‘Green’ Information Technology (IT) Strategies & Practices
In the last thirty-five years the message has been clear, but ignored. The world is being held over a barrel - an oil barrel - when it comes to energy. It's time to diversify our sources of energy. The public and private sectors need to take the initiative to lead the way into our diversified energy future where the centerpiece of our world's long-range strategy ought to be conservation and increased usage of solar, wind, water power coupled with other sources of energy currently used by all sectors of the economy.
Imagine a future where we have millions of businesses and homes are constructed and equipped with 'hybrid solar, wind and traditional energy systems. One where people are able to sell excess energy they generate back to the national power grid. The role of stenergy utility companies in the 21 century ought to change from a centralized approach
toward energy production to a more decentralized approach where citizens begin to
'partner' with their utility companies.
Many of today‟s business leaders now recognize that a corporate program in sustainability or 'green' technology often yields profits, and managers around the world are beginning to capitalize on this. Some more far seeing companies are proactively adopting and promoting practices that will benefit our environment in every aspect of their business.
Sustainability - that stage of economic and technical development where the use of material and energy is at a steady state. By 1999, humans were using 120% of the natural resources the Earth was able to regenerate. In other words, it would require 1.2 'Earths' to regenerate what humanity used in 1999 (Wackernakel et al 2002), and the situations has only gotten worse since then.
Sustainable development requires that private corporations adopt 'green technology', which in many cases may also improve a firm's profitability. When this occurs, the
actions are simply good business and are morally neutral – neither good nor bad. If
'greening' may harm a company financially, then green technology is typically not adopted.
A 2007 Human Resources survey by Adecco showed that companies are highlighting their green activities to market themselves and attract new employees. A more recent survey by National Geographic magazine in 2008 found that more than 80 percent of U.S. workers believe it is important to work for a company or organization that makes the environment a top priority. See http://www.greenbiz.com/feature/2008/06/08/corporate-
All major organizations today should incorporate a commitment to using 'green' technology in their corporate vision statement. Their plans and policies should include a commitment to:
- green computing, recycling, and waste management;
- green computer systems constructed of biodegradable materials;
- green computer systems that are energy efficient;
- computer systems powered by „hybrid‟ green energy sources;
- green computers and energy conservation;
- computer systems housed in green buildings;
- green operating practices and procedures; and
- green „open source‟ software solutions.
‘Green’ Programs and Practices
‘Green’ Computing, Recycling, and Waste Management
A large amount of waste from consumers, businesses, and government agencies comes from old electronic equipment and activities associated with using them. In June 1997, an interesting study was done at Carnegie Mellon University on "The Disposition and End-of-Life Options for Personal Computers". See
Imagine buying a new computer monitor and when you get home you take your old one and just bury it in the garden. Three years later the monitor has biodegraded and your prized petunias are flourishing. In 2006, the world's first 100% biodegradable computer components began to be produced by MicroPro, a company based in Dublin, Ireland, that produces eco-friendly computers, keyboards, mice and flat-panel monitors. See
In February 2003, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directives went into force in the U.S. Basically, these two directives required computer makers to implement product lifecycle management programs, including free take-back programs and the elimination of certain hazardous substances like lead from production lines by 2008. See
In 2007, legislation was passed by the European Union (EU) adopting the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEE) Directive aimed at forcing businesses and consumers to dispose of electronic gadgets in a more responsible fashion. See
‘Green’ Computers & Electronic Equipment
The Green Electronics Council now offers the Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) to assist in the purchase of "green" computing systems. EPEAT is a system to help purchasers in the public and private sectors evaluate, compare and select desktop computers, notebooks and monitors based on their environmental attributes. There are 28 criteria that measure a product's efficiency and sustainability attributes. The IEEE and EPA have approved and endorsed EPEAT. See
The first annual report issued by the Green Electronics Council in 2006 entitled 'The
Environmental Benefits of the Purchase or Sale of EPEAT Registered Products" states
that just the first six months‟ sales of EPEAT registered green computers produced the following environmental benefits:
; Saved 13.7 billion kWh of electricity, enough to power 1.2 million U.S. homes for a
; Saved 24.4 million metric tons of primary materials, equivalent to the weight of 189
; Prevented 56.5 million metric tons of air emissions (including greenhouse gas
; Prevented 1.07 million metric tons of carbon equivalent greenhouse gas emissions,
equivalent to removing 852,000 cars from the road for a year;
; Prevented 118,000 metric tons of water pollutant emissions;
; Reduced the amount of toxic materials used by 1,070 metric tons, equivalent to the
weight of 534,000 bricks, including enough mercury to fill 157,000 household fever
; Avoided the disposal of 41,100 metric tons of hazardous waste, equivalent to the
weight of 20.5 million bricks.
On January 1, 2007, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13423, which now requires all United States federal government agencies to use EPEAT when purchasing computer systems.
Energy Efficiency & ‘Green’ Computer Systems
In 1992, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched Energy Star, a voluntary
labeling program designed to promote and recognize energy-efficiency in computer systems and other electronic appliances. This resulted in, among other things, the widespread use of „sleep mode‟ in consumer electronic devices.
