Can Computing Technology Be Green?

Green Computing

Currently, computing alone is not green.

Manufacturing just one computer and one monitor requires 530 pounds of fossil fuels, 48 pounds of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water.1 It is estimated that the average PC wastes over half of the power delivered to it.2 According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) most recent e-waste report, computers, laptops, CPUs, and computer monitors make up around 42% of all electronic waste.3 Computing is an area where people have the ability to significantly decrease environmental impact. With a growing emphasis on environmental responsibility, it is important to practice green computing initiatives.

Shutdown and Turn Off- Reduce the amount of power used by a computer when it is not in use. This is easy to do but is often overlooked, but if done correctly it can amount to huge savings. Roughly one third of the electrical usage of an entire computer comes from the monitor. Use energy saving modes such as sleep, standby, or hibernate, to reduce the amount of power while away from the computer. Turn off the screensaver; it uses just as much energy as if the monitor were in use.3 While using energy-saving modes reduces some power, it is better to turn off the monitor and shutdown the computer to completely eliminate power usage. It is also important to switch the power off at the wall socket or unplug the device. A computer left on overnight for a year creates enough CO2 to fill a double-decker bus.3 Look for software that can help facilitate energy savings such as the Echo™ Thin Client Management Software that allows the administrator to program thin clients to shut down rather than go into “sleep” mode.

Virtualization- Virtualization includes separating the physical location of a thin or zero client device from its logical interface. As applied to data centers, installing virtual infrastructure consolidates servers onto fewer pieces of hardware. It reduces overall energy use and cooling requirements and provides more computing power in less space. Thin clients consume an average of 8-20 watts compared to a 150 watt PC.4 With these measures, energy consumption can decrease by 80%.5 Every server that is virtualized saves 7,000 kWh of electricity and 4 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.5 Virtualization also increases IT capacity, improving server utilization rates from 5-15% to 60-80%.5 By running fewer, highly utilized servers, space and power can be saved.

Cloud computing- Cloud computing is where different services–such as servers, storage and applications–are accessed over the Internet. Companies that adopt cloud computing can decrease energy consumption, reduce carbon emissions and lower capital expenditure on IT resources while improving operational efficiency.6 Thin clients provide an entrance point into the cloud infrastructure while maintaining a secure connection and increasing manageability. Many studies reveal the great effects cloud computing has on the environment such as limiting resource allocation requirements, requiring less hardware and utilizing more of the server’s power. The Carbon Disclosure Project estimates that by 2020, large US companies using cloud computing can achieve annual energy savings of $12.3 billion.6 A study conducted by Microsoft shows that companies that adopt cloud computing rather than running their own applications, can reduce energy use and carbon footprint of computing by up to 90% for smaller less efficient companies, and by 30% for large already efficient companies.7

Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle- Computers are made from valuable resources and materials that require a lot of energy to mine and manufacture. In fact, the amount of fossil fuels and chemicals required in the manufacture of one desktop computer is over 9 times the weight of the computer.3 In 2010, Americans disposed of 423,000 tons (51.9 million units) of computers, equating to 142,000 computers a day.3 According to PC Stats, the average useful (capable of running contemporary software) lifespan of a computer is 5 years.8 However, The Western Sustainability and Pollution Network (WSPPN) estimates that on average, Americans dispose their PC after only 30 months of use. Before deciding to discard a computer, make sure to consider all options. One alternative to buying a new computer is upgrading the hardware or software of the current computer or repurposing the current computer. Software such as VDI Blaster™, can provide a simple solution to transform a PC into a thin client, extending the capital investment of PCs. In the event a computer must be disposed, donate or recycle the computer to help conserve natural resources. Recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 US homes in a year.9

For more information on Green Computing visit Devon IT’s Thin Client Education / Green Computing Section.

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  1. Caleb says

    It’s nearly impossible to find knowledgeable individuals on this subject matter, but you sound like you know what you’re speaking about! Thanks

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