Question to candidates: the environment

Another question I’d be interested to know what all the candidates think about.

What do you think the Foundation’s responsibilities to the environment (for example, concerning climate change and carbon emissions) are? And what do you think the GNOME project’s responsibilities as a whole are? How would you rank this in importance vs other topics which are going to take up the Board’s time and attention?


Hi Philip!

I think the foundation should have a similar responsibility in this regard as individual members and other entities. I am not very versed in law, so I do not know if the GNOME Foundation is under the obligation of identifying, measuring, and publishing emissions within Scopes 1, 2, and 3. Regardless of legal obligations, I believe the foundation should take within it responsibilities to measure its emissions. As we all know, it’s inefficient to improve performance without doing profiling first :slight_smile: If nobody in the board is able to execute this task, I believe the new governance model allows for the board to involve interested community members to contribute to it, and I would be happy to work on building such committee.

That being said, I fully support initiatives like Decentralized GUADEC and fostering local communities that @jonasd has brought up in his candidacy, that certainly contribute towards emission reduction.


Thank you for this question Philip.

In my opinion, the GNOME Foundation’s responsibility is to not further damage our earth’s climate. As you’ve pointed out many times, we currently do this by flying contributors all over the globe to meet once a year.

Local satellite events are the solution and I think many (most?) candidates are in favor of supporting those.

One thing I remember was asked during last GUADEC was whether the Foundation should prefer to fund trains and buses over airplanes. If I remember @ramcq’s answer correctly this is not easily possible since the Foundation has a responsibility to use it’s funds as effective as possible and planes are simply more price effective. I would advocate to adapt these rules, so we can consider the climate friendliness of different ways of transportation accordingly.


I believe that I and people in the world should be concerned about the environment and climate change and carbon emissions. It would be great if the GNOME community and the foundation achieve them together.

It is very easy for us to say the above, but the questions are:

  • How can we achieve them which can also benefit the GNOME community and foundation ? Asking our members not to attend the largest events like FOSDEM is impossible.

  • What is the priority of caring the environment from the certain amount of works/issues which the board caring ? I think it’s not in the top priorities of next board, but I think it is a good idea to form a committee by foundation members who care the environment and go into further (and well) discussion, and then make suggestions to the board (and members if ask for more transparency and committee can spend time to do it).

So, in short, I agree that the GNOME community should care about the environment and the community should form a committee to discuss it to foster the change and make us more friendly to the environment if we can.

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Hi Philip,

Regarding the Foundation’s responsibilities to the environment, including climate change and carbon emissions, I believe these are crucial topics that should be prioritized alongside other board matters. Environmental responsibility is an important part of our overall strategic goals. In particular, strategic goal 2, objective 6, outlines our commitment to reorganizing events into streamlined, more inclusive annual gatherings. This includes creating sustainable events that allow diverse communities across Asia, Africa, Europe, and the US to manage their events locally. By reducing travel times and costs, we can significantly decrease our carbon footprint while fostering local engagement and inclusivity.

Balancing environmental responsibilities with other board priorities involves integrating sustainable practices into our operations and events. For example, we can include discussions on climate change in our conference tracks at global and local events like GUADEC and the Linux App Summit. This will help the GNOME project learn more ways to tackle these issues and identify areas for collaboration with other organizations.

I believe this is a progressive conversation that would benefit from collaborations with organizations currently implementing or designing sustainable practices in open source projects. For example, our involvement with the CHAOSS project (The Linux Foundation) has allowed us to include diversity badging in to our events. GUADEC 2024 (19-24 July 2024): Overview · GNOME Events (Indico)


I think the point here was regarding the Foundation’s registered purpose and how that needs to be reflected in our books and auditing and so on. From a regulatory perspective we have to demonstrate that we are spending our funds in line with our non-profit purpose.

Clearly we can’t independently change the regulations, and we need to protect the Foundations non-profit status. However, as someone who passionately cares about the climate crisis and the environment, I would definitely be in favour of taking a second look at those regulations to see how they apply to us, and what degree of flexibility we have with regards to funding environmentally conscious travel.


