Power and responsibility: making IT greener

Rising energy costs and concern over climate change make the environment a hot topic for IT departments. But IT managers at environmental campaign groups have advice to offer.

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Greenpeace UK’s battle against climate change has started in its own datacentre. The environmental campaign is not only raising the issue of global warming on the streets and in the corridors of power, it is also reducing its own “carbon footprint” by partially powering the datacentre – and the rest of its London headquarters - with energy generated from solar panels and newly installed wind turbines.

It is an example of the difference a “green” approach to IT can make. As energy costs spiral and businesses face growing corporate social responsibility obligations and the possibility of new legislation, environmental considerations are beginning to rise up the IT agenda.

So far, few IT directors are implementing specific green strategies, but many are starting to explore how they can control the overall environmental impact of technology, with energy efficiency the main concern.

The UK’s big three environmental campaigns – Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth (FoE) and the conservation charity WWF – are all looking carefully at the environmental impact of their IT policies, and their experience offers lessons for IT departments across the private and public sectors too.

David Southern, head of IT and facilities at WWF UK, says adopting a greener approach does not have to be an all or nothing proposition – it can be undertaken in stages. “There’s a level that can be achieved fairly simply but can still make a real difference, and then there’s another level that people may aspire to, but which is more difficult to get to,” he says.

At the relatively simple level, WWF has replaced its cathode ray tube monitors with thin film transistor screens, which use approximately one third of the energy and produce less heat.The charity has also configured its desktop PCs to go into auto hibernation mode after 10 to 15 minutes if they have not been used, and encourages staff to switch off their monitors when they go out to save on electricity.

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