Making Progress Towards a ‘Greener’ IT Department

by Carl Gill

"Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference." - Jane Goodall

Why do it?
Going green can offer companies a wide range of benefits. Some choose to go green to reduce their impact on the environment; others want to reduce operating costs through energy efficiency.   Did you know that the information and communications technology sector is responsible for 2 percent of emissions, equal to the aviation industry? 


Measuring the economic impact (or the affect on the bottom line)
Determining the potential long-term savings for a bunch of new laptops isn't as simple of figuring out how much you'll save with a new stove or refrigerator that often bears a tag indicating your prospective annual savings.  Both environmentally- and economically-conscious people like news articles about the ways that companies are leveraging green technology.  This might be as simple as investing in more energy-efficient technology, or putting solar panels on top of their datacenters. This kind of positive publicity is good advertising, which also can offset some of the cost of investing in green IT.


How do I get started?
Let’s look at this through the entire IT equipment life cycle.  Even before we consider ordering ‘greener’ IT equipment we should begin by creating a list of everything that uses energy, from servers, switches, and cooling systems to lighting. Consider what you can do to reduce electricity use, like turning off lights, shutting down unused workstations and servers, and consolidating network switches.  Many vendors offer power management solutions (more on this in a follow up article).


It may not be necessary to order new boxes.  Maybe the current technology will see you through another 12 months while you wait for the market to rebound by consolidating services and retiring some of the older hardware.  While you are going down the consolidation path, why not virtualize many of the server functions?


Server virtualization allows you to use physical servers much more efficiently and also, with careful planning, provides some disaster recovery options.   If the technology that you are using is more than 30 months old, it is probably inefficient or it may not support the newer ERP applications that you plan to deploy that will retire many legacy applications. So why not consider blade servers and Storage area networks?


The deploying of Blade servers reduces electrical consumption and reduces the overall footprint in your server room. Decreasing physical space can offer real benefits. With the blades inches apart within the chassis, cool air can be funneled through more easily rather than cooling an entire rack.  Cooling costs for the datacenter are on the rise as energy supply struggles to keep up with demand.  By 2010 IDC predicts that companies will be spending an additional 70 cents per dollar invested in a new server versus 21 cents per dollar in 2000.   Storage Area Networks will be covered in a follow on article.


For client computers:  Buy a laptop instead of a desktop, if practical. It consumes five times less electricity.


Recycling opportunities
How much trash does your IT department create? Waste abounds in many organizations, and research has found that companies that work to reduce their environmental impact tend to perform better than their counterparts.


Are you recycling your boxes and papers or tossing them in the trash?  Greenpeace and other environmental groups have long pressured electronics companies to eliminate toxic substances from products and develop recycling programs to ease the impact of discarded devices on the planet.  Some European countries have outlawed the use of Styrofoam packaging and forced computer manufacturers to take back the cartons.


Recycling old computer equipment is important because some parts, like LCD monitors, contain hazardous materials that aren't allowed in landfills and because much of the equipment can be refurbished and reused. In most cases, companies or regions offer recycling programs. 
Apple devotes a page to its free U.S. recycling program, which includes 10 percent off new iPods with the purchase of a new one.  You can check which producers finance the end-of-life management of their products at (http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/assets/binaries/guide-to-greener-electronics)


European cell phone manufacturers are moving toward the adoption of a single power adaptor which would remove the need to dispose of prior adaptors as new cell phones are procured. If no incentive programs exist with your vendor then check with your local county or city e-waste collection and recycling center.  In central Florida, while recyclers charge $1 per monitor they often pay you for CPUs.


As you can see there are many steps that you and your company can take to reduce your carbon footprint.   Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting more ideas and follow up to this article.  I invite comments and ideas so that together we can all do our part to reduce power demands, e-waste, and carbon emissions.

 

 

 

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