The term "green computing" was coined shortly after the Energy Star program began and generally referred to power consumption-related issues. The modern use of the term encompasses not just energy use, but also includes energy conservation. See
In 2006, the EPA estimated that by 2010, purchases of green-registered computers would reduce hazardous waste by 4 million pounds and save enough energy to power two million homes. Read www.boston.com/business/blog/filter/2006/05/standard_will_i.html
Check out “The Greenest Computers Built in the U.S.” web site at
Computer Systems Powered by ‘Green’ Energy
There are now numerous examples of organizations using servers, desktop computers, printers and other appliances powered by a 'hybrid' energy system that taps into solar, wind, and other traditional energy sources. Some compelling reasons to acquire and implement computer systems powered by hybrid energy systems include lower energy bills, being able to provide continuity of care in the face of major natural and man-made disasters, and being better able to operate in remote locations around the world where reliable electrical service is not available.
Examples of Hybrid ‘Green’ Energy and Health IT Systems
At Napier University's Merchiston campus in Scotland solar panels were being installed in 2005
to generate enough electricity to power up to 80 of the 500 computers at the state-of-the-art Jack
Kilby Centre. See http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/edinburgh.cfm?id=363002005
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Initiative facility in Homa Bay, Kenya, benefits from a solar energy power system that delivers reliable power and reduce losses of vital medicine and laboratory test samples.
"Solar Light for Africa" is a faith-based non-governmental organization providing power to
clinics, orphanages, schools and churches. With USAID assistance, the organization electrified the Kakuuto Hospital in Uganda's Rakai District using solar energy. See
Monmouth Ocean Hospital Service Corporation (MONOC), the largest emergency medical services agency in New Jersey, flipped the switch on a 119 kilowatt solar energy system that will generate about 20 percent of its electricity needs. More than 700 solar panels are installed on the
roof of their headquarters building. (SolarBuzz.com - July 2005)
Take some time to learn about Micro Hydro Turbines, another new source of alternative energy that is being pursued aggressively in Europe. See
‘Green’ Computing and Energy Conservation
The Climate Savers Computing Initiative, started by Google and Intel in 2007, is a
nonprofit group of eco-conscious consumers, businesses and conservation organizations. The Initiative was started in the spirit of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Climate Savers program which has mobilized over a dozen companies since 1999 to cut carbon dioxide emissions, demonstrating that reducing emissions is good business. The goal is to promote development, deployment and adoption of smart technologies that can both improve the efficiency of a computer‟s power delivery and reduce the energy consumed when the computer is in an inactive state. See http://www.climatesaverscomputing.org/
States Vow To Buy Green Computers - The governors of Kansas and Minnesota have
signed on to a Google green-computing initiative, committing to spending an extra $30 per PC to make the states' PCs more environmentally friendly. The green-computing effort is a partnership between the National Governors Association and the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, a coalition started by Google, Intel, and about 25 other technology companies and environmental organizations such as HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). See
‘Green’ Buildings Housing Computer Systems
Buildings and communities are responsible for over 40 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere. Steps must be taken to change this situation. The
following are links to organizations and documents that provide guidelines for what it really means to “build green.”
; U.S. Green Building Council
; U.S. EPA: Green Building
; Healthy Buildings: Construction Guidelines
; Sustainable Buildings Industry Council
; World Green Building Council
‘Green’ Operating Practices and Procedures
Many public and private sector organizations are now integrating sustainable principles and „green‟ policies and procedures into their business and office operations. An excellent source to learn more about this is GreenBiz.Com – see
An example of an organization‟s high level „green‟ policy statement aimed at guiding the
management of an organization and programs in a manner that protects the environment,
improves operational efficiencies, and contributes to the safety of employees and public
health. See http://www.epa.gov/region3/ems/facility/policy.htm. Detailed operational
procedures and controls are further documented in their operational manual. See
Also check out –
; Green California Best Practices Manual
; Federal Electronics Challenge – Electronics Operations & Maintenance Guide
‘Green’ Software & Open Source Solutions
The underlying values of the open source and green technology communities are very
similar. They appeal to a range of values such as:
; Being Good Stewards of Resources
If you aren‟t aware, the following are examples of free and open source software (FOSS): ; Linux – www.linux.org
; Open Office – www.openoffice.org
; Apache – www.apache.org
; mySQL – www.mysql.com
The following are examples of „green‟ software applications and tools that are free and open source:
; Corporate Energy Consumption Tools - See www.openeco.org
; Carbon Footprint Calculators – See
http://go.ucsusa.org/calculator.html , or http://www.safeclimate.net/calculator/
; Paper Calculator – See http://www.edf.org/papercalculator/
; AMEE Platform – See http://www.amee.cc/
Intel has developed software methodologies, designs, and software development tools
that can be used to improve the energy efficiency of application software and extend
mobile platform battery time. Computational efficiency, data efficiency, and context-
aware methods can all contribute to creating applications that are power-aware. Check
out - http://softwarecommunity.intel.com/articles/eng/1458.htm
Finally, if you are interested in other „green‟ software and development tools, visit
Benefits From Going ‘Green’
Going „green‟ should no longer be viewed strictly as an environmental issue but rather as a straight forward business decision leading to more efficient and cost effective business
operations. It leads to lower utility bills, lower waste disposal costs, reduced usage of paper
and other costly supplies and many more tangible cost savings.
