How Green Is Your Technology Landscape?

Introducing “Green” to Projects

There is a growing trend in IT organizations to reduce the environmental footprints that are typically generated from large enterprise IT project initiatives. To achieve this goal, a group of prominent IT organizations (HP, Dell, Microsoft, IBM, and others) has merged under the banner The Green Grid to promote energy efficiency in data centers and business computing ecosystems. The Green Grid’s focus is on three key areas:

1. Reduction in the use of hazardous materials

Computers, by their very nature, contain a mix of electronic components, various metals (such as copper, bronze, lead, mercury, cadmium aluminum), and plastics (for keyboards, monitors, and towers) containing flame retardant resins. Their internal wiring and printed circuit boards may contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The glass of monitors may contain trace amounts of lead. All these elements are known to be potential carcinogens and as such, require specific methods to ensure their proper disposal. The Green Grid consortium is working with both government and environmental agencies across the globe to reduce the impact of these hazardous materials.

2. Optimization of energy efficiency

IT organizations have been pioneers in the areas of telecommuting and videoconferencing, as well as in maintaining project and system documentation electronically. These initiatives themselves do not contribute to the optimization of energy efficiency, but the by-product of their use by organizations reduces fossil fuel consumption, a major factor in the depletion of natural resources. Because IT systems and data centers consume large amounts of electric power to keep their systems cool, organizations are looking at their “green initiatives” from a strategic business perspective.In Gartner’s 2007 Symposium/ITxpo (as taken from Techrepublic), Gartner analyst Simon Mingay stated, “Whether you believe in climate change or not, you have to prepare for that reality. There's a mistaken belief that IT organizations will be able to continue to consume the power they do today… The question is not why should you bother, but what are the risks if you do nothing."In 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy announced its “ENERGY STAR” program, which stipulates that computers must use an average of 65 to 70 percent less energy than computers built prior to 2007, and that when a PC is inactive, it must consume 15 watts of energy or less. Surprisingly though, even with the ever-increasing global costs of energy, Intel recently reported that only about 29 percent of companies have invested in energy-efficient PCs.

3. Promotion of Recycling

As stated earlier, computers, by the nature of the substances contained therein, require special means of disposal. Many parts of the world, including the US and Canada, have laws in place forbidding the use of computer monitors as land fill. Yet there are parts of the world where environmental standards are lax; some countries ship their discarded computer equipment to places in Asia for disposal. Recently, Canada and parts of the US, including California, have made recycling mandatory, and when purchasing a computer, buyers are charged a fee to cover the costs of recycling programs. Recycling of e-waste processing usually involves dismantling the equipment into various parts—metal frames, power supplies, circuit boards, and plastics—which are then separated, often by hand. Alternatively, material is shredded, and sophisticated, expensive equipment separates the various metal and plastic fractions, which are then sold to smelters or plastics recyclers. As environmental concerns have grown, legislation such as the Basel Convention is being enacted globally to ensure that as much as 70 percent of PC components are recyclable.

How Do Green Practices Relate to IT Project Management?

In most IT projects’ charters, there is no area that deals specifically with environmental concerns. However, this does not mean that the astute and business-savvy project manager shouldn’t consider introducing the following green initiatives:

1. When upgrading infrastructure, identify areas where a recycling program can be implemented.

2. If implementing a project methodology, look into its environmental impacts based on ISO 14000 standards.

3. Negotiate service level agreements (SLAs) with vendors’ environmental considerations in mind.

4. Examine where environmental and business demands converge.

In closing, to incorporate environmental practices into your technology landscape, it is important to consider the environmental impact of any infrastructure change you make, and whether there is a strong business case for not doing so.
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