When it comes to information technology, we hear constantly about how we are now in a global information age. Every day we email, text, tweet, chat, post and blog. Constantly, we communicate via our computers. With our computers we create information, process information, store information, and share information. Often, we have the illusion that these things are all green, but are they really? Is IT, by definition, green?
Sometimes yes, but not always. In fact, computers and other communications devices use a lot of electricity. And they can use a lot of other consumable resources as well, including paper and ink, to say nothing of how fast technology advances turning yesterday’s state of the art piece of technology into tomorrow’s landfill waste. So, let’s look at how we can all green our IT a bit, and the industry as a whole. Following are four tips for greening IT, as an industry, or just in your business place.
1) Float on the Clouds If you think back to the 1980s, information storage took up a lot of space and materials. We had cassette tapes the size of bar soap that held just 40 minutes of music. We used video tapes the size of a hard cover book to hold just two hours of action. And we had books – actual paper with ink – in hard cover and soft, cluttering our shelves and desks. Today, progress is becoming more green by definition and out of convenience. It’s amazing if you think about it – cloud computing was not developed to be green, it was developed to be user friendly; but the greenness of it makes it even better.
With storage systems today we can store an entire wall worth of 1980s information on a small device the size of your thumb nail. Amazing – and green. No more printing and stamping and plastic molding to store information. With cloud computing it gets even better, as dozens of companies or facilities can store their data on a single machine in a central location. In this way fewer storage devices are created (that’s green) and access is maximized (that’s effective); this truly shows that ecofriendly and user friendly can co-exist. So tip #1 is to use the cloud – keep your software and files on a server in a distant land, where they are safely stored yet easily accessible.
2) Avoid the Temptation to Print Of course, despite the fact that we have these amazing storage capabilities – that your software and data files can sit on a cloud happily until you need to access them – some people just can’t let go of printing. Computer users can do their share by avoiding the temptation to print. With today’s smart phones, ebook readers, personal data assistants and more, moving and transporting files electronically makes much more sense than printing them out.
In addition to this call for users to make responsible printing decisions, we also need to call on printer manufactures to make responsible decisions. Printers today are far too disposable, resulting in landfill waste as often as one printer a year per family. Additionally, printer inks need to be more environmentally friendly and cartridges more recyclable.
3) Reduce, Recycle and Dispose of Properly When it comes to electronics, we are becoming a disposable world. Too often we are purchasing the latest and greatest not because we need to but because we want to. Users need to try not to be greedy, to replace their technology only when it is really necessary. This can also mean upgrading equipment when necessary, rather than always feeling the need to simply replace it.
When it does become necessary, we need to recycle when possible, perhaps by donating old equipment to charity or by making use of a company’s recycling program. When something is simply ready for the trash, it is important to remember that many electronics have small amounts of mercury or other dangerous chemicals in them and thus need special disposal.
4) Manage Energy Efficiently Of course, all of these electronic devices require power. Furthermore, studies are starting to show now that radiation from cordless phones, cell phones and Wi-Fi may be causing various health problems, ranging from infertility to cancer. This brings on a two-fold call to action. First, do not keep electronics on when they are not in use. Second, remember that many electronics draw power when plugged in, even if they are turned off. Most of your electronic equipment should be hooked up to power strips; then you can turn off the strip to ensure that the device is drawing no power at all. Third, use your machines wisely. If you talk on the cell phone a lot, use a corded earpiece and keep the cell phone unit at least 8 inches away from your body. Similarly, use your laptop on a table or desk, not directly on your lap.