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Is Your Outdated Office Technology Hurting the Environment?


By Aleks Szymanski

Outdated office technology is often left as it is, only being replaced when it finally dies or becomes utterly obsolete, as many business owners tend to avoid the cost to upgrade or change their technology.

What these businesses may not realize is that not only is this going to cost them more money in the long run, but there is also the environmental impact of outdated technology to consider.

Many businesses believe they have 'green credentials,' when in fact there is more they can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

1. Improving server rooms

Data centers and servers are the biggest offenders when it comes to IT inefficiency. There are a number of ways that a business can reduce both cost and carbon emissions by improving the efficiency of their server rooms. Most small server rooms were not designed to operate as server spaces, with configurations that compromise energy efficiency and limit upgrade options, resulting in higher carbon emissions. On average, it has been calculated that a low-range server in the U.S. generates 793 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Only a handful of countries -- Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland -- have extremely low CO2-per-kilowatt hour emissions in server rooms, something that we should all be aspiring to (though it is worth bearing in mind that this is partly due to their colder climates, meaning that the server room does not have to work as hard to stay cool).

One of the easiest ways to make your server room more environmentally friendly is to improve cooling. Many server rooms mix hot and cold air which reduces the effectiveness of the cooling system. You can fix this by implementing improved airflow management systems, such as airflow panels, blanking panels and server rack baffles to distribute hot air away from racks, or to prevent hot server exhaust air from circulating back to the front of the rack. Not only does this make the cooling more productive, but it also allows CRAC units to operate more efficiently.

2. Computers

More and more businesses are adopting green computing solutions for their IT environment. Switching to thin clients from traditional PCs is one of the simplest and most effective ways to achieve this. Thin clients provide a similar user experience but consume only a fraction of the energy required to run individual desktops. They use, on average, just 14 percent of the energy needed to run a PC, resulting in reduced energy consumption and CO2 emissions during use.

Thin clients also have a longer lifespan and are RoHS compliant. This means that they meet the regulation regarding the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment -- and can therefore be recycled.

Even more outdated are cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors. While there aren’t many businesses still using CRT monitors, replacing them with LCD screens will generate far less heat and consume less energy.

Bear in mind when upgrading that CRT monitors contain materials that are potentially dangerous unless treated, such as lead, barium and mercury. There are a number of facilities that will recycle these monitors free of charge, or you could donate them to charity.

3. Fax, Printers and Copiers

Reducing paper consumption in an office environment has been an upward trend, particularly since the arrival of cloud technology.

However, despite this, many offices still refuse to let go of printers, copiers and fax machines, meaning that the average office worker is still using 10,000 sheets of paper each year.

Traditional fax machines are the worst offenders. Unlike printers and copy machines, they are rarely turned off -- in fact, a single fax machine powered up 24 hours a day results in 200 kg of CO2 emission.

If your business cannot operate without fax, cloud fax is the best possible option: No paper waste, no ink, no maintenance and much lower electricity usage. Ditching traditional fax in favor of a cloud fax service saves time, money and impacts to the environment.

Millions of printer cartridges needlessly end up in landfill every year. Each cartridge becomes approximately 3 pounds of solid waste sitting in a landfill and can take up to 450 years to decompose. Businesses such as Cartridge World recycle and refill cartridges for a fraction of the cost of buying a new cartridge -- so for me, making this simple change is a no-brainer.


Even applying some of these changes are steps in the right direction to make your business more environmentally friendly.

  • Conserve energy where you can by turning off equipment when not in use

  • Educate your staff in ways that they can reduce energy consumption

  • Recycle outdated equipment

  • Upgrade to newer technology

  • Reduce paper consumption
Image credit: Bruno Cordioli, Flickr

Aleks Szymanski CEO, Scrypt. Inc. has spent 10 years harnessing document exchange solutions to help organizations eliminate paper and improve business processes. Today it provides online fax services for many industries from Financial fax services to Healthcare.

3p Contributor

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