Hi Philip, thanks for your question! As you know this is an area of genuine concern to me and I appreciate your diligence in patiently pursuing the topic. I do think the whole community, across the foundation and project, needs to be conscientious and intentional in how we prioritise our environmental impact against other goals. This can’t be to the exclusion of advancing our shared purpose (as we are not an “environmental technology” or general environmental project) but I think we have a very broad remit to choose “how” we approach our goals and the impact of those choices.

I think “what’s allowed by the regulations” is broad and very dependent by which way up we hold things - the IRS policies may not respect that we would prefer to spend 3x more on a journey by taking overnight rail rather than an inexpensive shorthaul flight; but we have very broad control about how we prioritise our approach to our mission and overall goals - ie choosing whether we decide to travel, or how many people might need to travel and to where in order to achieve our objectives.

I think there are probably three areas to work on:

  1. Look for opportunities to establish our strategic goals in ways which are less impactful. Regina has mentioned work on empowering local communities and moving to more distributed events; I agree that these are amazing opportunities to not only pursue our objectives but boost inclusivity and reduce travel impact at the same time. Equally I think if nobody in a certain region ever met existing/longstanding contributors, that would weaken the community in terms of our interpersonal connections and ability to socially resolve conflicts.
  2. Engage the community in the same process from a project perspective. At last LAS I was really impressed to learn about the work KDE is doing in this space - measuring the energy impact of software, obtaining certifications and encouraging people into a framework of thinking and caring about the energy impact of the decisions we make. There are many many orders of magnitude more computers running our software than there are individuals in our community, so while flights are big single emissions, small changes in our products will multiply up as well.
  3. Set up the metrics to track whatever we decide to do. If that’s limit flights let’s set a carbon budget, if that’s software power consumption, etc let’s do that. I’d prefer we don’t go crazy and reinvent the wheel here, or give ourselves very complex or onerous metrics - there might be existing frameworks for reporting impact we can use and reuse without tying ourselves in knots. But metrics should always be set according to the objectives and outcomes we’re trying to measure. Michael mentioned as a potentially useful framework - being able to align to existing standards might be a efficient way to set and measure goals here.



My stance on this is that in the context of an escalating climate emergency we can not continue as we have, and personally I’m a bit frustrated by the lack of progress. It does feel to me that we’re still very much in business as usual mode, as the above discussion on how we want to interpret IRS rules on flights vs. train trips shows.

In terms of concrete actions, I think the board could send a strong signal by leading from the front: We move all board meetings online, so that people can easily join from across the world without requiring flights. We can combine this with a public statement and a call for other free software projects/foundations to do the same.

As for broader measures I’d disagree that we need to wait for detailed measurements. While I’d be in favor of having some metrics on this, in practice this is very difficult and there are tons of very obvious measures we can take much quicker. For example, we could fundraise for investments in reducing power usage of our software, reducing CI usage (e.g. getting rid of cases where we literally rebuild software multiple times on the same commit), or experimenting with replacing server-side CI with local-first CI (which would have to do way less). There is a lot of interesting R&D we could do around this, which both us and other projects could benefit from.

As for events, as others have pointed out getting rid of global conferences and having more localized events would both reduce emissions and help foster a more inclusive community.

I think this issue should be high priority for us, but it’s more of a meta goal than a specific initiative - It should be part of everything we do. We should think about emissions and climate impact as part of everything we do (e.g. when fundraising for new development or organizing events). The important part is that we rise to the moment and be serious and unflinching in our actions (e.g. by cutting in-person board meetings completely).


I essentially agree with everything you’re saying apart from this - we have to follow these rules in how we allocate our resources, because that’s part of the deal of being a nonprofit and claiming the tax exemptions that make us a 501c3 public charity. The intention of my message was to say that we can set our strategy to take care of our mission within the framing of how we want to approach other factors like the climate. ie certainly not using any rules to justify inaction, but deciding our actions and then working out how to fit them within the rules.


Thanks to @ramcq and @allanday for pointing out that our options are at least somehow limited by US nonprofit laws.

To me that makes @jsparber’s point just more important:

As for events, as others have pointed out getting rid of global conferences and having more localized events would both reduce emissions and help foster a more inclusive community.

I don’t know how controversal that would be, but it is the single biggest CO2 contribution of our community and we should at least look into it.


I like where this thread is going. Would it make sense for the board to appoint an environment officer?