Executive Summary

Going Green with IT: Your Responsibility Toward Environmental Sustainability — Executive Summary

Posted July 31, 2007 | Leadership |

While the green wave is sweeping the world, and organizations and individuals are leaning toward environmentally sound products and services, IT remains a significant part of the environmental problem. Use of IT has exploded, and the problems it creates have followed suit.

Though controversy still surrounds the scientific, political, and social aspects of global warming, there is growing acceptance regarding the dangerous consequences of not taking action now to address this and other environmental problems. Thus, calls to address the environmental problems caused by IT are increasing. IT must go green and help create a sustainable environment. Greening your IT systems and their use is both an economic and an environmental imperative, as well as your social responsibility. By offering green IT products and services, you also gain competitive advantage and get green credentials from your customers and the general public.

The accompanying Executive Report examines the environmental impacts of IT and shows you how to go green with your IT systems. The report outlines energy-saving measures and presents useful ideas and insights to help you make smart green IT decisions.


IT affects the environment in several different ways. Computers and other IT systems consume a significant amount of electrical energy, and this consumption contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. In terms of the computer, each stage of its life -- from manufacture to use to disposal -- presents environmental problems. For instance, computer components contain toxic materials, and manufacturing of a PC generates a significant amount of carbon dioxide. Servers, PCs, storage devices, monitors, data communications equipment, and cooling systems consume a large amount of electrical power, and the total energy consumption is increasing. As most of the electricity used is generated by burning coal, oil, or gas, this contributes to increased greenhouse gas emissions. We discard a large number of computers, monitors, and other electronic equipment just two to three years after purchase, and most of this equipment ends up in landfills. As computers contain toxic and poisonous materials, the landfills get polluted, contaminating water. Therefore, the IT industry, businesses, CEOs, CIOs, IT professionals, and users are increasingly under pressure to make IT environmentally friendly throughout its lifecycle, from birth to death to rebirth.


Green IT refers to environmentally sound IT. It is the study and practice of designing, manufacturing, and using computers and other support systems efficiently and effectively with no or minimal impact on the environment. It also focuses on achieving economic viability and improved system performance and utilization. Furthermore, it includes the creation of simulation tools, applications, and knowledge management systems that help create a sustainable environment. Green IT spans a number of focus areas and activities, including energy-efficient computing, power management, data center design, responsible recycling, carbon neutrality, regulatory compliance, and assessment tools.


For many enterprises, green issues have become a priority at the board level. The reasons are manifold: increasing energy consumption and energy prices, growing consumer interest in green products and services, higher expectations by the public on enterprises' environmental responsibilities, and stricter environmental compliance requirements. As a result, environmental considerations are becoming an increasingly important part of the IT director's job, and there are no signs that the factors driving the green movement are going to abate.

Enterprises go green for a variety of reasons, including to save on energy bills, to take advantage of market trends and opportunities, in recognition of a public relations opportunity, and as a result of a perception that social responsibility and environmental sustainability are integral to their corporate strategy. Environmental issues affect the competitive landscape. So businesses are now increasingly interested in creating strategies that help them manage the environmental risks and pursue the opportunities.


IT can play a major role in creating a sustainable environment in three different ways:

  1. Greening IT systems and usage. IT can become more green and environmentally sound.

  2. Using IT to support environmental sustainability. By offering innovative modeling, simulation, and decision support tools, IT can support, assist, and leverage other environmental initiatives.

  3. Using IT to create green awareness. As an effective information dissemination medium and as a collaborative platform, IT can assist in creating awareness of environmental sustainability and in learning about sustainable development as well as promoting best practices.

Greening IT

You must make the entire lifecycle of IT greener by addressing environmental impacts and sustainability in three major areas: use of computers; disposal, reuse, and recycling of computers; and design and manufacture of computer systems:

  • Reduce energy consumption of computer systems by enabling power management features, using blank screen savers, and switching off computers when not in use.

  • Improve the efficiency of data centers through consolidation and virtualization and eco-friendly designs, as well as using energy-efficient servers, DC power, and liquid cooling.

  • Use thin clients that use less power than PCs.

  • Use green power generated from solar or wind energy; use grey (recycled) water for cooling.

  • Refurbish and reuse old computers or donate them rather than discarding them after two or three years.

  • Properly recycle unwanted computers; don't throw them in rubbish bins.

  • Design and manufacture energy-efficient and environmentally sound computers, servers, and cooling equipment.

  • Adhere to new standards and regulations such as EPEAT, Energy Star, and RoHS.

  • Become carbon neutral by buying carbon credits for greenhouse gases you emit.

  • Develop new energy-efficient designs, technologies, and applications.


By successfully greening your IT system, you can outcompete your peers, harness new opportunities, and help create a sustainable environment that benefits the current and future generations.

About The Author
San Murugesan
San Murugesan (BE [Hons], MTech, PhD; FACS) is a Cutter Expert and a member of Arthur D. Little's AMP open consulting network. He is also Director of BRITE Professional Services and former Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE's IT Professional. Dr. Murugesan has four decades of experience in both industry and academia, and his expertise and interests include artificial intelligence, quantum computing, the Internet of Everything, cloud computing, green… Read More