Green Computing -- Just a Fad After All?

A recent NetworkWorld article, “Whatever Happened to Green IT?” left me wondering: was the sustainable computing craze which became popular in 2008 and spawned CoSN’s Green Computing effort just a passing fad?

Well, I have to admit that school CTOs have generally viewed sustainable (green) computing as a good thing to do, but not a high priority issue. This may be partially because their performance is not measured based on green purchasing, energy use, or proper e-waste disposal. That said, I would contend that sustainable computing has worked into the CTO consciousness as a part of the job.

Green computing might not be as much of a buzzword anymore, but the trend has been widely adopted by technology companies (think Apple and Google data centers and green computer marketing) and by cloud providers who are both competing for green minded customers and seeking the long-term payback of lower utility costs from alternate/renewable energy sources. Indeed, green computing has subtly spread throughout the industry – you’ve probably adopted some sustainably-minded strategies yourself.

Here’s a quiz to see if you yourself have become a sustainable computing CTO over the past 5 years (maybe without ever really thinking about it):

  1. Do you pay attention to vendor claims or EPEAT ratings when making purchase decisions?
  2. Has saving energy or reducing power utility bills helped drive decisions such as virtualization (data center or desktop), cloud computing, or device selection?
  3. Have you implemented an electronics disposal policy with a responsible recycling/disposal organization?
  4. Have you implemented any applications designed to reduce travel, HVAC energy use, or other applications with an objective to reduce district energy use or other environmental harm?

I don’t believe that sustainable computing has fallen by the wayside at all. Rather, it has transformed from a teachable moment into part of an ingrained management approach; good superintendents still look for ways to demonstrate that their districts are good citizens. Still, as technology moves on, so must our awareness of how to leverage it in the most sustainable ways. An occasional reminder always helps: bring it up in your district as you’re gearing up for a new school year!