Today we mark Earth Day, and hopefully remind everyone that they can play their part, not just today, but every day, to help preserve what is left of our planet and its natural resources. IT can do a lot to operate in a more green fashion – it will benefit the planet, and can save the company some hard-earned money too. To mark this year’s Earth Day, here are 18 tips for greener IT.
1. Use Energy Star rated hardware
Energy Star rated servers, workstations, monitors and printers use less power. Less power means lower energy bills, and less impact on the environment as well.
2. Use things for longer
There are times when you really need to upgrade hardware, but there are times when that four-year-old printer is still working fine. If a piece of hardware is in good working order, parts or consumables are still available for it, and it can be serviced when necessary or covered by an extended warranty, you can stretch its shelf life for another year or two. You’ll save money, avoid environment taxes (if they apply to your country) and you won’t have to dispose of device.
Recycle as much you can, from the cardboard boxes in which new gear is shipped in, to the hardware that you are retiring. Many schools, charities and other groups can make good use of retired but functioning used hardware. What cannot be given a second life, can be sent for recycling to retrieve precious metals, eliminate toxins and reduce waste destined for a landfill.
4. OEM packaging
When you do order hardware, get it shipped in OEM packaging whenever possible. This reduces the amount of paper, plastic and other packaging materials that you will have to deal with, and the plain cardboard most OEM packaging uses is much easier to recycle.
5. Enable power-saving settings on workstations
Use a Group Policy Object to enforce power saving features on all systems in your domain. You can set monitors to dim and then to power off, spin down hard drives, and put workstations into sleep mode, along with many other settings to help reduce power consumption. See http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc731700.aspx for some tips to getting a GPO for power-saving setup for your company.
6. Use power-saving mode on printers
Printers, especially laser printers, consume tons of electricity every year. Enable power saving mode to cut their power consumption in half (or more) which will also reduce their heat output, which means the air conditioner won’t have to work as hard either.
7. Take things off their chargers
Cellular phones, headsets, cordless mice and keyboards and other portable electronics that recharge should be taken off their charger when they are fully topped off to save electricity, and heat. Per device it’s not much but if everyone did it every day, that little bit can add up quickly.
8. Run your datacenter just a little bit hotter
Believe it or not, you don’t have to run your datacenter as cold as a walk-in deep freezer. Many of the largest names in IT are running their datacenters warmer than their employees’ work areas, saving millions of dollars a year in cooling costs, and greatly reducing their carbon footprint. What really counts is not how hot or cold but if the temperature is constant. If you check your fans regularly and have monitors for systems in case their fans stop, you can run systems at temperatures people would consider hot and be just fine. You probably don’t want to run things at 35C, but 25C is just fine and can save you significantly in cooling and electricity costs.
If you need another reason to start virtualizing systems, it’s to be greener. Fewer hardware devices means lower space requirements, lower electricity consumption, less cooling, and less material to dump when they are retired. Virtualizing systems is a great way to still provide teams or project workloads with dedicated systems, while taking advantage of the greater processing power available in host systems.
Consolidating jobs on physical servers can also save on power consumed, cooling required, space in the racks and ultimately in the landfill. If you aren’t a fan of virtualization, you can still go green by consolidating workloads. Do you really need a dedicated print server, or can your file server do that too? Domain controllers are typically very underutilized, and can run DNS, DHCP, IPAM, and WINS services without having to grant any additional user rights. Look around and see what other services you could consolidate. You will find lots of ways to save money and go green.
11. Smart printing
Tons of paper is wasted each year on cover sheets, duplicate jobs, unclaimed jobs, and so on. Reduce printing waste with “sign in required” printers that won’t print a job until the owner is there to collect it. Push out draft mode and double-sided mode as default profiles to save on toner/ink and paper. Use recycled paper as much as possible and make sure there are recycle bins for unused or print jobs left behind. Come down heavily on those who print PowerPoint decks or lots of emails unless they really need to. Printing less saves trees, toner and electricity.
12. Switch to fax server software
One of the least smart printing jobs is to print faxes. Traditional fax machines print out received jobs to paper. To send a fax, users have to print it out and then feed it into the fax machine. In many cases, all that paper is thrown into the bin, but in other circumstances it then has to be filed and kept forever. Switch to fax server software so that incoming faxes are delivered directly to users’ inboxes. Employees can also send faxes as easily as they send an email, saving all that paper and toner/ink, and getting rid of all those legacy fax machines that just take up space and consume electricity.
13. Use power strips with switches
Tell employees to not only shut down their machines but also to push that little button on the monitors. It is such a waste of electricity for nothing. If no one heeds the instruction, use a power strip with an on/off switch, and make it policy to plug everything into that. Then, at the end of the day, they can hit one button and power off their monitor, lava lamp, cellphone charger and all the other little things that suck power all night long.
Whether you are going to work, to lunch, to training, to the datacenter, or to another office, carpooling is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint and impact on the environment. A car with four people generates a lot less pollution than four cars with one driver each. In many locations you will even be able to take the HOV or carpool dedicated lanes, lowering commute times and helping you save on gas. Every bit helps you and the environment.
A great way to reduce environmental impact and boost employee morale is to allow telecommuting. You can allow your staff to work from home on some days or else whenever they want. Not only will they be happier but it saves on gas, car running costs and the need to get up early. You’re also reducing the number of cars on the road. Two cars may not make a huge difference on paper, but if most companies did the same, you’d see how the overall environmental impact will be reduced.
Many airlines are now publishing the CO2 load of flights, just to let you know the impact that business trip has on the environment. Onsite meetings are important and sometimes cannot be avoided. However, why not use web conferencing if both parties agree and there is no need to be in one office? If you have a good internet connection, the meeting should be a breeze. You just don’t shake hands with them.
17. The cloud
Between economies of scale, new technologies and orders of efficiency, cloud service providers can do the job just as well as an on-premise product can – but at a lower cost and overall impact on the environment. Sometimes you can’t do away with your on-premise software, but if certain tasks can be managed using a cloud-service, it’s worth doing so. Save time, save money, save on hardware, costly licensing… the list goes on.
Never overlook the importance of good preventative maintenance. Whether you are blowing dust out of systems, replacing air filters on HVAC units, keeping drain tubes unclogged, or verifying the integrity of the fuel tanks on your generators, preventative maintenance can help you avoid costly repairs, unanticipated outages, and ensure that all equipment runs as cleanly and efficiently as possible. This too has a tangible positive impact on the environment.
If you have any other tips to share on how to keep your IT office as green as possible, leave a comment below!