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.

Food diet

I declare a vegetarian diet at those events to reduce the carbon impact of my attendance.

Hardware usage

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.