You wouldn’t think IT would need to be involved with major non-computer policies such as global warming. But the impact of computing devices on the environment is undeniable, and companies worldwide are turning to green computing as a solution. Coverage of this important topic is the subject matter today from an overview, its impact, and four ways industries can effect change.  

What is Green Computing? 

Green computing is the use of computers and other computing devices and equipment in energy-efficient and eco-friendly manners. Reducing a computer’s environmental impact like carbon emissions is an example of green computing. “Green computers” with energy-efficient central processing units (CPUs), power systems, and other related technologies like peripherals and servers is another example. Green computing as a whole involves everything from computer design, engineering, device manufacture, use, and disposal.

Green information technology (IT), sustainable IT, and sustainable computing are other terms used for green computing. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is often credited as the origin of green computing. In 1992, the US federal agency began the Energy Star Program with the aim to promote and recognize energy efficiency in various devices like computers. Sleep mode, in which a computer, laptop or even an industrial tablet, enters a low-power state and is found in most computers today, has its origin with the program. Same with the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), which is a product registry system containing details like a product’s energy use, materials it’s made of, and amount of greenhouse gas emissions involved in its production. 

Climate Change Urges Green Computing

Global temperatures have risen about 2°F since the late 1800s. As a result, sea levels worldwide have risen about 8-9 inches on average as the ice caps melt in response. This, in turn, is leading to an increase of severe weather events like hurricanes. 

The rising use of electricity is part of this global warming. The US alone has plans to build 177 natural gas power plants in the near future to help meet the demand.  

Yet a lot of that electricity is wasted heat. When a computer is powered ON, it’s estimated only 15 percent is being used actively (e.g., compiling new software, calculating a spreadsheet, etc.) The other 75 percent is from idling for input. Estimates on power use of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector alone has it responsible for up to nearly 4 percent global greenhouse gas emissions. Within the ICT, data centers account for 3 percent of total energy consumption every year.

Four Ways Companies Can Apply Green Computing 

The computer industry has reacted in several ways to deal with the impact of their technologies on the environment. These green computing strategies usually break down into four broad categories:

Green use: 

Companies look for ways to minimize electrical consumption of their computers and peripheral devices. Printers and similar peripheral devices, for example, may only be used at scheduled times to minimize or even eliminate idle time. Or on-site servers could be set up to work in hot and cold aisles which reduce the need for powered heating, ventilation, and cooling units. 

Green disposal: 

Instead of purchasing new computer equipment, companies can take existing ones and repurpose elsewhere. A hospital could take a still viable laptop and convert it into a kiosk to greet patients in the reception area, for example. Many computer manufacturers have recycling programs for clients to turn in their machines once they’ve outlived their usefulness. 

Green design: 

Computers and many computing devices can be designed to improve the “green” attributes of their systems. Green computers may mean industrial panel PCs with fanless design and Power over Ethernet which lower the need for power. Features like energy efficiency, recyclable materials, and greater product longevity are all reviewed with the intent to minimally affect the environment. 

Green manufacturing: 

Finally, computer companies can ensure their computers are actually manufactured in ways to minimally impact the environment. Best green practices can range from purchasing parts locally to minimize carbon emissions when shipping to being Energy Star compliant. 

Other ways companies can increase their green computing include:

  • Investigate ways to get power from renewable energy sources, such as solar, geothermal, wind, and hydroelectric power.
  • Install energy efficient building environmental systems.
  • Install low energy overhead lights throughout company buildings.
  • Have timers or motion detectors attached to those lighting systems to reduce light or even turn them off when no one is present.
  • Standardizes on refillable printer cartridges.  
  • Mount fans on the equipment racks to keep them cool

Closing Comment 

Green computing is the practice of designing, building, using, and even disposing of computers and similar devices to minimally impact the environment. Global warming is one major reason companies are turning to green computing as computers generate large amounts of wasted heat.  

Contact an expert at Cybernet if your company is looking into green computing from energy-efficient PCs to the proper disposal of electronics once their usefulness is done. 

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