The IT sector is investing in green computing modules and devices by reducing the use of hazardous materials and speeding up the recycling process of electronic and digital modules. Also known as green IT or sustainable IT, green computing includes using responsibly produced raw materials, reducing electronic waste, and promoting environmental sustainability using sustainable resources.
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What is green computing?
Green computing is utilizing computing devices, systems, and resources in an ecologically responsible way. It is a study and research of developing, designing, engineering, manufacturing, utilizing, and disposing of computing modules and devices to minimize environmental risks and pollution.
Green computing is a critical front for the climate change
Green computing may have a significant beneficial impact on the environment. According to IBM, between 1.8 percent and 3.9 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to information and communication technology (ICT) companies. Furthermore, data centers account for 3% of world energy usage each year — a rise of 100% in the last ten years.
According to a report published by the Association for Computing Machinery, “The energy needs and carbon emissions of computing and the entire ICT sector must be reduced dramatically if climate change is to be slowed in time to avoid catastrophic environmental damage.”
In today’s world, everything from the tiniest microchip to the biggest data center is burdened with a carbon price tag, and green computing aims to lower that cost. Developers are involved in green computing and businesses, organizations, governments, and individuals who use the technology. Green computing is a broad topic that covers a variety of decisions at every level, from massive data centers implementing energy-saving policies to individuals choosing not to utilize screen savers on their devices.
Green computing’s main topics and initiatives are as follows:
- Energy consumption: Minimizing the electricity consumption of computers and their peripheral devices and using them in an eco-friendly manner.
- Green disposal: Disposing and recycling unwanted computing devices.
- Green development and design: Design and development of energy-efficient computers, servers, printers, projectors, and other digital devices. Usage of energy harvesting technologies in the computer industry.
- Green manufacturing: Recycling electronic components and modules during manufacturing computers and their peripheral devices. Minimizing waste during manufacturing to reduce the environmental impact of these activities.
The evolution of green computing
In 1992, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the Energy Star Program to boost and praise energy efficiency. The program is the inspiration for the widespread use of sleep mode across IT, and it has spurred several other efforts to promote green computing. Many non-Energy Star certified appliances are available, which might cost less than their Energy Star counterparts. Although these products may be cheaper to purchase initially, long-term savings on utility bills may not materialize because of differences in power management abilities.
The power consumed to run computers is estimated at $250 billion yearly, less than 15% of which is spent on computing. The rest is wasted idling, not used for computing. The most significant reason for CO2 emission is the energy consumed; therefore, energy saved on computer hardware and computing equals tons of carbon emissions prevented each year.
The Energy Star program, a controlled labeling initiative to encourage and recognize energy efficiency, was created by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Energy Star label has certified more than 75 different product categories, houses, commercial structures, and industrial plants. The initiative has also led to the widespread usage of sleep mode among gadget users.
Organizations are also motivated by significant financial reasons to decrease their power usage
Electronics is one of the most energy-intensive industries, and recycling efforts have had limited success. In collaboration with the Global Electronics Council, the Environmental Protection Agency developed the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) to improve environmental sustainability. EPEAT is a product registry that assesses the environmental performance of items, such as materials used, greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, product longevity, energy use, and end-of-life management.
Before green computing, the IT sector favored producing smaller and faster devices rather than enhancing sustainability or cutting emissions. On-premises physical servers and hardware are linked with conventional computing, whereas cloud computing is associated with a more environmentally friendly approach that prioritizes efficiency.
Several initiatives are underway to increase green computing standards through creating industry measures. Various certifications exist as well. The Green500 is a sub-list of the Top500, which lists supercomputers and their applications. The Green500 ranks supercomputers by their efficiency of use. The Transaction Processing Performance Council (TCP) is a nonprofit organization that promotes standards for transaction processing performance. SPECPower also develops benchmarks for single- and multi-node servers to increase efficiency.
Tried and tested green computing approaches
Complex IT systems rely on a complicated combination of people, networks, and hardware. Green computing solutions must consider end-user pleasure, organizational change, regulatory compliance, and return on investment (ROI). Companies are also motivated by significant financial reasons to decrease their power usage. The following is a list of the most popular green computing initiatives and approaches today:
Recycling computers rather than disposing of them prevents dangerous materials such as lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium from going to landfills. It also saves energy and emissions by replacing equipment that must be produced. Computers that have outlived their usefulness may be re-purposed, donated to various charities, or sold for a profit. However, many organizations have recently imposed minimum system requirements on donated resources. Furthermore, certain businesses and public recycling centers allow old equipment to be salvaged and recycled.
Computers, printer cartridges, paper, and batteries may all be recycled. Many of these strategies have disadvantages: computers collected through recycling drives are frequently sent to developing countries where environmental standards are less strict than in North America and Europe. According to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, 80% of post-consumer e-waste taken for recycling is sent overseas to countries including China and Pakistan.
Recycling old computers also poses a significant privacy threat. The outdated storage devices still retain sensitive information, such as emails, passwords, and credit card numbers, which may be recovered simply by downloading a free program on the Internet. A file’s removal does not remove it from the hard drive; instead, it only makes the data inaccessible. Users should physically delete or store a computer’s hard drives before recycling them to ensure they are destroyed and not stolen. Authorized hardware recycling organizations accept computing devices for recycling and sign a non-disclosure agreement for the data that might be found on them.