Numerous environmental benefits of buying high-performance, environmentally friendly
computer equipment are highlighted in the first annual report issued by the Green
Electronics Council in 2006 entitled 'The Environmental Benefits of the Purchase or Sale of EPEAT Registered Products."
System Security & Disaster Recovery
Wind and solar powered systems are excellent alternatives that can be used in place of an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) as temporary power backup systems. They might have proven to be invaluable to the United States when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and
power was cut and flooding prevented delivery of diesel fuel to backup generators.
National Security & Energy Independence
Development and use of alternative energy solutions are key to any national policy to lessen our current dependence on oil producing nations. This is a national security issue
that will increase in importance and urgency over time. Many other countries have already started moving forward more aggressively on this issue that here in the U.S.
The following are some key points to keep in mind about „green‟ solutions and the future:
; Cost of traditional non-renewable, fossil fuel energy sources continue to escalate. ; Affordable commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) wind and solar energy solutions are
becoming more readily available.
; Our future depends on a range of „green‟ solutions – from hybrid „green‟ energy
solutions, new „green‟ technologies, „green‟ construction, „green‟ policies,
conservation, and more.
; Development and investment in hybrid energy solutions and other „green‟
technologies and sustainable solutions should be a priority for all nations and
; Until leaders in the public and private sector see being green as a priority, programs
will be slow to evolve.
Again, as „green‟ goes mainstream, companies should no longer view 'green' as an
environmental issue but rather as a straight forward business factor in becoming more stefficient, cost effective, and competitive in the 21 century.
According to the 2005 report "Basic Research Needs For Solar Energy Utilization" by the
U.S. Department of Energy, world demand for energy is projected to more than double by 2050 and to more than triple by the end of the century. Incremental improvements in existing energy networks will not be adequate to supply this demand in a sustainable
The Worldwatch Institute reports that solar energy has surpassed wind power generation to become the world's fastest-growing energy source. World solar markets are growing at ten times the rate of the oil industry, whose sales have expanded at just 1.4 percent per
year since 1990. Worldwatch predicts that solar power and other hybrid energy solutions
will join computers, telecommunications, and biotechnology as a leading growth industry in the 21st century.
Recommended Next Steps
There are a number of recommendations and next steps for senior executives of organizations to take as it relates to „green‟ technology and sustainability:
; Commission a detailed systems requirements analysis and cost/benefit study into the
potential uses of „green‟ technologies and hybrid energy solutions.
; Consider forming a "Green Team", a group of people in the organization who are
passionate about environmental issues, to brainstorm solutions and promote ways in
which corporate practices resources can become more environmentally sustainable. ; Encourage facility and technology designers and architects to consider „green‟
building codes and the use of hybrid renewable energy systems into their next
; Conduct small pilot tests of „green‟ technologies such as hybrid energy systems,
„green‟ buildings, energy conservation, use of biodegradable materials, and other
; Support political action that encourages much higher levels of government funding
and tax credits for „green‟ technologies and hybrid energy systems.
; Implement a hybrid energy system to power a production environment for your web
organization‟s site and other electrical appliances in your facilities.
; Expand the use of „green‟ technologies, hybrid energy systems, and other „green‟
solutions over time, documenting the cost/benefits and building the business case.
; Seek funding sources that will support this next generation of corporate and
community economic development based on „green‟ technologies.
; Get started now!
It is the author‟s belief that organizations and communities that take the lead in using
„green‟ solutions will:
- generate positive public relations; - create new economic opportunities; - reduce energy consumption;
- enhance energy independence;
- reduce operating costs;
- reduce electronic waste;
- improve public health;
- strengthen our country;
- improve disaster recovery capabilities; - and much more.
* To learn more about green teams, read http://www.greenbiz.com/feature/2008/06/08/corporate-
; Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care - http://www.greenhealthcare.ca/ ; ENERSOL - http://www.enersol.org/
; Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) - http://www.epeat.net/ ; ECOMall - http://www.ecomall.com/biz/solarcat.htm
; ENERGY STAR – http://www.energystar.gov/
; GreenBiz.Com - http://www.greenbiz.com
; Green Building swicki Search Engine - http://green-building-resource-swicki.eurekster.com/ ; GreenIT – http://greenit.net/
; Green Guide for Health Care - www.gghc.org
; National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) - http://www.nrel.gov/
; Solar swicki Search Engine - http://solar-powered-swicki.eurekster.com/solar+medical/ ; The Green Maven - http://www.greenmaven.com/
; The Green Grid – http://www.thegreengrid.org/home
; Teleosis Institute - http://www.teleosis.org/index.php
Peter J. Groen is on the faculty of the Computer & Information Science Department at Shepherd
University in West Virginia and is one of the founders of the Shepherd University Research
Corporation - see www.shepherd.edu/surc