Green IT can be defined as the practice of environmentally sustainable and responsible computing. It involves not only being aware of the effect the operation of the physical components in an IT infrastructure has on the environment, but also involves the supply chain from the purchase to the disposal of those devices at end of life.
Many businesses are committed to minimising any negative impacts their operations, including their IT operations, may have on the environment. There are often economic benefits in doing so with potentially reduced disposal, operational and power costs.
Businesses can also support computer hardware manufacturers who demonstrate care in their choice of packaging. As end users you may not see the packaging that IT hardware comes in but IT sales and support companies are noticing that polystyrene and plastic are being replaced by cardboard and paper. Disposal costs are reduced as cardboard and paper can be recycled or even re-used – the large cardboard boxes are great flattened in no-dig vegetable gardening!
Computer hardware is built using many precious and semi-precious metals so ensuring our end-of-life computer hardware is sent to a recycler means so the metals can be retrieved and re-used. These metals include gold, silver, platinum, palladium, copper and more.
The EPA has estimated hat for every million cell phones that are recycled over 35,000 kilos of copper, 350 kilos of silver and 34 kilos of gold can be retrieved. That’s value that otherwise would just be landfill.
Many large IT companies are committed to reduce any negative impacts their manufacturing processes may have on the environment.
HP’s multi-pronged approach tackles carbon emissions, energy, waste, and water consumption across their operations and they aim to use 100% renewable electricity to power their global operations by 2025.
By redesigning and shrinking the overall area of their motherboards Dell has estimated that they are reducing the carbon footprint of each motherboard by 50%. By better placement of componentry, they are reducing the power used in cooling the device.
Even something as simple as reducing the number of screws can have an effect not only on the manufacturing process but also on the costs for a repair.
New materials are being developed that utilise renewable products such as flax fibres. A new bio-based printed circuit board (PCB) is made with flax fibre in the base and water-soluble polymer as the glue.
The flax fibre replaces traditional plastic laminates and even better, the water-soluble polymer can dissolve – meaning recyclers can more easily separate metals and components from the boards. We are already seeing New Zealand’s most illustrious fibre, wool, used in packaging – who knows what future uses that fabulous fibre will support.
There are still environmental costs to recycling so we also need to demand longer lifecycles for devices, extended manufacturers’ warranties and better repair options rather than just accepting the chuck and replace mentality we have grown used to.
It’s obvious when we look at hardware what we can do to reduce its impact, but how can computer software aid in the greening of IT?
Something as simple as the ability to work from home has been transformational to continued productivity and reduced environmental impact in a global pandemic. The applications that have enabled the new working paradigm have developed considerably in scope and usage.
Clever and judicious use of IT and its applications can support the greening of your business, reducing your carbon footprint and your costs.
Kermit said, “it’s not easy being green.” But he also said, “being green is what we want to be.”