Green computing charter – edging closer to a green RFP

Posted on June 8, 2007


Continuing the search for a Green computing RFP, Colin Boswell from IRBS points us to the Green Computing Charter.

The charter is described as:

a seven point charter designed to provide chief information officers (CIOs) and IT managers with environmental goals that can be applied to their business.

Announced in August 2006, the charter has wide backing in the UK. They have taken an approach that clearly aims to marry environmental concerns/action with business finances:

But the Green Computing campaign is about more just than the worthwhile goal of making a contribution to reducing the threat of global warming and environmental damage.

The real impact is financial.

According to the Carbon Trust, a PC left on all day will cost about £37 a year. But if switched off at night and at weekends, this drops to nearer £10 a year and saves an equivalent amount of energy to making 34,900 cups of coffee. That is one PC.

Office equipment is the fastest growing area of energy use, currently accounting for up to 20 per cent of total output.

And that does not even take into account the increasing cost of air conditioning as more and more powerful processors are squeezed into ever-smaller spaces.

Green computing is simply best practice computing.

This is good stuff. It lifts environmental concerns out of the morass of “yes we would but business comes first”.

The Green Computing Charter includes the includes the following set of guidelines for improving an organisation’s green credentials and for reducing ICT related costs:

  1. find out how much energy your IT systems use and monitor ongoing consumption levels
  2. ensure unused equipment is turned off when it is not being used
  3. educate staff to the benefits of saving energy and recycling
  4. establish a code of practice designed to minimise unnecessary printing
  5. identify IT management practices that reduce power consumption
  6. when purchasing new IT equipment, choose energy-saving devices that have been manufactured in an environmentally conscious fashion
  7. dispose of old hardware responsibly; send old PCs to be reconditioned and recycled.

My only real problem with this is that it is a quite restricted subset of sustainability: with a nod to reduced printing, the charter is focused strongly on energy use. What about reducing packaging; choices about open source (coming soon); notions of sustainable software development; toxins; empowerment; equity; a business model based on selling new equipment; supply chain effects; etc etc.

Rather than a charter that tries to specify all the possible variations on what a sustainable IT practitioner might have to consider, I’d like to see some bigger picture statements. Without this the Green Computing Charter, having only a subset, leaves me with little confidence that a green charter company can be truly sustainable.