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What is green IT and how can you use it?

Last editedApr 20222 min read

Green IT is the name given to strategies used to lessen the environmental impact of information technology. It is a huge field covering literally everything from hardware to software, online services and apps. It also covers the entire lifecycle of information technology from cradle to grave (or cradle to cradle).

What is green IT in practice?

In practice, green IT simply means applying the environmental guideline of “reduce, reuse, recycle” to anything related to IT. Businesses can apply this adage directly, through their own actions. They can also use their buying power to reward suppliers who prioritise sustainability in their operations.

Supporting green IT may sound like it could substantially increase a business’s costs. In actual fact, the reverse is likely to be true. Prioritising green IT can actually help a business to reduce its costs by maximising its use of resources. It can also help businesses to develop more competitive products and services.

For example, if businesses prioritise green IT, they aim to use and create products and services that require minimal resources. This not only reduces their environmental footprint but also their production and/or running costs.

Green IT and cybersecurity

At first glance, it may seem that at least part of green IT goes against the concept ofcybersecurity. According to the principle of green IT, equipment should be used for as long as possible. According to the principle of cybersecurity, however, equipment should be regularly updated so it can use current operating systems and software.

There is a certain amount of truth in this but the issue can be mitigated relatively easily. You just need to assess your equipment and determine how long it can be safely used before it needs to be upgraded. Then commit to upgrading it on that frequency, not earlier or later.

When you do upgrade your hardware, aim to buy the most sustainable options available at the time of purchase. Also, aim to dispose of your old equipment in the most sustainable way possible. Consider donating it before recycling it. You may even be able to claim the donation as a tax-deductible expense.

Bringing green IT into the workplace

In most organisations, the majority of green IT is likely to go on behind the scenes. It will therefore be unnoticed by most employees. If departmental managers can make IT-purchasing decisions, however, they will need to be educated on how to implement green IT.

All staff should be educated on how to take care of any equipment they are allocated. What this means in practice will obviously depend on what equipment they have and how they use it. The underlying principle, however, is that all employees should know how to protect their IT equipment from being lost, stolen or damaged.

This may require the IT department (or their manager) to review what equipment they have and how they use it. For example, basic accessories such as proper (but discrete) cases, locks (such as Kensington locks) and USB data blockers can all go a long way to keeping equipment safe and in good working order.

Bringing green IT to products and services

The concept of green IT sits very well with modern consumer (and business) trends as a whole, not just sustainability. Modern buyers tend to value lightness both physical and digital. For example, traditional Windows desktop PCs are now struggling to hold onto their place as the default computing options even in business.

Laptops, Macs, Chromebooks and even mobile devices are all muscling in on what was once the undisputed territory of the desktop PC. Their lack of hardware firepower is becoming less and less of an issue as more and more services move online (or at least mostly online).

Similarly, operating systems, firmware, software and apps are, for the most part, becoming noticeably lighter than their predecessors. Those that aren’t are at strong risk of becoming overtaken by those that are. This means that implementing green IT and minimising resource consumption can actually create a competitive advantage.

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