Gartner states that the PC manufacturing process consumes 70% of the natural resources consumed throughout the life cycle of a PC. The LCA of a desktop published by Fujitsu earlier this year showed that manufacturing and end-of-life account for most of the device’s ecological footprint. Prolonging equipment life is usually the most significant contribution to environmentally friendly computing.
Gartner also advises focusing on product longevity, including upgradability and modularity. According to another study, manufacturing a new PC has a significantly larger ecological footprint than manufacturing a new RAM module to upgrade an existing one.
Data center design
Data centers consume a significant amount of energy, 250 TWh in 2020, accounting for 1% of the global energy use. According to a Greenpeace study, data centers represent 21% of the electricity consumed by the IT sector, which is about 382 billion kWh annually. The US Department of Energy estimates that data center facilities consume 200 times more energy than offices.
The energy-efficient data center designs address all of a data center’s energy use elements, including the IT equipment, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) equipment, and even the building’s location, design, and construction. The US Department of Energy identifies five important areas for data center efficiency design best practices:
- Information technology (IT) systems
- Environmental conditions
- Air management
- Cooling systems
- Electrical systems
On-site electrical generation and recycling of waste heat are examples of energy-efficient design solutions recommended by the US Department of Energy in its 2012 ‘Green building standards. Modern data center designs are eco-friendly. They help better utilize a data center’s area, improve performance and efficiency, and decrease cooling costs.
Resource and algorithmic efficiency
The efficiency of algorithms impacts the number of computer resources needed for any given computing function, and there are several efficiency trade-offs in programming. The number of resources consumed by a specific task can significantly decline when the algorithm changes from a slow (e.g., linear) search algorithm to a fast (e.g., hashed or indexed) search technique.
Applying algorithms may route data to data centers with lower power costs. An energy allocation algorithm developed by MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, and Akamai has been tested and shown to route traffic to the location with the lowest energy expenses.
The researchers estimate that with their proposed technique, customers will save up to 40% on energy bills. This method, however, does not reduce the amount of energy consumed; it only lowers the cost to the company using it. Nonetheless, a similar approach may be utilized to send visitors to the energy generated more environmentally friendly or efficient. This has also been done to reduce energy usage by routing people away from data centers with hot temperatures, enabling computers to shut down and avoid air conditioning.
Larger server facilities may be built where energy and space are both less expensive and readily available. Local availability of renewable electricity, a climate that allows outside air to be utilized for cooling or locating them in areas where the heat they produce may be used for other purposes, might influence green siting decisions.
Cloud, edge, and fog computing
The main IT problems linked to green computing – energy consumption and resource usage – are being addressed by cloud computing. Virtualization, dynamic provisioning environments, multi-tenancy, and green data center techniques are all helping cloud computing reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption.
By hosting certain on-premises applications in the cloud, medium and large enterprises can reduce their direct energy use by up to 30% and 90%, respectively. One example is online shopping, which enables individuals to acquire items and services over the Internet without traveling or using gasoline to visit a physical store, lowering greenhouse gas emissions due to transportation.
Implementing innovative technologies like edge and fog computing can help reduce energy consumption. These tools allow computation to be distributed closer to the usage, lowering network energy costs. Furthermore, by reducing the number of data centers, energy usage in things like cooling and upkeep is reduced.
In green computing initiatives, teleconference and telepresence technologies are frequently used in remote work. The benefits are numerous; increased worker happiness, lower carbon emissions caused by travel, and greater profit margins due to decreased office space, heat, lighting, and other overhead expenses. Savings can be substantial; office buildings’ average annual energy consumption is over 23-kilowatt hours per square foot, including heat, air conditioning, and lighting, which account for 70% of all energy used. Other measures, such as Hoteling, reduce the amount of space occupied by employees when they aren’t using it. This approach works well with various professions, such as sales, consulting, and field service.
By sharing the existing Ethernet copper, decentralized VoIP (VoIP) minimizes the telephony infrastructure. Hot desking is now more feasible due to VoIP and phone extension mobility. Wi-Fi consumes 4 to 10 times less electricity than 4G.
How can end-users contribute to green computing?
While it is clear that big corporations and the government are leading the way in terms of green computing because of their enormous energy consumption, you may also make a significant contribution to sustainability. The impact can be significant when many people utilize features like hibernate or sleep mode.
Whatever the gadget, utilizing energy-saving features such as dimming the screen brightness, or switching off appliances at night, saves electricity. Other energy-saving methods include turning off computers at the end of the day and keeping peripherals like speakers or printers switched on only when used. Refilling printer cartridges rather than purchasing new ones saves resources, and buying refurbished equipment instead of brand-new ones reduces environmental harm. Electronic equipment’s safe disposal improves sustainability while also offering security benefits.
You should choose the most efficient technology for each task to be completed, just as purchasing departments do. If a notebook or laptop can perform the same tasks as a desktop computer while using less energy, go with the more energy-efficient device. Energy Star ratings provide a useful indicator for selecting new equipment for your home or office.