Why do web developers need to worry about their environmental and social impacts?

As jobs go, programming doesn't seem to have many environmental or social impacts, compared with other industries. While manufacturing (in some countries) is starting to clean up its act, there's still industries like mining and logging that a developer can point to and feel very much superior.

But modern web development is an activity carried out within society, far more than just pressing key after key. When you factor in the impact of commuting to on-site working, travel to overseas conferences and buying new technology, it becomes clear that programming isn't by default carbon-neutral vocation, fuelled only by organic bananas and Fair Trade coffee. More importantly, different projects have wildly different effects on the wider world, not just environmentally but also in other ways. Dig deep enough and you're likely to find out that web development isn't an ethically or socially neutral vocation either.

Freelance developers will typically have to make choices beyond coding decisions: which projects to work on, and for who, and to what end; how to cope with remote meetings, and where to spend the working day; whether to fly to that conference, get the train or not go at all. Each choice can make a difference; worse, they can have an opportunity cost that means you don't always have time to do X in order to make up for Y: if a developer is tied up working for an ethically iffy project, they can't always work for a more socially beneficial one too.

I want to make the right choices: who doesn't? But to hopefully make those decisions easier, I've developed a set of policies to guide me. These reflect my heartfelt wish about my career: that what I do will be beneficial to the world we live in; while also keeping the wolf from the door. After all, ethics aside, nobody wants a wolf when they've already got a cat. Imagine the state of the furniture.