aka Internet and streaming.

Okular is the first software to be awarded the Blue Angel ecolabel

Screenshot of Okular, showing illustrations from David Revoy
Screenshot from KDE's Okular, Illustrations from David Revoy CC-BY-SA-4.0

To this end, the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt) developed award criteria for a Blue Angel ecolabel for "Resources and Energy-Efficient Software Products". The Blue Angel is the world's earliest established environmental label and the newly introduced one for energy efficient software is the first of its kind. Said ecolabel awards software that performs the very same function as other software using the very same hardware but having less energy consumed. Now KDE's Okular is the first software product ever to be certified with the new seal and this way, Okular becomes the first ever eco-certified computer program. The Blue Angel certified KDE Okular for multiple benefits to environment and health, in particular to "save resources", be "energy efficient" and offering "transparent interfaces".

"The FSFE congratulates the world-wide community of software engineers, artists, writers, translators, and creators who all together form KDE for this success.", says Erik Albers, Digital Sustainability expert for the FSFE. "The good news about KDE's Okular being awarded first with the Blue Angel ecolabel will help to raise awareness towards the many benefits that Free Software offers in respect of our environment. And it gives one more reason to convince governments and people that Free Software is a necessary condition for a free, just, and sustainable digital society.

And given that KDE started an entire initiative called KDE Eco, we know that they work on getting more Free Software being awarded to be energy efficient in the upcoming months.

Free Software crucial in extending hardware lifetime

The energy efficiency of Free Software, its modularity and other aspects combat an additional problem of our ongoing digitization: the often way too short hardware lifetimes caused by software obsolescence. So-called "software obsolescence" occurs when the manufacturer of a device discontinues the support for software that is necessary to run the device properly. One solution to overcome software obsolescence is to replace the proprietary software or operating system with a Free Software one. Many of us have heard of laptops, netbooks and desktops with years old hardware that are "outdated" for proprietary operating systems but that run and perform smoothly by using GNU/Linux systems. Showing that with Free Software, you catch two birds with one stone: You can keep using your device and maybe see it perform even better - and you gain user freedom.

The same applies not only to laptops and desktops but also to other hardware, for example phones. At the FSFE we raise awareness and tackle software obsolescence with our new Upcycling Android Initiative. It is an initiative to extend the lifespan of our phones with the help of Free Software. Every time we keep using our current phone instead of buying a new one we help avoid the production of new phones and the increase of e-waste.

Screenshot from our Upcycling Android video showing Earth from space and people below where every third person has a (+1) over its head.
Screenshot from our Upcycling Android video that explains the problem of software obsolescence and how to solve it using Free Software

FSFE's activities on Free Software and digital sustainability

Besides our public awareness campaign, we raise our voice during the negotiations about the upcoming changes regarding European ecodesign. At the Free Software Foundation Europe, we use this historic chance to advocate for the universal right to install and de-install any operating system and software on any device. Meanwhile, we directly help users to flash their phones and install Free Software operating systems by offering workshops in various cities. Last but not least we are also part of the organising committee of Bits & Bäume, Europe's most influential conference on digital sustainability and Free Software to happen in autumn this year.