Thursday 7 March 2013

Enter Green IT

Have you ever wondered what’s the environmental impact of your computer?  Consider that a typical computer has a three-phase lifespan: production, use and disposal.  During production, a computer requires the equivalent of 1.500 gallons of water and natural resources in the form of raw materials during manufacturing. During its usage, the computer will consume electricity, which when produced via fossil fuels, releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Finally, if a computer is disposed of and not recycled, the toxic metals it contains (namely, Lead, Antimony, Chromium, Cadmium, Lithium, Halogenated Flame Retardants and Beryllium) could leach into the environment and reach human and animal bodies where they can cause cancer, birth defects, neurological disorders and even death. 

If these deleterious impacts are more than you were expecting, you may be asking if there is any way to mitigate them.

In fact there is.  Enter Green IT.

Green IT refers to the set of practices and initiatives of using Information Technology in an environmentally friendly way in order to reduce its carbon footprint and environmental impact. While we just looked at a computer’s impact, many of the same negative impacts are caused by other IT products (e.g., mobile phones, printers, etc).  

It’s safe to say that the world’s increasing need for computation, data storage, and communications is rapidly increasing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with such technologies.  As businesses rely more and more on technology, their carbon footprint grows. According to McKinsey, information and communication technologies such as laptops and PC’s, data centers and computing networks, mobile phones, and communication networks are estimated to become among the biggest greenhouse gas emitters by 2020. Some of the contributing factors of this trend are the increasing digitalization in emerging economies, the worldwide growth in the use of mobile phones, the increased amount of time spent (and energy consumed) using information and communication technologies, etc.   

But while these products make up a significant part of the problem, they can also serve as part of the solution. The use of these technologies (in a green way)  can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 15 percent annually (and even more according to 2020 estimates).  So why don’t more companies adopt Green IT practices? That’s a good question.  Part of the problem is that most companies aren’t measuring the  impact of their organization on the environment.  According to CIO’s Green IT Survey, 61 percent of respondents report their organization does not currently measure its carbon footprint.  More surprisingly, of the companies that do, only 11 percent include IT in the calculation.

Debora Horvath, CIO at Washington Mutual (WaMu), saw great results in her efforts to cut their carbon emissions, reduce power costs, and become a greener business.  From 2007 to 2008, WaMu cut its PC-related greenhouse gas emissions by 60 percent and saved millions on IT-related electricity costs.  The decrease in electricity usage is mainly due to the energy-saving-power-management software that was installed on 44,000 PCs.  

Stay tuned to better understand how Green IT can help businesses reduce their environmental impact and be more sustainable.

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