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Benefits of Green Computing

Food for Thought: Benefits and Action Plans for Green Computing

As energy crisis deepens and the resources deplete, we need to seriously think about making substantial changes in our lifestyle for energy conservation. Green computing is one way of dealing with the energy crisis. It is possible to reduce carbon emissions, save energy and protect the environment as a whole with this approach.
Shashank Nakate
Office with computer and stationery
Quick Fact!
Vampire power is the term used in reference with consumption of electricity by electronic devices while they are in the stand-by or switched-off mode.

Green computing is the practice of using computers and related technology in an environmentally responsible manner. It aims at radically changing the way we go about computing, using the electronic devices and following strict energy conservation guidelines, so as to minimize the damage caused to the environment by computers. This activity is not just limited to saving electricity, but also takes a holistic approach towards environment-friendly use of computers. Devising innovative and environment-conscious techniques for energy generation is also one of its aspects.
Advantages of Green Computing

There are many innovative technologies and tools which make green computing a viable option for judicious energy usage and environmental conservation. The advantages offered by such technologies are discussed in these points.
Cloud Computing
Touted as a technology that could save substantial amount of energy, cloud computing involves replacing regular servers with the virtual ones. The different areas where cloud computing finds application include data storage, networking, operating systems, software applications. As per studies conducted by the WSP Environment & Energy, it is possible to save as much as 90% of the energy spent in a company of 100 employees. The AT&T-supported Carbon Disclosure Project reported that big US corporations can save as much as $12.3 billion (by the year 2020) if they resort to the use of cloud computing; server utilization too can be increased up to 80%.

Through this practice, we can save precious energy, time and money spent in manufacturing these electronic items. Resources used and money spent in manufacturing an electronic item from scratch are far greater than those needed for recycling it. Even in developed countries like USA, only a small percentage of discarded or used electronic items are recycled. France, which is said to be an ecology-responsible country collects only 14% of the e-waste generated in the country. Thus, there is a great scope for recycling electronic items and thereby, preventing environmental damage. Conservation of environmental resources, electricity and money can be achieved through this simple-to-implement step.

Turning Your Computers Off
The practice of switching off computers at night helps in saving a considerable amount of energy. The estimated amount of energy spent in a single year due to round-the-clock use of computer is $115-$160 (Schneider, 2008). Running your computer just 8 hours a day can help save 810 kWh energy on an annual basis. It is a myth that turning the computer off can damage it. Computers are designed for sustaining around 40,000 on/off cycles. Therefore, you need not worry about the computer even if you have to turn it off on a regular basis. The power supplied to scanners and printers should be cut off whenever these devices are not in use. This practice can also save a considerable amount of energy.

Improving Algorithmic Efficiency
Green computing measures can be used for improving the algorithmic efficiency of computers. An efficient algorithm makes minimum use of resources. Therefore, the productivity increases manifold. A simple computing activity like searching for information on a search engine can have an adverse impact on the environment owing to the energy consumed and CO2 emitted in the process. Thus, without improving the algorithmic efficiency, one cannot expect much in terms of energy conservation even from cloud computing.

Architectural Changes
Remodeling the IT architecture that is currently used should prove to be beneficial in the long term. It is not just about following a set of best practices, but also about overhauling the architecture as a whole. A strategy needs to be devised for the development of sustainable technology. This approach is not limited to changing architecture of data centers. In fact, business operations, IT facilities, communications and many other aspects of computer usage need to be taken into account. For example, one can reduce the number of systems being used and increase their efficiency. It is kind of a long-term approach in which the currently used "green" initiatives might change with time. However, the underlying idea of reducing energy consumption and causing minimum damage to the environment remains the same. Merely adding to the density of virtual servers also won't help much. In fact, increasing the rack density through virtualization would necessitate the installation of cooling systems, which again increases the cost and energy consumption. Changes in the architectural designs will increase the accessibility to sophisticated technologies that cause minimum harm to our planet's resources.

Commonly referred to as electronic waste, technotrash refers to the toxic elements that are found inside electronic goods. Therefore, the disposal of such kind of waste has to be carried out with proper care.

Action Plan for Green Computing
  • Using ENERGY STAR qualified products help in energy conservation.
  • The Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI) catalog can be used for choosing green products.
  • Organic light-emitting diodes should be used instead of the regular monitors.
  • Surge protectors offer the benefit of green computing by cutting off the power supply to peripheral devices when the computer is turned off.
  • Donating your old computers and other peripherals can reduce the rate of e-waste creation. Moreover, those who cannot afford to buy a computer can benefit from such donations.
  • Through proper disposal of computers and its accessories, it is possible to reduce environmental pollution.
  • It was expected that computers would help reduce paper wastage. However, even today wastage of paper is a serious issue in industries. The easy availability of photocopiers and printers is also one of the culprits behind unchecked paper wastage. Think twice before using printers. Use the device only if it is necessary.
  • The manufacturing of disks and boxes needed for video games takes up a lot of resources. Video game manufacturers can offer their games online for download, leading to reduction in e-waste. This move can cut down on the transportation/shipping cost.
  • Use of 'Local Cooling' software can help in monitoring and thereby, bringing down the energy consumed by your computer. This 'Windows' program makes adjustments to the power options of your computer and helps minimize energy consumption.

Here are few more points pertaining to green computing which will give you some food for thought.
  • In countries like USA, emission of greenhouse gases resulting from the generation of electricity is quite high. The total volume of gases emitted through electricity generation is much higher in comparison to that from vehicles. In such a scenario, saving electricity becomes a high priority. Thus, green computing can play a major role in protecting the environment through electricity conservation in developed countries.
  • Till recently, the drive to protect the environment was limited only up to certain areas like saving fuels, reducing carbon emissions, etc. However, green computing adds a new dimension to the movement aimed at protecting the environment.
  • Taking up the cause of green computing should encourage engineers and designers to create innovative and energy efficient computer models. For example, a company like Google Inc. was able to minimize energy consumption significantly. They were able to decrease the energy consumption to a level of 50% of the industry average.
The most important benefit offered by green computing is that you can influence and motivate a large number of people and make them aware of environmental issues. The reason why it can play a major role in environmental conservation is that computers are items of day-to-day use; while using them, people would constantly be reminded of their responsibility towards the environment. Thus, apart from offering actual benefits of green computing, all these practices would motivate computer users to find new ways and new areas where they can implement green measures for energy conservation.