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.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.