Green computing – for someone else or achievable by all?

A lot of press has been given to green computing lately, much of it talking about green data centers. While you may applaud the fact that Dell, Google, HP and others are putting plans into action to reduce energy consumption, you may have a lot of trouble identifying with the whole ‘data center’ discussion. In fact, 40 percent of carbon emissions that are contributed to our atmosphere by technology products are contributed by client systems – desktops, laptops and printers – as opposed to 23 percent contributed by systems housed in data centers.

Studies done by Gartner suggest that the IT and communications technologies account for 2 percent of global CO2 emissions, which is on a par with the aviation industry. It is estimated that the CO2 emissions from just 10 PCs is equivalent to the emissions of an average car in the US.
Unfortunately, the rapid rate at which technology changes has been a huge factor in contributing to its environmental impact. With computers becoming ever faster and cheaper, many of us are getting new systems every 3 years, sending that old one off to the landfill.

While there is a growing trend towards environmentally friendly design and manufacturing, this is a relatively new development. If you are in the market for a new PC, and you want to minimize the impact of your decision, you will want to look for models that have earned EPEAT certification. EPEAT is a program of the Green Electronics Council that evaluates electronic products in relation to 51 total environmental criteria, 23 of which are required for a manufacturer to earn bronze designation. Additional criteria must be met to reach silver or gold certification. Systems that achieve these designations must not only be energy efficient, but must also eliminate or reduce environmentally sensitive materials, use recycled and/or recyclable materials, and significant attention must be paid to end of life issues, warranty and upgradability. Consideration is also given to corporate performance on various green initiatives. You can determine what models from different manufacturers have earned EPEAT certification at

While smaller system builders are not likely to earn this designation, they can build systems using 80 Plus power supplies. These power supplies are at least 80% efficient at 20%, 50% and 100% of rated load. While these power supplies will add about $25 to the cost of your system, power requirements can be cut by as much as 20%.

You may also want to consider replacing desktops with notebooks which produce 5 times less greenhouse gases over a five year period. If you are still using a CRT type monitor, consider that a new LCD display can reduce carbon emissions by 15% over 5 years. And over the next year, look for new LED displays, which can use as much as 57% less energy as compared to current LCD monitors, to be introduced and become more affordable.

You may have had a tendency in the past to purchase a desktop or laptop that was capable of doing everything you need today and perhaps just a bit more. This keeps your spending at the lower end of the current price range, but it also means that your system will be less than adequate in fewer years. If spending just a bit more will allow you to use the equipment for an additional year, it may well be money well spent.

When replacing your systems, don’t forget to dispose of your old systems responsibly. If you systems still have useful life, look for an organization that can put your old system to good use or find an organization that can facilitate such a donation. TechSoup has tips for donating a computer at, along with a list of organizations that are authorized Microsoft refurbishers. Goodwill has partnered with Dell to accept used equipment to be refurbished or recycled. The National Cristina Foundation,, is an organization that matches used equipment with needy schools and nonprofit organizations around the world. A simple Google search for “donate computer” will provide 456,000 results, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a good home for your used equipment. To take advantage of these opportunities, it is helpful to have the documentation and CDs that came with your system.

If you lease systems, be sure that you ask about how your systems will be handled at the end of the lease. Some leasing companies are definitely more green than others and if this is an issue that is important to you, it needs to be a consideration when you select a leasing company.

Don’t misunderstand, there is also a great deal that you can do with the technology you already own and this may well be the most responsible decision. While leaving your computer on 24 hours a day does make it possible to install security updates and perform maintenance while you are at home with your family or out with friends, implementing a policy where systems are powered off when not in use can save a third of the energy used to run a PC, as much at $20 to $60 annually per PC. If you don’t want to wait for your system to boot back up when you return, your system can be set to go into sleep or hibernate modes for faster access when you arrive back in the office. Larger organizations may want to consider ways to enforce these settings on a network wide level to insure that policies are being followed.

If you are working with a technology company that performs maintenance during off hours, ask if they can perform the maintenance tasks and then turn the machines off or put them into sleep or hibernate. While none of us want to have staff that is waiting for security updates or disks defrags to run, and we certainly don’t want to be wasting time waiting either, many of us would still like to be environmentally responsible.

Donald Case is CEO and co-owner of BizCare, Inc. in Lafayette, California. In business since 2006, BizCare delivers business enablement and IT services to the Health Care and Retail industries. Combining the latest in remote technologies together with its professional IT talent, more business leaders turn to BizCare for access to a broad range of flexible world-class IT services. Donald may be reached at

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