Green Computing is a term used to describe the use of environmentally sustainable computers and accessories which, during their usage and disposal, create minimal or zero harm to the environment. Also known as Green IT, this technology aims to both increase energy efficiency and to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals in hardware design. A further result means that when these items are then disposed of or recycled, they will do no harm to the environment.
The origins of Green Computing go back to 1992, when the US Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) launched the Energy Star program. That was a voluntary program designed to promote and recognize energy efficiency in all manner of equipment and technologies. This helped launch sleep mode in computers and other pausing technology, such as in air conditioners, fans, and of course, monitors.
The question facing IT managers and business operators large and small, is this: How can they go green or at least become greener in their computing and information management? The good news is that there are easy steps to take to go green.
- First and foremost, be sure to buy energy efficient computers, servers and monitors. This is easily done, just check for the Energy Star logo on the box or the descriptive information about the product. Energy Star offers an online product search tool, making the job even simpler.
- Be energy efficient about how you use your energy efficient technology! What does this mean? It means turn off the computers and monitors, the printers and other machinery (copiers, fax machines, scanners, and so forth), when they are not in use at the end of the workday. Reduce your company’s energy footprint –and your electric bill– in a win-win for the environment and your bottom line. From a carbon footprint vantage point alone there is a significant gain. Leaving a computer running overnight for a year generates approximately 100 kg of C02. Lower your carbon footprint and save on your energy expenditures. That’s a twofold gain.
- Think twice –or thrice—before printing, especially before printing rough drafts. Printing uses up paper and ink, as well as printer energy. Nearly all word processing programs offer Print Preview, so it is easy to see on your monitor what the document will look like. A Word doc can be saved as a PDF and then brought up as a Print Preview, so that, too, can be checked out before printing. Whenever possible try to print double-sided, to save paper. And about those draft copies – don’t just throw them away: cut them into quarters and use the other side for notes or messages. The less you throw away the greener you are.
- When it comes time to replace or buy a new printer be sure to get one that supports duplex printing and it can be part of your office’s network. Many small offices find there is less of a need for a printer on every desk, when each worker may often be able to share a printer.
- Power Management Features are all but standard on modern computer equipment. Put them to use! This, again, is Energy Star compliant. You can set your computers to hibernate or to sleep, thus reducing power demand, at specific times or after the computer has experienced a certain duration of inactivity. You can set that duration. Energy Star computers are required to use 4 Watts less electricity when they go into lower power sleep or hibernation mode. That represents less than 5% of the average peak electrical demand of most computers. Again, a savings of power and a savings of expenditure on your electric bill.
- Recycle!!!!! When it comes time to replace or upgrade your equipment, don’t just toss it. There are proper ways to dispose of those machines. Many cities have drop off points. Better yet, there are schools and charities that can make use of the equipment to upgrade and rebuild and train students in technology and constructing computer equipment. Don’t just throw computer equipment in the garbage.
There is much more to be learned by visiting the US government’s Energy Star website.
Quick facts: using a screen saver does not save energy. It saves your monitor from screen burn and other troubles, but not energy. According to Columbia University’s Guide to Green Computing, if the paper used every year for personal computing were laid end to end, it would circle the planet more than 800 times. Think of what that means in terms of trees!
Go green, and make that your planet-wise and wallet-wise digital strategy.