View all newsletters
Receive our newsletter - data, insights and analysis delivered to you
  1. Technology
July 5, 2010updated 19 Aug 2016 10:05am

Is ‘green IT’ a massive contradiction?

Few realise that the global IT industry produces about the same amount of greenhouse gases as the world's airline industry - around 2% of all CO2 emissions. So is 'green IT' a myth?

By

Few realise that the global IT industry produces about the same amount of greenhouse gases as the world’s airline industry – around 2% of all CO2 emissions. So is ‘green IT’ a myth?

Many of the everyday tasks that we take for granted have surprising knock-on effects on the environment. A Google search can leak between 0.2 and 7 grams of CO2 depending on how many attempts are needed to get the "right" answer – the latter figure means that two searches are akin to boiling a kettle.

Google needs to maintain vast data centres around the world to deliver results to its users quickly, and data centres are packed with powerful computers that produce lots of CO2 as well as heat, which means they also need to be well air conditioned (not helping their efficiency).

leaf

Can IT claim to be ‘green’? Pic: CC licence, Sean McGrath on Flickr.

But at least when it comes to data centres, Google and other big tech providers like BT, IBM, Microsoft and Amazon can closely monitor their efficiency and make improvements. For the record, Google claims to be more efficient than most.

Content from our partners
European Technology Leadership: Deutsche Bank CTO Gordon Mackechnie
Print’s role in driving the environmental agenda
What finance leaders get wrong about digital transformation

Recently, industry and government agencies from the US, Europe and Japan reached an agreement orchestrated by the Green Grid, on how to benchmark the energy efficiency of data centres. Monitoring is the first step on the road to reduction, but there’s much more to be done, and not just by big companies.

Simple things like turning devices off when they are not in use can help reduce the environmental impact of our love affair with all things digital. Research from the National Energy Foundation in the UK found that nearly 20% of workers don’t turn their PCs off when they leave for the night or on weekends, wasting 1.5 billion kWh of electricity per year – the equivalent annual CO2 production of 200,000 small family cars.

The technology sector, of course, has a huge potential role to play in reducing energy consumption – just think of the number of journeys saved by something as simple as online banking. But it must still work harder to get its own house in order, and virtualisation and cloud computing aren’t enough on their own.

Websites in our network
NEWSLETTER Sign up Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Tech Monitor's research, insight and analysis examines the frontiers of digital transformation to help tech leaders navigate the future. Our Changelog newsletter delivers our best work to your inbox every week.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy
SUBSCRIBED

THANK YOU