What Are the Main Trends in Green IT?


Building upon my recent article, “Growing a Green IT Strategy,” this follow-up post provides a detailed presentation of the emerging trends and leading practices within the growing field of sustainable business practices for information technology professionals.
As indicated by the 2009 Worldwide Green IT Report, 45% of surveyed IT professionals have already implemented Green IT initiatives. Consequentially, certain practices have been established as “go-to” measures to reduce costs and minimize the environmental impact of computing operations while others are emerging with solid momentum.

Virtualization and Consolidation
The argument in favor of server virtualization and storage consolidation in data-driven businesses could not be more solid. These strategies reduce the inventory of on-site hardware, which delivers immediate cuts in energy consumption. Additionally, smaller space requirements to store the reduced amount of hardware enables companies to optimize the use of the available square footage to operate. In turn, smaller spaces require less electricity to cool the space and associated hardware that on average accounts for 23% of current IT energy consumption.
Energy Efficiency
Considering that, on average, IT-related electricity demands account for 20% of a building’s energy consumption, the efficiency strategies that will make a real impact on your balance sheet and environmental record are more elaborate than simply replacing bulbs and ballasts. Network-level energy management software enables professionals to centralize the management of power settings on PCs and monitors, ensuring that your network is configured to efficiently respond the true power demands of staff members. A key opportunity for investing in energy efficiency takes place during the acquisition phase when you have the option to purchase optimized devices (lighting, cooling, drives, monitors and machines) such as those certified by the Energy Star program.
Travel Reduction
An emerging arena through which companies are quickly reducing their carbon footprint is found in the adoption of IT services that enable employees to travel less. IT departments are the backbone of a company’s ability to provide a virtual work environment for the execution of work tasks, access to information and training materials. IT solutions to cutting back on corporate travel include delivering an infrastructure with capabilities for video conferencing and teleconferencing to internal and external company locations. Additionally, web-based tools for collaboration and project management combined with VPN, remote access and integrated voice communications systems provide employees with off-site access to essential business data.
Asset Disposal
According to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, “e-waste” is the fastest growing stream of municipal solid waste in the U.S., representing 2% of all waste contributions. Nationwide, we are now seeing trends towards legislation that regulates the disposal of IT hardware similar to how hazardous waste is regulated. Although the cost-savings implications of properly decommissioning hardware is less than the strategies listed above, the argument can still be made based on the virtues of corporate responsibility. Due to the content of toxic materials housed within IT devices, the proper disposal of obsolete hardware ensures that you are in compliance with environmental regulations geared toward protecting public health.
Formalizing a recycling mandate within your company provides added value to new and existing customers, as this concern is increasingly on the mind of potential consumers. In addition to regulatory demands, customers are inquiring more often about the corporate recycling mandates that a company has in place. Charity organizations are great outlets for extending the lifecycle of your equipment. Organizations specializing in IT hardware recycling estimate that repurposed equipment provides an additional 6,000 hours of usage to users when devices are shipped overseas to developing nations for re-use.
For more information on emerging trends and innovative practices in the Green IT space, be sure to check out GreenIT and TechWorld’s Green IT site.

David received his undergraduate degree in Geographic Information Sciences from James Madison University and completed an M.A. in International Development at Clark University. With over 10 years of experience in the field of environmental sustainability, David has worked for organizations such as Environmental Defense Fund, USDA, USGS and the Smithsonian Institute.Currently, David is a NetImpact member and an MBA candidate at the Presidio School of Management where his research focus is on developing market incentives for investment in environmental sustainability.

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