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Green computing is an environment-friendly approach to computing. It involves using computers, computing devices, and IT resources with minimal power and disposing of parts appropriately to protect our environment.
There’s so much to add to this, but I’ll save it for the next section.
For starters, let’s understand why we are talking about green computing.
Have you seen Leonardo di Caprio raising his voice on climate change and environmental conservation? If not, check his Instagram profile.
Like him, thousands of people are concerned about the same issues as water level begins to rise, glaciers melting, natural calamities like hurricanes and Tsunamis endangering lives, forests fires spreading, the ozone layer depleting, and the list is never-ending.
All these are the devastating effects of climate change and environmental degradation. Human activities are exhausting natural resources, emitting greenhouse gases, cutting down forests, and polluting land, water, and air.
That said, computers are part and parcel of our everyday lives, from children to the elderly. But they are also harmful to the environment from their manufacturing to usage and disposal. They consume lots of energy and emit carbon dioxide, and if you don’t dispose of them properly or recycle them, they cause pollution.
This is where Green computing green IT comes into the picture. It is an effort to reduce or limit the harmful impacts of computing and implementing eco-friendly means on everyday usage.
In this article, I’ll discuss green computing in detail, cover the challenges and benefits, and how you can implement green computing even at an individual level.
Let’s get started! 😎
What Is Green Computing?
Green computing is an approach towards environmentally sustainable use of computing. It involves manufacturing, designing, disposing, and using computers and related resources effectively and efficiently with minimal to no negative effects on the environment.
This sustainable approach helps save electricity and ensures computers generate less heat. It also helps protect the environment from hazardous materials and their impacts.
Green Computing Aims At:
- Energy efficiency and power management
- Using eco-friendly hardware and software
- Minimizing the usage of hazardous substances
- Recycling materials
- Increasing products’ lifespan
It is an effective strategy to reduce the carbon footprints that IT systems leave. Using information & communication technologies (ICT) helps grow segments affecting carbon emission. In addition, green computing applies management technologies and strategies to reduce energy wastage.
Furthermore, green computing is vital for every class of systems, from large data centers to handheld systems. It helps create a sustainable business process, spreading awareness, and running environmental initiatives to build a better future.
Green Computing: Examples
A renewable source of energy can be an excellent example of green computing. It includes:
- Solar energy
- Geothermal energy
- Wind energy
These energy sources are generated from nature, such as sunlight, earth, wind, and rain. They are freely available and do not generate much pollution, so the energy harnessed from them is also called clean energy.
Applications of Green Computing
- Connected heating and lighting: The usage of connected devices for heating and lighting (through IoT), such as smart thermostats and LED technologies, is on the rise. This helps reduce energy consumption as you can control them easily with an application.
- Electric vehicles: Instead of depleting fossil fuels like petroleum, vehicles can now use electricity for running cars. And this application of green computing is in high demand these days, which explains why lots of options are available from different manufacturers such as Toyota, Tesla, etc.
- Data centers: Data centers consume high power, and maintaining them is an overhead. World’s top tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple strive to build energy-efficient data centers with minimal environmental impact and cost.
- Alternative energy: Big tech firms are now implanting alternative energy sources like wind energy, solar power, etc., to fuel their data centers.
- Recycling devices: Computers, mobile phones, and other electronic devices contain harmful chemicals, rare metals, and whatnot. Manufacturing them on a large scale is hazardous, which is why companies have started recycling these wastes.
Other uses of green commuting are wireless networking, cloud computing, edge computing, parallel computing, and more.
How Did Green Computing Originate?
Old computers were massive and consumed much more energy. It took a significant amount of time to manage them as well. They always consumed power even if they are idle because there was no sleep/hibernation mode or energy management to save power.
This challenge resulted in creating an innovative program – Energy Star in 1992 by the US Environmental protection Agency (EPA). The Energy Star program aims to recognize and promote energy-efficient monitors, eco-friendly devices, and other climate control technologies. It led to the foundation of what we call today “Green Computing.”
At the same time, sleep mode came into being and spread across consumer electronics. This made it possible for users to enable the sleep mode in case of inactivity. As a result, energy savings increased while reducing carbon emissions.
Moreover, TCO Development – a Swedish company- initiated a TCO-certified program to popularize CRT computers’ low electrical and magnetic emissions. In addition, the program then expanded to incorporate criteria on the usage of hazardous substances, energy consumption, and ergonomics.
Why Is Green Computing Important?
Computers have become an inseparable part of the modern generation. It saves our time and effort and makes lives easier. But it also consumes significant energy, generates heat, and has several other negative impacts on the environment.
