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Green Computing

July 16, 2010

To save our environment from Global Warming, all mankind has to cooperate and take steps in all dimensions

Energy used to power personal computers, computer data centers and web servers is estimated to account for about 2 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally. That’s more than air travel. And as more of us use computers and do more high-powered things on them, such as watching videos, those emissions are growing.

There are many simple ways to reduce a PC’s energy use. The most obvious is to turn the computer off when not in use. The other is to turn your screen off when taking a break. (Note that screen savers don’t save energy.) Most computers also have a power management settings within the control panel that will put automatically implement energy-saving steps, such as putting the machine into sleep mode if it is not used for a certain time.

Laptops use a lot less power than desktop PCs, although they are harder to refurbish and upgrade.

Implementing these changes can help individuals and businesses reduce their energy bills.

Computers also contain many toxic components that often end up in landfill. As the pace of technological change speeds up, computers are often thrown away long before they stop working.

Old computers can often be donated to schools, community groups or charities, sold on eBay, or even given away or sold for charity to employees. Alternatively, desktop PCs can sometimes be upgraded with, say, extra RAM or a new motherboard or graphics card, instead of throwing away the whole box.

Ever thought of ways to make your computing more environmentally friendly? Since computers, monitors, printers and other miscellaneous peripherals use electricity, you can do so by reducing the amount of energy they consume. This will also save money on energy bills which is always a great thing. Here are some tips to help you do so:

Use an LCD monitor

If you are still using an older CRT model (i.e. the kind that takes up half your desk space), consider replacing it with a new flat panel display. LCD monitors use one third less energy than CRT monitors.

Look for Energy Star peripherals

The same program which is popular for home appliances is available for products such as printers, scanners and fax machines. Energy Star is a program by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy which sets standards for energy-efficient products. By using an Energy Star compliant scanner or printer, you can use as much as 50-60% percent less energy.

Put your computer to sleep

Both PCs and Macs have power saving features built into the system. Basically, this will put your computer into “sleep” mode when not in use. This results in big drop in energy use.

Turn everything off at night

As long as you don’t use your computer as a server, or need to access it remotely, you can simply turn it off at night, or when you’re done for the day.

Stop residual power waste

Did you know that chargers for cell phones, iPods and other gadgets will suck power from the wall even when a device is not plugged in? I had no idea that idle chargers still used power. It is a pain to unplug devices, let alone a monitor or computer (which may be hidden behind your desk). One option is to use a SmartStrip. These devices monitor power use and can tell when items are turned off, or not charging. It then stops sending residual power to the device.

Recycle or donate

Since technology is always changing, you may find yourself with older products lying around after you upgrade to the latest and greatest. Computers and electronics contain many toxic materials, such as lead and mercury, which can leech into groundwater if dumped into a landfill. So, instead of trashing your old computers and electronics, looks for recycling programs in your area, or donate to local schools or charities. Earth 911 has an excellent directory of recycling programs, so do a search for your area.

Printing and Paper Usage

Try printing less. I know sometimes printing something out and sitting on the couch is much easier compared to reading your screen, but think of the paper! If your monitor is hard to read, grab an LCD – if your chair is uncomfortable, maybe look for a better one. Besides, think of your eyes and back!

Make sure to recycle your ink cartridges too. There are a ton of Ink Refill businesses around, especially in malls. They’re an excellent way to reuse! Over 200 million used ink cartridges end up in landfills in the United States alone; if you think that’s bad consider the rest of the world!

Laptops are More Efficient

Are you in the market for a new computer? Consider a laptop! They typically use 50% less energy compared to a desktop system and really don’t cost much more either!

Green computing or green IT, refers to environmentally sustainable computing or IT. It is “the study and practice of designing, manufacturing, using, and disposing of computers, servers, and associated subsystems—such as monitors, printers, storage devices, and networking and communications systems—efficiently and effectively with minimal or no impact on the environment. Green IT also strives to achieve economic viability and improved system performance and use, while abiding by our social and ethical responsibilities. Thus, green IT includes the dimensions of environmental sustainability, the economics of energy efficiency, and the total cost of ownership, which includes the cost of disposal and recycling. It is the study and practice of using computing resources efficiently.”

With increasing recognition that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are a major contributing factor to global warming, enterprises, governments, and society at large now have an important new agenda: tackling environmental issues and adopting environmentally sound practices. Greening our IT products, applications, services, and practices is both an economic and an environmental imperative, as well as our social responsibility. Therefore, a growing number of IT vendors and users are moving toward green IT and thereby assisting in building a green society and economy.

The goals of green computing are similar to green chemistry; reduce the use of hazardous materials, maximize energy efficiency during the product’s lifetime, and promote recyclability or biodegradability of defunct products and factory waste.

Green computing researchers look at key issues and topics related to energy efficiency in computing and promoting environmentally friendly computer technologies and systems include energy efficient use of computers, design of algorithms and systems for environmentally-friendly computer technologies, and wide range of related topics.

Roads to Green Computing

To comprehensively and effectively address the environmental impacts of computing/IT, we must adopt a holistic approach and make the entire IT lifecycle greener by addressing environmental sustainability along the following four complementary paths:

* Green use — reducing the energy consumption of computers and other information systems as well as using them in an environmentally sound manner

* Green disposal — refurbishing and reusing old computers and properly recycling unwanted computers and other electronic equipment

* Green design — designing energy-efficient and environmentally sound components, computers, servers, cooling equipment, and data centers

* Green manufacturing — manufacturing electronic components, computers, and other associated subsystems with minimal impact on the environment

These four paths span a number of focus areas and activities, including:

* design for environmental sustainability
* energy-efficient computing
* power management
* data center design, layout, and location
* server virtualization
* responsible disposal and recycling
* regulatory compliance
* green metrics, assessment tools, and methodology
* environment-related risk mitigation
* use of renewable energy sources and
* eco-labeling of IT products

Modern IT systems rely upon a complicated mix of people, networks and hardware; as such, a green computing initiative must be systemic in nature, and address increasingly sophisticated problems. Elements of such a solution may comprise items such as end user satisfaction, management restructuring, regulatory compliance, disposal of electronic waste, telecommuting, virtualization of server resources, energy use, thin client solutions, and return on investment (ROI).

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