“… There is a world of difference between what computers can do and what society will choose to do with them.” – Seymour Papert, Mindstorms
"Going Green" is a rising trend establishing itself as the preferred way of doing things while saving the environment. This now appears in a large number of aspects in our lives, such as recycling, energy-efficient devices, clean energy sources, eco-friendly vehicles, green buildings.
Computing has also established its share to contribute to saving the environment under the concept "Green Computing". Green computing is the environmentally responsible and eco-friendly use of computers and their resources. In broader terms, it is also defined as the study of designing, engineering, manufacturing, using and disposing of computing devices in a way that reduces their environmental impact. Green Computing, also known as Green Technology or Green IT, has quickly emerged as the most effective means of utilising technology.
How Green Computing benefits the environment?
In basic terms, Green Computing involves reducing the environmental impact of technology. That means using less energy, reducing waste and promoting sustainability. Green computing aims to reduce the carbon footprint generated by the Information Technology and Systems business and related industries. Energy-efficiency and e-waste are two major techniques involved in green computing. Energy efficiency involves implementation of energy-efficient central processing units (CPUs), servers and peripherals as well as reduced resource consumption. And e-waste is the proper disposal of electronic waste.
Why Green Computing?
If we think computers are non-polluting and consume very little energy, in fact the use of computer plays a big role in environment pollution. It is estimated that out of $250 billion per year spent on powering computers worldwide only about 15% of that power is spent computing, the rest is wasted idling (i.e. consumed by computers which are not in use but still turned ON). That consumed energy is the main reason of CO2 emission, thus, energy saved on computer hardware and computing will equate tonnes of carbon emissions saved per year.
It started back in 1992, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the Energy Star program, a controlled labelling program to promote and recognise energy-efficiency. The Energy Star label has now certified more than 75 different product categories, homes, commercial buildings and industrial plants. The program has also resulted in the widespread adoption of sleep mode among electronics' consumers.
Following that, a large number of initiatives have been launched to promote Green Computing by the governments, industry and environmental NGOs. The IT industry is putting efforts in all its sectors to achieve Green Computing. Equipment recycling, reduction of paper usage, virtualisation, cloud computing, power management, green manufacturing are the key initiatives towards Green Computing.
A recent example is seen in Intel's 2030 strategy. Intel has been committed to continued progress on achieving net positive water use, 100% green power and zero waste to landfills across Intel's global manufacturing operations. Further, Intel has also included one highly unique component: "shared" climate and social goals - that require collaboration with industries, governments and communities. Simply stated, the goals are:
- Revolutionise health and safety with technology.
- Make technology fully inclusive and expand digital readiness.
- Achieve carbon-neutral computing to address climate change.
Because "one company can't solve climate change" according to Intel CEO Bob Swan, Intel is marking a new era of shared corporate responsibility and collaboration. In the press release publicising the new initiative, Swan noted: "The world is facing challenges that we understand better each day as we collect and analyse more data, but they go unchecked without a collective response - from climate change to deep digital divides around the world to the current pandemic that has fundamentally changed all our lives. We can solve them, but only by working together."
Greening of technology has a potential role to play in enhancing environmental sustainability by making the entire product life cycle of technologies and products greener, including research, manufacturing, use and disposal.
- Green design: Designing energy-efficient computers, servers, printers, projectors and other digital devices.
- Green manufacturing: Minimising waste during the manufacturing of computers and other subsystems to reduce the environmental impact of these activities.
- Green use: Minimising the electricity consumption of computers and their peripheral devices and using them in an eco-friendly manner.
- Green disposal: Repurposing existing equipment or appropriately disposing of, or recycling, unwanted electronic equipment.
Green Computing has an optimistic future for saving the environment with ample avenues for making it possible. Hope we move forward with the goal of efficient computing while making the earth greener.
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