The first step toward the green computing movement was the commencement of the Energy Star program in 1992. This served as a voluntary label that was awarded to computer products that were successful in proving that they used minimum energy while maximizing efficiency. The rating was awarded to monitors, refrigerators, television sets, air conditioners, and other household appliances.
The first result of green computing research resulted in the Sleep mode function for computer monitors. This function allows the computer to enter standby mode after a pre-set period passes without any user activity. After this, various concepts like energy cost accounting, thin client solutions, eWaste, and virtualization were developed.
Green computing is commonly referred to as Green IT. The idea is to ensure the least human impact on the environment. Apart from this, it aims to achieve environmental sustainability.
In simple language, green computing is the scientific study of efficient and effective designing, manufacturing, using, disposing, and recycling of computers and computer related products like servers, network systems, communication systems, monitors, USBs, printers, etc. The study uses science to create technologies that help to preserve natural resources and reduce the harmful impact on the environment.
These four pathways focus on various activities such as:
Power Management - This feature means conservation of power used by all electrical appliances. Many appliances now come with a power saving/management feature as well. Devices with this feature automatically turn off the power or switch the appliance to a low power state when not being used.
Energy Efficient Computing - Computers have a fan / heater-like component inside them. The energy waste of computers is increasing by the day. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of this. Energy waste is leading to a climatic change from burning coal and oil. Learn how to buy an energy-efficient computer.
Remediation of Environmental Pollutants - This deals with reducing and removing pollution or contaminants from groundwater, soil, surface water, or sediments.
Server Virtualization - This is popularly known as VPS and is commonly used to split the server. The idea is to use one server which connects to many individual computers. This development has been seen in software, technology, and other types of architecture virtualization.
Sewage Treatment - This wastewater treatment involves removing of contaminants from waste water and sewage. Various chemical and biological processes are used to remove chemicals and other contaminants.
Efficient Disposal/Waste Management - This is the collection, processing, recycling, and disposal of waste materials.
Efficient Recycling - Reusing products is much better than letting them stay in landfills.
Regulatory Compliance - A strategy must be designed by governments, which would offer rules for curbing waste management, reducing pollution, and stringent penalties for non compliance.
Recycling and Water Purification - This is the process of removing all unneeded materials and contaminants from water. The water is then used for drinking or fulfilling specific requirements for medical, chemical and other uses.
Green Metrics and Methodology - It is important to quantify sustainability and environmental performance to help reach our goals.
Renewable Resources - Use of renewable sources of energy such as solar power and wind to serve purposes like heating, cooking, etc.
Eco-Labelling of IT Products - More companies should design their products so they receive the eco-label. Consumers must check for the eco-label before investing their resources in a particular IT product.
Thin Client Solutions - Thin client is also known as a lean client solution, and requires computers to depend on another computer or server to function.
Going Green at Work
Organizations all over the world are beginning to understand their corporate social responsibility toward the environment. Most companies now believe in conserving energy and power and using environmentally friendly products that help in reducing their carbon footprint. In fact, in many organizations, the need for green computing is put at the top of the agenda. Nowadays, it is imperative for all sized organizations to implement aspects of green computing in their daily workings.
Organizations must follow these simple steps for creating the green computing awareness in their workplaces.
- Announcing green intentions to all employees.
- Setting up a committee to form a green IT plan.
- Centralization of all desktops.
- Using efficient computer applications.
- Power management tactics.
- Business performance enhancement.
The most common actions organizations have undertaken are:
- Virtualization: Virtualization is the consolidation of servers and systems to reduce power consumption and energy utilization. It leads to usage of more than one system on a single piece of physical hardware. This allows for minimum power consumption and maximum cooling.
- Power Saving: Industry standards like ACPI design and manufacture computer components in such a way that they result in power controlling and saving.
- Telecommuting: Employees working from home reduce the fuel emission created during commuting by vehicles. Moreover, there is reduction in overhead costs on utilities, etc. All of these initiatives result in increased power and energy savings.
- VoIP: VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and results in less telephone wiring and lower costs.
Wrap Up and the Future
Green computing is extremely popular. It is not only seen as an organizational responsibility but is also the responsibility that must be undertaken by all computer users. Home computer owners must also resort to green computing practices to make the environment more sustainable.
Future trends are also using computers and Living Machines such as the one developed by Worrell Water Technologies, where entire buildings and even municipalities can recycle wastewater for continuous use - all controlled by specially designed computers with a goal toward saving on another precious resource: water!
Check out Bright Hub’s five-part series on green computing, which covers everything from electronic waste to green grids to VoIP and more.
Worrell Water Technologies - How Living Machines Work
Screenshot of Living Machines used by permission from Worrell Water Technologies
Green Computing - Microsoft Research - The Architecture Journal