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Green ICT: Taking Major Leaps to Reduce the Carbon Footprint of Businesses

By Guest Writer on December 31, 2014

 

green computing

From India to South Korea and beyond, businesses worldwide are scrambling to reduce their carbon footprint and trying to operate with a higher degree of environmental sustainability.

One way for them to do that is through adopting greener ICT solutions that form the backbone of almost all types of modern-day businesses.

ICT & Its Carbon Footprint

While the term ICT sounds lean and tight, leading us to believe that it’s an efficient industry not likely to generate waste, the truth is far from it.

The truth is that the industry guzzles resources including energy, water, conflict material, etc. and happens to be a huge source of harmful emissions including CO2 and other toxic materials. According to global consultants Gartner, ICTs presently account for approximately 0.86 metric gigatonnes of carbon emissions annually (about 2 percent of global carbon emissions).

Of the total emissions caused by the industry, 40 percent are caused by the energy requirements of PCs and monitors, 24 percent by fixed and mobile telecommunications, and 23 percent by data centers.

And don’t even get me started on the colossal e-waste generated. Not just the amount of e-waste generated, but also the methods of disposal used – all of this has a significant environmental repercussion.

Like every other industry in the world, there are ways to make even ICT more eco-friendly and sustainable. The ICT community needs to gear up on ‘Green ICT’ solutions that save energy, reduce resource consumption, and cut down harmful emissions. Here are some of the ways in which companies can go green in ICT:

Hardware

Maximizing usage of current IT hardware assets, so there’s minimal wastage; consolidating servers and data centers to reduce power consumption and keep IT costs in check; using a variety of green data storage techniques to reduce power and space overheads; use of energy-efficient equipment including personal computers.

The U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy created ENERGY STAR – an internationally recognized standard for energy efficient consumer products. Buying ENERGY STAR qualified products is one way to ensure energy as well as cost savings.

Software & Services

Dematerialization or virtualization, which means converting physical servers to virtual ones, leads to significant environmental impact as it eliminates the need for buying a lot of hardware and the energy required to support it.

Virtualization software essentially allows using only one piece of hardware to support multiple systems. Not only does it help lower power consumption, but virtualization also reduces hardware costs as it allows one machine to support multiple systems as well as costs related to space required for data centers.

Disposal

Responsible e-waste disposal and electronic recycling are an important part of green ICT. Since there are very few regulations guiding the electronic recycling industry in the U.S. , many recyclers follow unsafe and unethical practices like dumping toxic e-waste in developing countries, incinerating e-waste, or abandoning electronics within the country.

Thankfully, there are two certification programs that ensure adherence to international recycling standards. These include e-Stewards and R2. While most credible electronic recyclers have either one of these certifications, some like Sims Metal Management have gone a step further and got dual certification. Sims has scrap yards across the country that offer expanded IT assets disposition services, so they’re definitely a wise choice for e-waste disposition.

HVAC

Commercial Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems are required to ensure not just employee and customer comfort, but also to prevent expensive equipment like servers and computers from overheating. Unfortunately, air conditioning is responsible for 100 million tons of CO2 emissions every year.

Once again, investing in ENERGY STAR qualified products will not just consume less energy and emit fewer pollutants into the environment, but they may also help you get tax rebates. Using programmable instead of a manual thermostat as well as proper installation of your equipment are other ways to go green with your HVAC.

Smaller physical footprint, lower carbon footprint, reduced energy costs; increased space savings, diminished travel requirements, and an enhanced brand perception are some benefits of adopting green ICT for businesses. So, is your business ready to jump aboard the green ICT bandwagon yet?

Anne Staley is an environmentalist.

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