Global warming; climate change with unpredictable weather patterns; renewable resources and sustainable infrastructures: everywhere you turn today, there are environmental issues that are having an increasingly urgent impact on our private and professional lives. At work, as at home, a gradual awareness – if not slight panic – is setting in that our ancient planet is getting exhausted supporting 7 billion humans plus its flora and fauna.
Unsurprisingly, IT departments have also begun addressing means of consuming less energy and adopting more environmentally sustainable methods of production in just the same way as industry has had to adapt and find ways of conserving energy. This includes sustainable heating and cooling, lighting, transportation options as well as recycling waste, among other areas.
What is green computing?
So it is that so-called “green computing” has been gaining traction in both hardware and software development. Also known as “green technology,” green computing involves using computers and their accompanying resources and systems as environmentally responsibly as humanly possible. Sustainable practices include using energy-efficient central processing units (CPUs), servers and other peripherals. Key, too, is the drive to minimise resource consumption and, at the end of the line, carry out responsible and safe disposal of e-waste.
Initially concentrated on finding sustainable solutions concerning raw computing power which was central to computer chip design and production, more emphasis is being put into energy-efficient processing. Uppermost in developers’ minds today are ways of compensating for carbon footprints and curbing climate change. It is here that immediate future competitiveness is thought to lie.
“Green” computer habits
However, beyond chip manufacture and computing power, much more thought is now being given to making computers themselves more energy-efficient as well as inculcating “green” habits among computer users. As far as computers are concerned they can be more efficient. A recent report by Pierre Delforge has highlighted this: he notes that “Computers and monitors are among the biggest energy consumers among electronics. Keeping them running takes the equivalent of 30 large power plants while emitting 65 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution. Unfortunately, much of that energy is wasted when computers sit idle — particularly with desktops, which draw power from a wall outlet instead of a battery and thus give manufacturers little incentive to optimize energy use”
Barbara Brady, of GreenBiz Group, comments on the report that “the energy waste — and therefore potential for energy efficiency — is even a bigger deal for very high performance computers, using very demanding chips. They continue to draw the power needed for the demanding computing activity of high performance graphics even as the user stops to get a cup of coffee or slows down processing needs by simply surfing the net or checking email” .
It’s not just big business either: governments are on board, too. There is already the Climate Change Agreement (CGA) and the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) which are persuading companies to re-evaluate the way they use their IT resources. Improving energy efficiency has moved from well-meaning debate to stark reality for most UK businesses.
How to be greener at work
There is much, however, that individual computer users at home and at work can do to minimise the adverse effects on our environment. Computing, as one of mankind’s fastest-growing activities, is ready for genuine environmental economies. While manufacturers get on with improving hardware, we consumers can implement fairly straight-forward good-practice using existing hardware.
Finding environmentally friendly, intranet-specific software is, as yet, very difficult: Remember though, that the ability to manage projects more efficiently and collaborate better will mean that work comes in on time and extra hours of wasted energy and wages can be saved!
There are ways of using the intranet, however, to foster environmental awareness within the company. A Green Community area could be created within the company’s intranet to which can be added collaborative apps. A “Green Tip of The Day” widget could be added which might offer tips for responsible recycling, for example.
Another angle would be to use your intranet training applications to enable employees to register for community initiatives around ecology and the environment. Management would be done automatically through the app. You could also encourage staff to post green topics and encourage debate, ‘likes’, comment and feedback.
To add some incentive, why not put up a Contest widget enabling environmentally-friendly contests with, for example, gift vouchers to employees who remember to fully shut down their computers after work, every day, for a full working week?
One obvious contribution to the paperless office, of course, is using Electronic Forms: rather than passing paper around, sending electronic forms via the intranet (and storing files, too).
The best way to help, though, is to make sure all computers and peripherals are powered down – turned off at the wall socket – when not in use. Go green! ♻️
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