Easy IT Strategies that Save Money and Help the Environment
Smart information technology (IT) practices can reduce the environmental impact of conducting business, and help small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) reduce expenses.
With employee awareness and participation, even the busiest SMB can adopt simple "green" strategies that require little to no additional equipment or labor expenditures. Consider these enviro-friendly IT strategies:
Turn It Off
Reducing electricity consumption can help your business save money and the environment. U.S. computers used nearly 64 billion kilowatt hours of energy in 2005, costing over $6 billion, according to GreenIT, a consultancy focused on sustainable solutions for IT systems. Some solutions:
- Activate the sleep settings on idle monitors and PCs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates this action can save up to $75 per computer in annual power costs. From one management console, IT staff can use commercial software to control the power management features in networked computers.
- Replace power-hungry cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors and televisions with more efficient Light-Emitting Diode (LED) monitors.
- Converge multiple networks into a single infrastructure to reduce the number of devices (and power they consume), miles of wiring, and ultimately, amount of electric and electronic waste (WEEE, or e-waste); another benefit is more efficient centralized management.
- Deploy wireless networks to facilitate more flexible work environments and reduce cabling and power requirements.
- Choose Electronic Products Environmental Assessment (EPEAT)-registered products. The manufacturers declare, and EPEAT periodically verifies, that registered products conform to the IEEE 1680 environmental performance standard.
- Purchase IT products that perform several functions instead of one. They are easier to manage, cost less, and use less power than multiple single-purpose devices. For example, the functionality of seven separate devices--router, firewall, VPN, Power over Ethernet switch, WiFi access point, telephony gateway, and voice messaging—is available in one Cisco platform for small businesses.
Throttle Back Employee Transport
- Encourage secure telecommuting by implementing VPN-based solutions.
- Perform training, sales presentations, project collaboration, and other group activities by using telepresence technology, which reduce travel time and expenses as well as greenhouse gas emissions. By presenting a sales pitch with a customer as an online conference, one executive not flying from New York to London can save 2,690 pounds of carbon dioxide from jet fuel, according to WebEx, a Cisco subsidiary which offers SMBs a range of on-demand collaboration software. Use the WebEx CarbonCalculator to estimate the time, cost, and carbon dioxide incurred by employee car and air travel. To cut carbon, SMBs with a converged IP network can use telepresence applications that combine audio, video, and interactive elements; other SMBs can use WebEx subscription-based services.
Don't Throw It Away
E-waste is a sinister problem: it's loaded with toxic metals and organic chemicals that contaminate soil, water, and air. Europeans produce between 17 and 20 kilos of WEEE per capita each year, reports the EU Directorate-General for the Environment. Until recently, over 90% of it was buried in landfill sites, incinerated, or recovered without any treatment. In the United States, there are over 500 million obsolete computers, and only 10% of them are properly recycled, reports the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. Some solutions:
- Return end-of-life products in the EU to their producers. EU WEEE Directives require electronics vendors to take back their products for proper toxics disposal and component recycling; consumers may return their products free of charge. Some IT producers that do business in the EU plan to extend WEEE-type disposal and recycling programs to customers outside the EU.
- Dispose of other e-waste at government-certified facilities that are licensed for both hazardous waste disposal and recycling; some of them charge a fee.