What is Green IT?
Sustainable or “green” IT is a term to describe the manufacture, management, use, and disposal of information technology through methods that minimize damage to the environment. By developing green IT strategies, organizations can lower their environmental impact, reduce costs, and demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility. The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) has developed “A Practical Guide to Sustainable IT” that illustrates the seven aspects of the sustainable use of IT as petals on a flower, with Information at the center. 1 The seven aspects of the sustainable use of IT are:
Resources. Technologies have evolved to require increasingly specialized resources and materials. In consideration of resources, we should consider the resource use associated with our consumption of information technology, as well as the ecological limits of our natural resources.
Hardware. As computer hardware can come in many different forms and sizes, we should consider how our choices about design specifications and device longevity affect the ecological footprint of information processing.
Software. Operating systems choices have an effect on how the hardware functions, including its longevity. Desktop programs, peripherals, and gadgets dictate how we interact with our computer systems and the programs that we utilize to perform the information tasks that we demand of our computer systems.
Networks. Linking computers together has created a powerful system for human interaction and exchange, but this has also amplified environmental impacts of information technology. With increased options for information and services there are increased demands for energy and resources.
Storage. Making choices about how we are backing up our data that consider different levels of security and our ecological footprint.
Care. Computer systems need care and maintenance. Hardware and software need attention in order to keep the logical elements of the machine working reliably to get the greatest possible service life from software and to ensure that data will be protected in the event of a system or hardware failure.
Disposal. After equipment has reached the end of its useful life it is important to know how to dispose of it safely, considering the environmental risks of computer hardware, other possible uses of hardware components, disposal options, and the effective destruction and erasing personal and sensitive data. Consider methods of reconfiguring components to serve other needs, donating used equipment, and methods for upgrading components and software to give machines a new function to support the information infrastructure.
In the illustration, the sustainable IT flower is connected to renewable power. Renewable power includes options for sourcing electricity from lower carbon and renewable sources. As the generation of electricity is one of the major carbon-intensive industries, giving rise to pollutants and carbon dioxide, look at alternative options to source electricity from the power grid or going off the grid. Choosing alternative electricity source options can both exploit renewable energy sources and can serve as a means of taking computers further- beyond the reach of the main grid into the outdoors.
1 APC, 2012, “A Practical Guide to Sustainable IT”