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In common with many industries, information technology has seen a shift in emphasis over time away from pure innovation and advancement and toward greater environmental awareness. These two important priorities can come into conflict at times. Improving and developing the capability and scope of I.T. frequently gives rise to obsolescence, the enemy of green thinkers. With obsolescence comes the discarding of hardware and the manufacture of yet more products, each of which consumes its share of raw materials, thus depleting the planet’s resources.
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It isn’t surprising, therefore, that one of the goals of green information technology is to promote recycling. By doing so, individuals and organizations make several positive contributions. These include avoiding the dumping of the harmful components via landfill sites. Lead and mercury are both involved in the manufacture of computer hardware. Salvaging and re-using parts not only can stop their getting into the soil, these procedures also help to reduce the amount of new manufacturing being carried out.
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Goals of Green Information Technology
There are other goals of green information technology, most notably at the design and manufacturing stages. In all cases, four main aims are:
- to cut down to as little as possible the amount of energy used.
- to minimize the inclusion of harmful materials.
- to use as many biodegradable materials as possible.
- to extend as far as possible the life of the equipment.
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Energy-saving computers are increasingly being promoted, not least by respected bodies that each apply ratings to the products in the marketplace. One such organization is The Green Electronics Council. Federal agencies in the US are obliged to purchase equipment that qualifies under this council’s ratings scheme. Meanwhile, in the UK, government use of IT is under an obligation to obey a target by next year of being carbon-neutral. Measures like these improve the green credentials of the IT industry on a broader scale, as governments set an example for the commercial sector. But more importantly, there are tax incentives for industry and commerce to adhere to environmentally favorable goals.
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PC Manufacturing Stage – a Resource “Eater"
It is at the manufacturing stage, naturally enough, that a PC most consumes natural resources. Hence, extending the life of the equipment is easily the best method of reducing the impact on the environment of computer production. Better to manufacture a new RAM module for the user to upgrade his PC than to compel that user to acquire a new computer.
Energy -saving measures extend to the devising of algorithms that use up fewer computer resources. Put simply, algorithms play an important role in program optimization, which, in turn, concerns itself with keeping computing efficient. Where this really impacts on the environment is by deploying less electrical power. This is where programmers play a vital part. When they write code they are in a position to make decisions about the algorithms to use. The software’s efficiency depends above all on the designer’s choice of algorithm.
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You Can Help, Too
To ensure that the goals of green information technology are achieved, the continuing efforts of developers, researchers, manufacturing companies and end users everywhere are necessary. A part is played in all this by education. A workforce and general public who have been made aware of the ecological issues of their computing choices are in the best position to help make IT greener.
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GreenTechnology,org. Green Technology - What Is It? at http://www.green-technology.org/what.htm
BBC Mobile News. Technology - Mixed Results for Green IT Goals at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8131566.stm