5 green computing ideas to revolutionise your organisation
The onus on businesses and organisations to be more sustainable is greater than ever before. A new generation of employees increasingly demands that businesses take action on climate change, and strive for carbon neutrality. For most businesses, achieving this means a dramatic overhaul of their processes and infrastructure, something that can obviously be costly.
This isn’t always the case, however. There are some changes you can make to your organisation that can not only address sustainability in a meaningful way, but also have the potential to save you money – and IT is a prime example. Here are four green computing ideas that could revolutionise your organisation, achieving efficiency gains and meeting your obligations to the planet.
What is green computing?
Green computing is the idea of making IT more sustainable. While it may not seem like it deserves its own terminology, making IT environmentally friendly is a multifaceted process. On the one hand, you have the energy requirements of IT, which in many cases are rising dramatically. On the other hand, you have the manufacturing and disposal of IT equipment, and the impact that has on the environment.
More and more data needs to be stored, which requires a greater number of data centres and computers. Recent trends in PC hardware have also seen computers becoming more power hungry than ever, in a bid to push performance as far as possible. Creating most computers and other IT hardware meanwhile requires rare minerals, and involves an often energy consuming and polluting manufacturing process.
Green computing looks to address these issues on an individual level. While there may be no way to dictate industry trends in terms of power consumption, resource consumption or electronic waste, green computing allows businesses to address their role as consumers, and make a positive impact on the world. With enough support, green computing initiatives have a realistic chance to change the market, and reduce the amount and types of hardware being produced.
The first bit of good news is that green computing is something that’s increasingly being supported by governments around the world. The recent addition of a ‘right to repair’ in EU and UK law has made it illegal for companies to build in obsolescence – the idea of hardware that’s designed to fail after a set period of time – as of July 2021, and made it mandatory that ‘professional repairers’ should have access to the parts needed to fix electronics. The EU is also planning further consumer rights amendments to help consumers make more eco-friendly choices.
This prevents companies from making themselves the only official means of repairing a device, holding a monopoly which they can use to jack up prices, and encouraging people to just buy a new device instead of fixing their old one. As a result, the EU and UK hope to encourage people to fix devices more regularly instead of abandoning them, and contributing to the issue of electrical waste, which not only leads to products going to landfill, but also environmental damage from mining the minerals needed for many electronic components.
The second thing to note is that many employees are increasingly demanding changes to sustainability practices. Green computing can be an easy win in this regard, albeit one that has to be carefully managed. Using devices beyond their sell-by date can have a negative impact on productivity as they slow down and splutter – but by upgrading parts of a device and selling or recycling the old ones, you can reduce waste while maintaining the power of the PC.
How to implement green computing
School technicians have been replacing components in PC & laptops for years in order to extend the life of their equipment, but this isn’t common to all working environments. Even here, technicians have become increasingly frustrated with the design of products, and their lack of repair options.
The right to repair law promises to address this, but refurbishing and upgrading computers isn’t the only thing you can do. Some other green computing ideas include:
The first thing to look at is the money you invest in new devices, and what the roadmap for these devices is. If you’re buying Mac computers, for instance, you’re buying them with the proviso that you won’t be able to upgrade them later down the line, such as you could do with a Windows or Linux PC. As such, you need to think about the longevity of the devices and how you may be using them two or three years down the line. In this case, it may be prudent to pay more for a higher spec to ensure it lasts longer.
If you’re buying something proprietary such as a tablet or phone, think about how well supported it is likely to be, and thus how long it will be usable for, at least in a secure manner. A manufacturer like Apple or Samsung is more likely to support their device for longer and push security updates compared to a cheaper brand. A lack of updates may also pose compatibility issues for software, preventing you from using programs that are vital to your business unless you retain an insecure version of the operating system.
Chrome OS screencast
A popular budget option for schools and other institutions is Chrome OS, Google’s lightweight and flexible operating system. Using Chrome OS allows you to freshen up an otherwise dated bit of hardware, as well as providing an up-to-date and intuitive interface for student laptops and PCs. One of the many features that supports green computing is the new Screencast app built into Chrome OS, which allows teachers to record, trim, transcribe, and share lessons or demos, building a custom library of recorded educational content.
Having created a lesson or demo, teachers can add screenshots and resources, and use a touchscreen or stylus to add handwritten notes and illustrate concepts. The flexibility of Screencast also empowers students to create their own recorded reports, share ideas and things they’ve learned, and access lessons easily on Google Drive. This integrated approach to learning levels up low-spec laptops by hosting resources in the Cloud, allowing schools and other institutions to get more out of limited hardware.
Manufacturers are aware of the demand for more sustainable products, and are increasingly adapting their processes to match. Many component manufacturers now use recycled plastics to make their products and packaging, while companies such as Dell have committed to a circular design process, where resources continually circulate through a process of recycling and reuse.
Dell’s ultimate goal is to achieve a zero-waste cycle, where every aspect of their products is recyclable, and everything finds its way back to them, with no electrical products going to landfill. A majority of phone manufacturers now offer cashback schemes for their old goods, both as a means to improve their eco credentials, and a way to recover the rare elements used to manufacture them – allowing them to meet ever-growing demand.
Not to be confused with refurbished equipment, remanufacturer equipment restores laptops and other devices to an as-new condition, retaining 99% of the original components on average. Circular Computing are currently the world’s only BS 8887 accredited remanufacturing company, though interest in the concept is growing.
Through their commitment to extending the life of devices, Circular not only eliminates waste – everything they don’t use is stored or recycled – but also avoids the resource depletion and CO2 output of traditional manufacturing. While remanufacturing may not be available to every business, even refurbishment can contribute to green computing in a tangible way.
In an ideal world, the best and easiest way to implement green computing is to not throw things away! Unfortunately, the reality is that electronic devices do need to be phased out from time to time. The system requirements of operating systems and software change over time, and things like image and video editing often require top-end hardware. In these instances, the best course of action is to replace individual components with newer ones, selling on or recycling the bits you get rid of.
In some cases, however, you may be able to give old hardware a new lease of life. A computer or laptop might slow down over time due to degrading components or the increasing demands of modern software, but this can also be down to an overstuffed harddrive, or a bloated operating system. By converting you PC or laptop into a Chrome device using ChromeOS Flex, or installing a lightweight Linux distro such as antiX, you can squeeze another couple of years out of a device that seems dead on its feet.
Sota is experienced in providing economical IT solutions for businesses looking to make affordable upgrades, and maintain their IT systems in a cost-effective way. To learn more about our products and services, get in touch with us today.