Green Computing

Small things make a difference to sustainability

By 27th Aug 2020No Comments

Being truly sustainable means not only thinking about the power your company’s devices draw but rather considering everything from packaging and transport to end-of-life disposal.

In a world where climate change and sustainability are phrases on everyone’s lips, it is more important than ever for businesses to consider implementing an environmentally-friendly strategy that encompasses everything they do.

For example, placing emphasis on sustainability when strategising and planning an IT infrastructure is one way to adopt a green focus. IT infrastructure consumes large amounts of electricity, so inevitably as the demand for extra technology increases, so will the organisation’s carbon footprint for these systems.

This raises the question, suggests Xavier Nel, head of product at CloudGate, as to whether IT services and sustainability can ever work hand-in-hand?

“It’s important to remember that virtually everything a business does has a carbon cost, but that this also means there are numerous things one can do to minimise the impact of the business on the environment. It’s also key to understand that when it comes to the carbon footprint of IT hardware, you need to look beyond simply how much power it uses, as this is only a small part of its total contribution,” he says.

“There are, in fact, three key areas of impact, notably the cost of manufacture – which encompasses both the creation of the hardware and the costs of shipping it to the customer, the cost of use, and finally, the cost of disposal. We find that most companies looking to improve their sustainability still primarily focus on the second of these three aspects.”

Nel explains that the manufacturing process usually has a very heavy carbon footprint, as the production facilities will not only use a lot of electricity in the fabrication process but are also carbon-heavy in terms of transportation. Therefore, he says, if one can have an impact on the carbon footprint here, the difference it makes can be huge.

“What businesses should do is ensure that the manufacturer they purchase from can demonstrate via certifications or ratings that it has met the necessary compliance requirements in terms of sustainability. Furthermore, you should engage with the supplier around aspects like how carbon-friendly their logistics operation is e.g. asking them if they reduce the number of trips undertaken by using intelligent routing.”

“Of course, an eco-friendly strategy can only be successfully adopted via a genuine top-down approach, as without buy-in from the top level, you will never get employees to accept it completely. This strategy must also encompass the company’s own implementation of infrastructure, and here digital transformation comes to the fore, as it enables the cloud – which in turn allows a company to become optimised, efficient and eco-conscious.”

He points out that for those entities seeking to be more sustainable, they can make a big impact by implement micro-computing as a replacement for their desktop computers.

“The sustainability benefits of this are enormous: a single desktop consumes an average of 170 watts of power, which means that each such device if running for eight hours a day, represents around 175kg of CO² emissions per annum. On the other hand, a typical micro-computer runs on only 15 watts of power, which equates to 13kg of CO² emissions per annum. Now extrapolate that difference over hundreds or even thousands of machines in an enterprise and you can see the massive and positive impact this can have on the environment.”

“It is the same during the manufacturing process, as a mini-computer only uses about 5% of the plastic and significantly fewer components than a desktop. This means it is less carbon-intensive to build and fewer components mean fewer deliveries required from third party suppliers, further reducing carbon within the supply chain.”

Even when it comes to transporting the devices, Nel indicates that a typical micro-computer is up to 20 times smaller than a desktop, vastly reducing the size of the vehicle required for deliveries, as well as the amount of plastic and packaging required.

Finally, he adds that from a disposal point of view, the comparative sizes mean that a micro-computer is far easier and less costly to dispose of than a desktop would be.

“What is needed for a business to truly become sustainable is most importantly a mentality change within the organisation – which is driven from the top-down – and includes a strategy that addresses all aspects of where there’s a carbon impact. This can be something as small as the CEO ensuring that the boardroom lights are switched off once a meeting ends. If employees see management undertaking little changes like this, they too will be more eager to become involved.”

“It is imperative that we all chip in and do our bit in this regard, as going green has never been more important. We currently generate 50 million tons of e-waste globally each year – which is the equivalent to throwing away 1000 laptops per second – so we need to change our approach to sustainability urgently,” concludes Nel.

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