- Due to high energy consumption, computers and other electronic devices impact our environment and depletes water, air, and land. Consequently, it brings climate change, air toxicity, acid rain, etc.
- The increasing emissions of harmful greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide result in pollution and deteriorate the environment. It increases global warming and climate change.
- Computers and their peripherals, data centers, networking devices, etc., produce carbon dioxide in abundance. In addition, some parts of a computer are non-biodegradable or recyclable.
- Manufacturing computer products involves toxic chemicals for fire protection, electrical insulation, and soldering. Exposure to these chemical fumes over a prolonged period can cause miscarriages, cancer, etc.
- Improper disposal of these devices can be harmful to the environment as they have certain hazardous chemicals and materials like lead, cadmium, mercury, etc., in them.
This is a cry for help. And Green computing is a way to reduce these harmful impacts and encourage the practice of environmentally responsible computing.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Green Computing
As with other things, green computing also has advantages and disadvantages. Let’s see its advantages first.
- As green computing emphasizes low energy consumption, it helps reduce fossil fuel utilization and greenhouse gas emissions.
- It aims to lower heat generation from computers and electronic devices to protect the environment.
- It promotes the effective usage of natural resources and their preservation.
- This approach emphasizes the usage of non-toxic substances reduces health hazards.
- Green computing encourages recycling and reusability of materials to reduced electronic waste, hence, lower land pollution.
- It is cost-effective as it involves less energy and cooling needs.
- Implementing green computing makes us responsible for the environment and towards leading a sustainable future.
Every concept comes with inherent challenges that people need to overcome. Though green computing seems like a breakthrough, there are problems that companies face while implementing it. Some of the challenges of green computing are:
- Due to a lack of concern and huge market competition, companies resist this change. Consequently, everyone has to suffer the impact. Thought leadership and educating people about the dangers can increase awareness and adapt to eco-friendly ways.
- Frequent technology changes can confuse them to decide on how to proceed.
- The initial cost for implementing green computing is high.
- Less information is available on green computing, and there’s a great level of difference in understanding across end-users, professionals, and companies.
- Companies find it difficult to make decisions due to fragmented data. They must put more effort into collecting and analyzing data and conclude that the method they use is environment-friendly yet profitable for their business.
How can a company adopt Green Computing?
IT systems involve people, hardware, software, and networks. So, if you want to apply green computing, you must cover each one of these. The solution you provide must also address end-user satisfaction, regulatory compliance, proper management, and a decent return on investment.
Here are some of the techniques that an IT company and other companies can follow to adopt green computing:
Increasing Product Lifespan
Applying green computing needs you to ensure the products have longer lifespans to limit e-waste and avoid the need to manufacture more. You can also emphasize building or using products with modularity and upgradability. As a result, small modules or parts can be manufactured and replaced to upgrade the system instead of manufacturing the system as a whole.
Data centers consume a significant amount of total energy across the globe, around 100-200 times more than common office buildings. Data centers can implement green computing to design energy-efficient data centers. It must address all the aspects of energy utilization, from IT devices and equipment for air conditioning, heating, cooling, and ventilation to the constriction and location of the building.
Companies must focus on the best practices for designing eco-friendly data centers in different areas like IT systems, electrical systems, cooling systems, environmental conditions, air management, recycling waste heat, and electrical generation on the site. At the same time, the design must optimize the usage of space, efficacy, and performance of data centers.
The best ways to optimize software and deploy it are:
- Virtualization: It refers to the process of abstracting or dividing computer resources such as processors, storage, memory, etc., into virtual computers or virtual machines (VMs). Here, two or more virtual instances run on a single, robust physical system. It helps conserve system resources by eliminating the requirement for original hardware while reducing cooling and power consumption. It also reduces the need to manufacture more hardware. Virtualization helps distribute work effectively so that servers don’t consume energy when not in use. They are either running or in sleep mode. As this technology is energy efficient, many service providers are offering software packages to enable virtual computing.
- Creating efficient algorithms: Efficient algorithms can be one of the factors influencing the number of resources needed for a computing function. Algorithm changes, for instance, making a search algorithm faster, can help reduce resource utilization substantially. Hence, IT companies must make sure the programmers write better, efficient code.
- Allocating resources strategically: IT teams can use algorithms to route data to a data center with less expensive electricity available. It saves the cost. Similarly, they can also route traffic away from a data center that experiences warmer weather. This approach allows them to shut down systems and avoid air conditioning while reducing energy usage.
- Using terminal servers: Terminal servers are servers or hardware devices providing terminals like PCs, smartphones, tablets, printers, etc., that share a common connection to the terminal server. Using terminal servers eliminates the need for terminals to have a network interface, modem, or card of their own. If you implement terminal servers, you can save energy consumption as well as cost.
