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Explaining Green Computing

written by: Bruce Tyson•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 5/10/2011

Green computing is in the news a lot and is often a buzzword at trade shows and sales meetings, but what does the term "green computing" really mean? Here we look at the essential concepts involved with green computing to help readers differentiate between hype and reality.

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    Defining Green Computing

    Green computing seeks to minimize the environmental impact of information technologies. This is done by implementing several core 599px-The Earth seen from Apollo 17 (1) concepts that impact products which are deployed in the business environment and how those products are managed.

    Here we look at core concepts of green computing that help can help form the basis of any environmentally sustainable business model.

    Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/NASA

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    Virtualization

    By allowing multiple servers to function on a single hardware platform, fewer servers are needed to support the enterprise. Virtualization, therefore, has multiple "green" aspects that help make modern businesses environmentally sustainable. These aspects are as follows:

    1. Power conservation. Although servers that host virtualized resources are not necessarily more energy efficient than a standalone server, the reduced number of servers required to support a business or data center reduces power demands by default.

    2. Manufacturing. Because fewer servers are required to support modern businesses, this reduces the amount of raw materials that must be extracted from the earth. Additionally, recycled materials can be used in green computing products to induce further reductions in resources required for the manufacturing process.

    3. External factors. Some of the benefits of virtualization are incidental with implementation. Fewer physical servers means less space is needed to perform the same functions. This reduces the scope required for buildings, further reducing the footprint of a business on the environment. Virtualization typically reduces IT staffing requirements, taking more commuters and off the road.

    Virtualization obviously carries enormous potential as a key concept of green computing, making it possible for companies to enjoy enormous cost savings in addition to environmental sustainability.

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    eWaste and Recycling

    Greenpeace and other organizations have been instrumental in drawing attention to the adverse affects of discarded computer equipment has had on the earth. Waste has contaminated ground and water in some of the poorest parts of the world, resulting in untold human misery and potentially irreversible damage to the environment.

    Fortunately, the awareness of the impact of electronic waste has allowed businesses to develop new procedures for recycling that help keep the environment free of toxins while reducing the need for new raw materials in the manufacturing process.

    Green computing uses recycled materials in the creation of new devices while paving the way for recycling those devices when they reach their end of life.

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    Conservation

    The final concept of green computing we mention here is the overall conservation effort. Green computing must use power efficiently, reducing demand over non-green devices. This mandates power management technology that reduces electricity use while devices are idle.

    The government's Energy Star program has set forth criteria defining power requirements that help define when computing devices are green. Although these requirements may not define the maximum power savings possible, they help IT manufacturers and consumers alike determine what devices may be considered as environmentally friendly.

    Other concepts involving conservation are also at play. For example, technologies that facilitate telecommuting are green because they help reduce the consumption of fossil fuels by commuting workers and the associated pollution emanating from motor vehicles.

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    Conclusion

    Equipment that does not conform to the concepts of green computing mentioned here may not be green at all. To be green, computing devices must have a minimal impact on the environment throughout their life cycle. For example, it is hard to consider power-efficient devices manufactured using environmentally destructive processes to be green indeed.

    It is, therefore, the responsibility of businesses and consumers to purchase and use equipment that adheres to as many green concepts as possible.

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    References

    "Where does e-waste end up?",http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/toxics/electronics/the-e-waste-problem/where-does-e-waste-end-up/

    "Computer key product data" http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=computers.pr_crit_computers