Five Tips for Greener Computing in the Push for Sustainability
This article first appeared in the March 2015 issue of Energy Digital.
When thinking of ways to improve efficiency and the environmental footprint of your business, chances are that the first topics to spring to mind involve divisions like production or distribution. But energy consumption is a comprehensive concern and there is room for improvement in every division.
Green Computing is the idea that a company’s IT department can be just as efficient, sustainable and environmentally conscious as any other part of operations. It’s an idea that can save your business money and improve its standing with the community. Building a truly green business takes time, but no matter what industry you’re in and where you’re starting out, all it takes is a little planning and strategy to get the ball rolling today.
1. Strengthen Your Power Management Strategies
Go on the offense against energy waste by seeking out technology that is known to be more efficient. ENERGY STAR is a voluntary program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which promotes energy efficiency, and the program’s “Low Carbon IT” campaign is dedicated to helping businesses from HP to AT&T reduce their energy costs and run their IT programs more sustainably. According to the program, the single most important thing that a business can do right now to start saving energy is turning off computers or sending them into standby or sleep mode when not in use. According to Energy Star, simply activating system standby or hibernating features can save an office $50 or more per computer.
2. Invest in a Greener Brand of Technology
Of course equipment that only saves money and energy while it’s asleep isn’t truly efficient. A business invested in green computing also needs equipment that is fully invested in being as green as possible. ENERGY STAR offers several recommendations for computers and monitors that meet the program’s specifications regarding TEC (typical energy consumption) levels and power management settings. But don’t stop at computers, either—smart peripherals like surge protectors and uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) can also play a role in keeping your power usage well managed.
3. Think Bigger and Look to the Cloud
Beyond improving your green status within your office cubicles, there is also a bigger picture to consider. Data storage is an increasing concern, and efficient data storage is rapidly coming into focus as a way to reduce energy waste and emissions. When acquiring servers, look for newer models that better regulate temperature and power management in order to use energy more efficiently. These newer models may be more expensive up front, but the energy savings over time can be substantial.
Another option involves taking your data to the cloud. There is considerable debate over whether the cloud is green per se, but the technology’s ability to help individual businesses reduce active data center space and thereby increase efficiency is at the moment undeniable. As Forbes recently reported, a report by the Carbon Disclosure Project estimated that large companies who adopt cloud computing could see annual energy savings of $12.3 billion by 2020; another study by Accenture found that businesses making effective use of cloud applications could cut their energy consumption up to 90 percent.
4. Dispose of Your Hardware at Appropriate E-Waste Sites
Whether it’s computers and printers or tablets and POS systems, there comes a time in every company’s life when hardware grows obsolete and must be replaced with newer models. When this time comes, ensuring that the hardware being replaced is disposed of properly is a top priority. Throwing old computers and other hardware out with the rest of the office garbage can lead to hazardous components like mercury and cadmium leaking into oceans or soil and groundwater. Furthermore, many materials used to make computers like aluminum and plastic can be recycled if the hardware is sent to the right place and given the opportunity.
Most major cities have designated programs and drop-off points specifically for e-waste disposal and recycling. Take the time to find the resources available to you in your area. Some even have pick-up services that will come directly to your facilities to take unwanted hardware off your hands.
5. Encourage Employee Telecommuting
Greenhouse gas emissions are a critical contributor to climate change, yet few businesses consider the gas used to transport employees to and from work each day as part of their environmental responsibility. But by smartly taking advantage of the myriad telecommuting tools we now have at our disposal, a lot of those gas emissions can be prevented. Encourage your employees to use more work-from-home days from time to time, utilizing software like Skype for teleconferencing and remote access to tap into hardware when needed. Not that every day should be a WFM day—everyone loves a full and bustling office, and too much time apart can be counterproductive—but an increase can be as good for the environment as it is for morale.
UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC
The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.
While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.
"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."
The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.
- Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
- Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
- Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
- Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
- Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.
In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies.
Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”
Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society.
Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).
"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."
Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).
Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.