Greening Up Your it Department

by : Stephen J. Richards

We all want to improve our environment, and especially now, we want to be more conscientious of how our actions affect our planet. Taking simple steps in your place of business is no different than making steps at home. It is all a matter of paying attention to what you have and how you will use it or even dispose of it. This is especially true for IT departments that are faced with recycling computers, printers, telephones and other electronic equipment that can be hazardous to the environment.

To start making improvements to your IT department, you may want to create a baseline report demonstrating your current carbon footprint. By starting with a baseline you can then make decisions regarding priorities and cost. In creating your baseline report you can follow these steps:

1. Energy Consumption Report - How much energy does all of the electrical equipment in your department use on an annual basis? You can find industry averages through the Department of Energy.

In addition to the energy consumed when operating the PC, take into account the heating, cooling, and ventilation requirements necessary to operate your network. This can account for a major source of green impact. According to IDC, 48 cents of every dollar spent on a new server goes to power and cooling.

2. Disposal Practices - What are your current hardware disposal practices? Does your organization utilize a certified PC recycler, who ensures toxic and hazardous materials inside the PC or monitor are disposed of properly? Do you participate in the server manufacturer's disposal program where parts are returned to them for reuse whenever possible? Account for resale or donation programs as well in your catalog.

3. Hardware Lifecycle and Acquisitions - The final step in creating your baseline is to catalog your acquisition and PC lifecycle practices. Understanding the average lifespan of a PC in your organization will help to determine how to consider the environmental impact of manufacturing a PC. Note the average refresh cycle of your organization's desktop, as well as the current lifespan of servers. Include any significant upgrade or replacement plans in the next 12 to 24 months. In this step also take note of any consideration your organization gives to green manufacturing practices during the purchasing process.

Once you have created your baseline report, you can begin to outline objectives on how to improve your department. On objective may be to replace desktop units with those that operate with more energy efficiency. In the past IT has been faced with an either-or decision regarding PC power management.

Desktop managers needed access to networked PCs for general maintenance and urgent security updates. Inconsistencies between
operating systems and software applications or network security issues made waking machines from a lower power setting such as sleep or hibernate inconsistent and unreliable. Conservative estimates put wasted energy consumption of unused computers at a third of the overall consumption.

Second, ensuring proper disposal and recycling of the insides of your IT hardware is an important environmental tactic. More than
1,000 chemicals used during electronics production are considered health hazards or toxins. According to a recent e-Week article, these toxins, such as lead, mercury, and cadmium have been linked to cancer, reproductive problems and other illnesses.

Third, using battery free or rechargeable batteries in your mice can also help with this disposal problem. Each year, Americans throw away 84,000 tons of alkaline batteries. These AA, C and D cells that power electronic toys and games, portable audio equipment and a wide range of other gadgets comprise 20% of the household hazardous materials present around the country in America's landfills.

Last, reviewing your current recycle and disposal program to ensure that all recyclable parts are returned to the manufacturer, and that equipment bound for disposal is not sent to countries with less-stringent regulation is another green strategy that has significant impact and is easy to implement.

Any of the above steps or objectives along with objectives you might discover that will help your IT department become more environmentally conscientious will be of help, no matter how large or small. It just starts with a plan.