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What is Green IT?

Every business uses Information Technology (IT) to run their operations, manage their data, collaborate, communicate and make decisions.  This technology, whether it’s hardware or software,  can be used in a more sustainable way or be applied to enable more sustainable ways of doing things. This is often referred to as Green IT.

Green IT starts with using more eco-friendly equipment and providing IT services in a more sustainable way. The goal is to minimize the negative impact of IT operations on the environment. It includes designing, manufacturing, operating and disposing of computers and computer-related products in an environmentally-friendly manner.  It also includes reducing the use of hazardous materials, improving  energy efficiency, and enabling employees to be more eco-friendly including reducing printing and working remotely.

Top Green IT Initiatives With the Highest  Impact

A “Green IT” program can be organized into 3 major initiatives or categories:

    • Energy efficiency
    • Equipment recycling
    • Paper reduction

Depending on the business you’re in, each of these areas will have a different impact.  For some businesses that are paper-heavy like insurance and financial services, reducing paper could have the greatest impact.  For companies with a larger workforce, enabling employees to work from home can reduce commuting and the size of office space required can have a bigger impact.  The following sections describe initiatives that businesses can consider and should be prioritized based on the impact each can have on the environment.

Energy Efficiency

Cloud computing and green data centers

Whether you’re a small business with a few computers or a larger business with a computer room or data center, your computers require power and cooling. There are eco-friendly computers available and eco-friendly ways to power and cool your equipment. One Green Business Bureau member, Web Hosting Canada,  uses alternative energy to power their servers and taps the hydro electric power network available in Canada.  Businesses can also use solar-powered generators for battery backup on their computer servers. DSM provides a great article on the cost and efficiency benefits of switching to a cloud server and data center. Green House Data has been on the forefront of green data centers since 2007 and provides a great article on how they maintain a sustainable data center.

In addition to using a green data center, cloud computing is another way to cut down on power consumption. By using cloud computing, you eliminate the need for your own computers to run your business applications. Instead, companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google can run your applications with more sustainable and efficient large scale data centers. There also might be local companies that offer cloud computing and data centers while practicing sustainable methods near you. When looking for a local company, go through their website and find out what kind of practices they use. Companies are often very vocal about their sustainable practices and methods.

Eco-friendly options for computers/laptops

Laptops have become the new go-to device for employees and businesses because of their lower power consumption, portability, and sustainability. Future Proof provides a great article on the top 3 most sustainable laptops on the market in 2020. While laptops are a great option, there are still plenty of eco-friendly options for desktop. Tree Hugger names a few sustainable desktops as well as instructions on how to determine how sustainable different brands and models are.  For the more sophisticated business with a small IT department, you may want to have your administrator consider using virtualization software that enables servers to be shared and be used more efficiently.

Equipment Recycling

Disposing of your equipment the right way

Businesses need to do a better job at disposing of their old equipment that they no longer need. In 2016, the United Nations reported over 44.7 million tons of e-waste was disposed of with only 20% being properly disposed. In 2015, Apple collected over 2000 pounds of gold from recycled electronics. Rather than have dumps filled with potentially dangerous chemicals and valuable tech parts, companies can recycle equipment and enable other businesses to reuse the old parts and materials.

Where to recycle equipment and electronics

There are multiple ways to recycle or enable reuse of your equipment.  You can find local sponsored recycle drives near you by searching for recycling centers in your local area.  Call2Recycle lists locations all over the U.S.  Old equipment that is in reasonably good shape can be resold to businesses directly. Consider buying and selling your computers and equipment on eBay. Tech firms such as Apple, Sprint, Amazon, and Office Depot/Staples all have programs in which you can sell your electronics for in store credit. Old working equipment can also be donated. There are a few larger programs such as Dell Reconnect, AmericanCellPhoneDrive.org, and World Computer Exchange that make it easy to find non-profit organizations looking for computers and equipment.  You can also look nearby for any local non-profit organization that will accept your old electronics.

How to recycle equipment and electronics

The process for recycling equipment and electronics is fairly simple. First, take out any batteries or other potentially hazardous parts. For any business or personal electronics, be sure to erase any private information. From there, simply drop off your items at your selected recycling location or ship it to its new owner.

Extending the life of your equipment

While it’s always nice to have brand new equipment, it isn’t always necessary. There are many cases where simple repairs or maintenance can extend the life to your equipment without the high cost of buying new replacements. Here are some simple tips:

    • Clean out your equipment/electronics. You would be surprised how much dust accumulates inside computers causing them to malfunction, slow down or overheat.
    • Replace the battery. Often many people replace their phone because the battery life becomes shorter. Instead of buying a whole new device, replacing the battery can extend its lifetime.
    • Have your equipment repaired and serviced. Your equipment may be failing because of a simple worn out part or isolated malfunction.  Have someone troubleshoot your issues and provide a repair quote.  Do not assume all repairs are major.
    • Update your software.  Software and settings updates are continuously released for most products and can fix issues and speed up your devices.

Paper Reduction

Reducing paper use and the amount of printing you do is one of the simplest steps businesses should take in becoming greener. Over 20% of the paper consumed in the United States is office copy paper. There are plenty of different options for going paperless in your business. Going paperless in your business is not only more sustainable, but more sensible in many different ways.  While you certainly save money on paper, there are various other cost savings including printer ink and expensive office equipment.  Going paperless, sometimes referred to as “going digital”, can also improve the efficiency of your business workflows and shorten the time it takes to get tasks done. For example, digital online documents and files data can be easily organized, shared, protected and accessed from anywhere.  Mailing physical documents is replaced with electronic sharing of these digital files which can be done in seconds, not days.

Digital and paperless employee workflow

Many business applications today are designed to support a paperless employee workflow.  There are also many online tools to enable file and document sharing.  Here are some popular software solutions to consider for your business:

    • Adobe provides a great solution for scanning files and creating digital versions of your paper files.  It enables you to scan documents and create PDF files, a format that every business supports, It allows for keyword search on scanned documents, and other useful features that work in sync with other office applications.  Here’s a list of more scanning software options.
    • Docusign is a solution for businesses that need official documents signed.  It enables a business to get an authenticated digital signature on a contract or agreement via eMail. It’s well known and the most trusted solution that customers will be familiar with.
    • Asana is a great tool for task management that allows you to track the use and flow of digital files. It’s ideal for managing and visualizing projects.
      For more information and other useful applications, check out Jot Forms’ Top Ten Apps for a Paperless Office.

For more information and other useful applications, check out Jot Forms’ Top Ten Apps for a Paperless Office.

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