The Phases of the Green IT Life Cycle
The life cycle has distinct phases. Understanding what happens in each phase will dramatically improve the way you manage the negative environmental impact of your computing. The phases of Green IT are:
- Mining and Manufacturing ('Build')
- Buying and Using
- Recycling or Disposal
Transportation is also a factor, because it takes place between each phase. Mined materials are transported for refinement and then on to factories. From the factory (perhaps in China, but almost certainly remote from where you are if you're reading this in North America or Western Europe), your newly built computer, phone or tablet is then transported to a warehouse and a retail outlet, and finally to your home.
If we add together all of the potential environmental impacts of these activities we can see that the energy used to power our computers once we've bought them is only one isolated factor in the bigger Green IT picture.
The total carbon emissions involved in the Green IT life cycle are known as 'embedded emissions'. Socially responsible companies want to reduce these embedded emissions, and so should we. But as we'll see, there are other environmental and even ethical issues involved for the conscious consumer of computing.
Let's go through each of the Green IT life cycle phases individually, note the environmental issues at each stage, and how we can challenge them.