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IT industry needs to clean up its footprint

5 December 2007

IT industry needs to clean up its footprint - Greens

A British report into the environmental impacts of the IT industry claims that computer servers are at least as much of a threat to the environment as SUV's or the aviation industry.

"While IT can be an environmental saviour if it increases resource efficiency, it can also have considerable environmental costs," says Green Party Environment and IT Spokesperson Nandor Tanczos.

A medium sized server has a similar carbon footprint as a 15 mile to the gallon SUV, and requires as much energy to cool it as to run it. It's estimated that to manufacture one PC requires 1.7 tonnes of raw materials and water and consumes over ten times its weight in fossil fuels.

The report, 'An Inefficient Truth', states that the more than 1 billion computers on the planet are responsible for about 2 percent of human carbon dioxide emissions a year - a similar figure to the global airline industry.

"High levels of energy consumption are exacerbated by the problem of e-waste, with significant numbers of computers ending up in landfills at the end of life," Nandor says.

"This report should wake people up. We don't know what the comparable figures are for New Zealand, but households and businesses wanting to cut their carbon footprint can do a lot to reduce the impacts of their IT use."

The good news is there are many simple measures that will reduce these disturbing environmental impacts:

* Turn off computers at the wall when not in use.

* Use 'sleep mode' rather than screen savers.

* Server virtualisation - each server removed represents a reduction of approximately 3.35t CO2 emissions per annum (assuming a four year life).

* Desktop virtualisation - putting ultra-small, completely secure thin clients on the desktop. A thin client running to the maximum desktop functionality utilising all peripheral ports consumes up to 15 times less power than a conventional desktop.

* Technology upgrade - when upgrading or introducing new technology organisations should discuss energy efficiency with vendors.

* Integrated Telephony - IP telephony enables a number of new technologies such as tele-working and soft phone capabilities while removing the need to have a separate power-consuming PABX system.

* Optimisation of Resource Use - For example, developing optimisation and automation programs that perform non essential functions outside of peak power consumptions periods.


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