Data CentresData centres around the world consume around 3 percent of all of the electricity used in the world. This is equal to 40 percent more than the UK’s total consumption, and it contributes around 2 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. The reliance of industries on data centres is only expected to increase over the upcoming decades, which will lead to greater environmental damage. However, there are ways that this can be managed more effectively, and new initiatives have been started to identify and enforce best practices in data centre management. This involves reducing the amount of space and energy used and waste created, which can be achieved by taking certain measures, such as installing efficient energy systems and sealing holes in data centre rooms. Some data centres are committed to using renewable energy and following environmentally-friendly practices, such as Iron Mountain, which has centres in Europe and North America.
Hardware disposalWe can all try to recycle, save on carbon emissions and plant trees, but IT hardware that needs to be regularly updated will leave materials that can be harmful to the environment. Phones, computers and printers may contain toxic heavy metals like mercury, lead and cadmium. As things stand, only a small proportion of e-waste is recycled every year. But now there are more services for the disposal of IT hardware that use eco-friendly practices. When engaging one of these services, it’s a good idea to check they are ICO registered and approved by the Environmental Agency. They will usually repurpose and reuse any hardware they can, then send any recyclable materials to a recycling plant. Most parts can either be reclaimed or recycled, and all parts are disposed of responsibly. These services will usually arrange the collection of unused hardware and not charge for its disposal. The remaining data is also securely erased with specialist equipment.
LeadershipChanges cannot happen without leaders to implement them. Businesses need to make environmental issues and energy efficiency a priority so that IT managers and CIOs can lead the way with the best IT practices. It may be motivated by concerns for the environment or saving energy costs, but ideally these should both be important. With strong and inspiring leadership that demonstrates the benefits of energy management, energy-saving practices will be better integrated into operations. Many objectives in energy efficiency can be relatively easy to achieve, but this first needs to be made a priority for the IT department. Similar to data centres, cooling systems are key to reducing energy, as is the alignment of energy with capital costs. As the use of energy by computing systems increases the costs also rise, so this can be an extra incentive for saving energy. While most companies may be mainly motivated by saving costs, the outcome is still good news for the environment.
Green businessIn the business landscape of today, activities and practices that are green and environmentally conscious are well received by the consumer. In the same way, start-ups and small businesses offering products and services that provide value to the environment are popular for the positive efforts they are making. IT departments can make valuable contributions to environmental sustainability, and this is also enforced by new environmental regulations. But a policy that practices sustainability for conscious reasons is preferable to merely following regulations. From another perspective, information technology can incorporate the use of data analysis and material use for implementing operational controls to attain an optimal level of environmental sustainability. With a greater emphasis on finding the best green practices, companies are looking for every possible way to deliver products and services that use renewable energy sources, leave zero waste and even give something back to the environment. Running a business that is sustainable, environmentally friendly and leaving a minimal footprint is something that we should all try to achieve. This has only relatively recently become an important issue for IT departments, but the environmental impact of technology is considerable. In order to realise a world that is greener, cleaner and healthier, we all need to make a special effort.
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