The common belief is that IT and sustainability are not compatible. All our websites and cloud computing rests on the shoulders of substantial server farms using up huge amounts of resources. Both the creation and disposal of your laptop involve significant emissions of greenhouse gases. Like every other industry, IT has a carbon footprint. But there are things companies and individuals can do to make IT work in favour of sustainability.
How Does IT Impact Resources?
We all have a basic understanding of the use of resources for IT. Our computers and servers are constantly consuming energy. But the devices themselves are responsible for emissions beyond their usage of energy. When a computer is built, for example, it requires up to 81% of the energy expended during its entire lifetime.
Energy continues to be consumed throughout the life cycle of that computer. In the office, in addition to powering the device itself, the heat it generates must be cooled. This means the computer needs its own cooling system that must be powered as well.
Sustainability in IT is Important
Sustainability is one of the most important concerns of the modern world. We need to limit climate change if we want to continue living the way we do. The word ‘sustainability’ actually covers various practices, including:
- Limiting our greenhouse gas emissions.
- Reducing our dependence on certain sources of energy.
- Changing the ways we shop or travel.
For businesses, ‘sustainability’ means making decisions for your business based on ethics and responsibilities. This covers everything from your global business practices to ecological footprint. And it can be beneficial to your bottom line as well – energy savings can reduce the money you spend on expenses to improve profitability.
Despite a reliance on technology, many companies in sectors that are not tech-related tend to be more wasteful than tech companies. This is because a smarter, more state-of-the-art firm is likely to be more attuned to sustainability as it applies to technology.
Promoting your company for the efforts it makes in sustainability may or may not reduce costs associated with business processes. But customers are becoming increasingly insistent on seeing that companies are doing the right thing. In essence, championing greenness is likely to improve your brand reputation, as we have seen recently with outdoor apparel company Patagonia.
Note, however, that people will see through ‘greenwashing’; sustainability is not something you can fake, it is a series of practices that you should incorporate into your business.
So How Can IT Be Green?
Too few companies give serious thought to how they can reduce their impact on the environment. There are studies that suggest the amount of energy being consumed by most individual workstations could be reduced by anything from 17-75%. Even as we turn off or unplug our devices, we are still contributing towards a huge tech-oriented output. So what more can we do?
Here are some things we can do with our IT to make it more sustainable:
Follow Best Practices for Data Centres
Data centres can follow a number of simple directions to reduce their energy consumption. These include:
- Automating controls for security and lighting.
- Make use of outside air.
- Only cool to the minimum level required.
- Target a power usage effectiveness (PUE) or 1.2 or less.
- Separate aisles based on their level of heat and cold.
- Disconnect zombie servers (those that are plugged in and using energy without doing any computing).
Relocate Your Servers
Make the most efficient use of data centre space to minimise the needs for cooling and energy consumption. Colder climates are ideal for establishing data centres that consume less energy.
Use the Latest, Best IT Technology
Legacy systems tend to use up more energy. Moreover, their bulkier size often means more heat output, meaning more cooling is needed. There are great tools to help you manage your assets, making recommendations to release those that have outlived their usefulness.
Migrate to Cloud Computing
Due to its economic scale, cloud computing tends to be more energy-efficient. However, there is some research that challenges this belief. You can learn more about this in our article Is Cloud Computing Environmentally Friendly?
Only Use Computers That Have Been Rated for Energy Efficiency
There are groups that audit and certify factories and devices. The certification they award is based on efficiencies and sustainability practices. Look for ratings from groups like TCO Certified and Energy Star.
Trust Individual Teams to Determine the Systems that Best Meet Their Needs
Rather than deploying the largest, broadest systems available, you could let teams choose solutions that will meet their needs. Allowing this, rather than mandating bigger solutions, is often an effective way of reducing energy consumption.
Offer Rebates or Larger Budgets to Teams that Do Great Work in Sustainability
Look for opportunities for teams or departments to virtualise or work from home. These efforts can make your operations more sustainable, so incentivising them should be encouraged.
What About Individuals – How Can I Personally Promote Green IT?
Sustainable practices are important for companies, but every individual within can make a contribution. Here are some simple best practices to follow to reduce the energy spent on devices:
- Set computers into sleep mode when not in use. This is the least energy-intensive mode for a computer besides powering off and unplugging. Set monitors to sleep after 15 minutes of inactivity. Hard discs could be set to do the same after as little as 5 minutes. No computer should still be awake after being inactive for 30 minutes.
- Share printers. How many printers do you really need for your home or office? By sharing with others for printing demands, you can significantly reduce power usage.
- Switch to smart power strips. These are designed to cut down the vampire energy commonly consumed by TVs, computers and other peripheral devices.
- Switch to remote working. This can reduce greenhouse gas emissions relating to your daily commute. Of course, you will have to seek permission from your boss for this.
Is it Possible to Grow While Going Green?
Another popular belief is that green growth – the ability for economic growth while embracing sustainability – isn’t possible. In fact, many climate activists believe that we need to shift the focus away from economic development in order to truly live sustainably. While this shouldn’t mean that businesses stop economic activity, it should prompt us to re-evaluate the way we operate.
Certain industries and organisations are littered with practices that could be massively improved upon from a sustainability perspective. Closed-loop supply chains are one such action. In any case, there is lots of room for improvement that will not hamper economic activity, so it is on all our shoulders to be conscious of our operations and make the necessary changes.
Why Choose Eventura for your Digital Transformation Journey?
Eventura has been helping businesses digitally transform and move their operations to the cloud for two decades. From the implementation of industry-leading cloud ERP solutions such as Sage 200 and NetSuite, to helping them move their entire operations to the cloud and away from costly and restrictive on-premise solutions.
As well as being NetSuite Solution Providers, Sage 200 Partners and Microsoft Gold Partners, we also offer a wide range of managed IT services, meaning we can take your business as a whole and help it achieve digital transformation.
If you would like to speak to one of our experts, you can request a free call back here.