My current approach to low-carbon research
I have signed the TCS4F pledge for sustainable research in (theoretical) computer science. Below are some specific actions I am taking.
Flight-free business travel
In particular, I have not taken a plane to attend conferences since Fall 2019. Trains usually emit an order of magnitude less CO2 than airplanes. I try to attend only meaningful events (specialized workshops, conferences where I present some work) and make the most of those events.
For example, I will have the chance to attend three separate events at ETAPS 2024 in Luxembourg, by giving a talk at the mentoring workshop, taking part in the Software-Verification Competition (part of TACAS), and having a paper accepted at ESOP.
I have been able to achieve this approach thanks to
- privileged location: the programming languages & formal methods (PL/FM) community has a strong presence in Europe. In particular, there are PL/FM conferences which are mostly located in Europe (ETAPS, ECOOP, FM), and a few ACM SIGPLAN conferences coming to Europe every few years (POPL, PLDI, ICFP, OOPSLA).
- permanent position: since September 2022, I hold a permanent position. It is easier to rule-out submitting to specific conferences due to their location and wait for a more geographically-suited one. Some conferences allow remote presentations, or delaying the presentation to another SIGPLAN conference, but I have not tested these options yet.
- advantageous train transportation: Europe has a decent train network. I usually consult The Man in Seat Sixty-One to plan the most complex trips. My current situation also allows me to slow travel, and spend one day (or even two) in the train to attend events.
I declare a vegetarian diet at those events to reduce the carbon impact of my attendance.
I can conduct most of my daily research from a single laptop. I try to get the most of a laptop before having to change it, and ensure they have the longest repair guarantees available when I buy a new one. As of January 2024, my daily laptop was bought in September 2018. I changed its battery in 2022. However, I may have to change it in the coming years due to its only USB-C port stating to be unreliable, which seems to be a well-known issue.