Ofcom to reduce ‘significant’ impact of IT on carbon footprint

Communications watchdog Ofcom is targeting a large reduction in the impact IT has on its carbon footprint.

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Communications watchdog Ofcom is targeting a large reduction in the impact IT has on its carbon footprint.

Under a new project called ‘Footprint', Ofcom will attempt to cut total CO2 emissions by a quarter in the next four years, and to halve the emissions by 2020, with lower impact IT taking a central role in the strategy.

The steps are being taken after a carbon audit of Ofcom, conducted by ecological measurement firm Best Foot Forward, said the regulator needed to target cuts in IT.

It also said Ofcom should aim for a reduction in business travel, an improvement in flexible working arrangements, a reduction in building energy use, and a reduction in waste.

Ed Richards, chief executive at the regulator, said: “Ofcom takes its role in minimising its impact on the environment very seriously and looks forward to working with government and with its stakeholders to achieve the common goal of reducing our carbon emissions.”

Computers, servers, printers and mobile phones created nine percent, or 377 tonnes, of Ofcom’s carbon dioxide emissions in 2006 to 2007, the audit said. Offsite servers accounted for another 16 percent.

Some 323 tonnes of emissions were attributable to printing and copying, and 48 tonnes to PCs. Ofcom needs better data on its use of IT materials in order to improve procurement, the audit said.

It would be possible to cut the carbon impact of Ofcom’s offsite servers by 60 percent through optimisation, knocking 407 tonnes off the regulator’s annual carbon emissions, the audit said. It advised Ofcom in the long term to “demand offsite servers be powered with renewable energy”.

Three tonnes of CO2 emissions could also be cut by purchasing refilled ink cartridges, the audit said, advising Ofcom to review procurement of materials and use suppliers that guarantee low impact technology.

Items requiring “energy-intensive manufacturing”, such as electrical equipment, “have a significant impact on individual offices’ footprint”, the audit said.

“Replacing equipment only when absolutely necessary, and purchasing second-hand or refurbished equipment can have a positive impact here,” it explained.

The regulator should also buy more recycled paper, including for use in its own publications, the audit said. This would “not only reduce [Ofcom’s] own carbon impact, but also set a positive example to those who rely on its services”.

Printing policy could be changed so that more of Ofcom’s photocopying is double-sided and fewer emails are printed out, the audit said. It added that “greater use of the internet and internal non-paper-based information systems could have a positive impact in reducing Ofcom’s footprint”.

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