Effective power management is a big step towards green computing. And each company, no matter how big or small, can implement this and protect the environment.
That said, there’s an open industry standard called the Advanced Configuration & Power Interface (ACPI), which allows systems to turn off their components like hard drives and monitors automatically after certain periods of being inactive.
You can also hibernate the systems when most of their components like RAM and CPU turn off. In addition, some programs enable you to adjust CPU voltages manually, reducing electricity consumption and heat generation.
Furthermore, hard disk drives with a small form factor of around 2.5 inches consume lesser power than larger drives per gigabyte. Also, solid-state drives (SSDs) store data in DRAM or flash memory. As there are no moving parts in them, they consume even less power.
In addition, IT companies must manage power in GPUs – one of the biggest power consumers in computers. Use energy-efficient ways like using no graphics cards instead of a shared terminal, desktop sharing client, etc. You can also utilize motherboard video results or choose a GPU that consumes less power when idle.
Another excellent way to embrace green computing is to recycle materials in computing devices. It will prevent harmful substances like mercury, lead, cadmium, etc., from reaching landfills. You can also replace some equipment, instead of manufacturing them all over again, reducing emissions and saving energy.
Additionally, IT companies can re-purpose or donate computers that they no longer use to nonprofits and charities. Also, parts of outdated systems and supplies like paper, batteries, and printer cartridges are recycled. However, care must be taken while recycling old computers due to privacy issues as they can contain some data of the previous users that needs destruction before recycling.
Cloud, Edge, and Parallel Computing
Cloud computing helps IT companies adopt green computing by addressing issues like resource consumption and energy usage. The approaches like virtualization, energy-efficient data centers, multi-tenancy, etc., enable cloud computing to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions. Using cloud computing eliminates the need to have energy-consuming data centers.
Moreover, edge computing allows you to redistribute computation near the users to lower costs. It lets you have smaller data centers, where maintenance is also less in terms of energy consumption and cost.
Parallel computing, similarly, helps reduce energy consumption as multiple small-size computations or functions can run simultaneously on multiple processors that interact through shared memory, instead of running on separate hardware consuming more power.
Remote work is rising high, especially after the covid-19 breakout. Implementing teleconferencing and working from anywhere come with many benefits like reduced emissions from travel, the convenience of workers, and higher profit margins due to low office maintenance.
Some Tips to Adopt Green Computing
Green computing is an initiative that all must welcome as an individual. Whether you are working in a company, owning a company, or working solo, you can adopt some practices to support this initiative.
Here are some of the tips you can follow to implement and promote green computing:
- Use products with the Energy Star label because they consume less power and are manufactured with green computing concepts.
- When you don’t use your computer, please turn it off to save power.
- If you want to catch a break but not turn off the computer, you can put it on sleep mode to save power.
- Go for energy-efficient displays like OLEDs that consume low energy, save battery life, and go easy on your eyes.
- Use dark themes or dark mode as it requires less energy.
- Try not to use screensavers as they consume power when the system is idle.
- Reduce monitor brightness as high brightness needs more power.
- Try using LED instead of CRT monitors to save energy and reduce carbon emissions.
- Dispose of e-waste safely as computing devices have hazardous materials to pollute the environment. Such materials need formal disposal in laboratories.
- Use low-VOC inks, energy-efficient printers, recycled paper, and remanufactured ink cartridges. You can also go paperless wherever you can.
- Buy energy-efficient components such as SSDs instead of HDDs.
- Use emails as your mainstream communication rather than fax.
- Implement Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP to reduce metallic wastes and wiring infrastructure
- Allow your employees to work from home wherever possible, as commuting to work leads to more fuel usage.
- Shop online if that’s feasible, instead of going to shops by burning fuel in your vehicle.
- Try partnering with companies that also adopt green computing, not the other way around. It will help change the mindset and promote green computing.
- Use renewable energy in your data centers.
- Create strategic power management across your organization, including the IT team for proper device management, data collection, and energy consumption.
- Spread awareness on green computing within and outside your organization
Final Words 👩🏫
Global warming and climate change are some of the major concerns today. The level of pollution is rising across the land, water, and air. To this, green computing is an effective approach that can help reduce these environmental concerns. It can address issues like greenhouse gas emissions, increasing amount of waste, burning of fossil fuels, natural resource exhaustion, etc.
This is why companies and individuals must be responsible for reducing power consumption as much as possible while implementing eco-friendly methods to run their operations and dispose of waste.
Hence, remember the three R’s – reduce, reuse, and recycle, and be a part of this wonderful initiative – Green Computing and motivate others to do the same to build a sustainable future together.