Computers come in various specifications and sizes. The amount of energy our devices consume is determined by factors like their processing power, size, and how efficient the hardware is. For example, a computer with a higher resolution screen and a larger display would consume more energy. The ecological trail that is left to manufacture or dispose of these devices is also heavily dependent on the material being used to produce these devices.
This is why, it is important to come out with alternative solutions to get the same efficiency from our computers while leaving less of an ecological impact. Regardless of the increasing efficiency of our processors and how compact our systems are becoming, companies must keep trying to make devices more energy-efficient and increase recycling as much as possible. This can be done by incorporating hardware or software that help save electricity and by using recyclable materials to manufacture computers.
Improving the architecture, configurations and materials used along with the correct disposal of computers can help protect our environment. This is known as green computing. For example, it does not take hardware much time to get outdated in modern times. Thus, it is important to promote modular systems that can be easily replaced without wasting hardware resources that are made with precious materials. This will also help in curbing down the physical waste we produce as we discard old hardware.
Origin of Green Computing
In 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States launched the Energy Star programme. This started out as a logo that companies could voluntarily put on their computing devices and other electronic products. Soon this became the trend amongst all companies and they started developing the ‘sleep-mode’ on their electronic devices. Now all the devices we see have energy-saving modes on monitors, personal computers and laptops. There even are inverter air conditioners. This has become a common industry standard in current times.
The Necessity of Green Computing
One can say that consumption of energy is the only key benefit of green computing but we usually forget how the consumption of energy can lead to a better environment overall. Energy comes from thermal or nuclear plants. If one does not shut his/her computer down after he/she is done with work, then he/she basically consumes more energy which actually comes from exhaustible fossil fuels. To convert fossil fuels into energy, they are combusted which increases the levels of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, contributing to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
CRT monitors are not even in use anymore so they cannot be recycled anyway. The only option is to burn the monitors causing air pollution. Almost all of these monitors have a plastic body containing BRFs. And, once burned, it might cause adverse effects on neurodevelopment and lead to hormonal changes.
Green computing mainly targets to implement sustainable models that will reduce junk, promote recycling and save energy through four different approaches. And, they are:
Usage of Devices: Let us say that you own a company and you have servers that are on your premises. You would consume a lot of electricity in the process of operating computers and the devices that the computers are dependent on, servers being an example. Most companies now are shifting to cloud technology. The companies are basically using services like AWS and Azure to move their operations to the cloud. It is possible to perform almost every operation using these services that you would normally run on your servers. This is how companies are limiting their usage of peripheral devices to contribute to green computing. Virtualisation also makes a big impact in the world of green computing.
Disposal of Devices: Devices are now being recycled more as compared to what the situation was, a decade ago. A small example would be the incremental innovation of the 60 Hz refresh rate monitor to the 144 Hz monitor. Since there are fixed screen sizes, companies manufacturing the new monitors use the old bodies in good condition, refurbish and mount the new 144 Hz screen onto the body. This reduced the number of LED and LCD monitor bodies that would otherwise be burned causing an increase in air pollution. The ones that cannot be recycled are being disposed of in an eco-friendly manner.
Designing of Devices: Manufacturing companies are emphasising more on energy consumption as they realise that there would not be enough energy to suffice the future development of technology. Laptops are now designed in a way that if it reaches 98% charge, it will shift rapidly between the direct electricity and the battery to reduce energy consumption. This will not only be of benefit on the grounds of energy consumption but also will elongate the age of the battery, eventually reducing waste material when and if one chooses to get the battery changed. This is a standard feature in laptops that have Windows 10+ installed on them. Notably, this feature does not apply to the laptops running on a high-performance mode, such as a gaming mode on a gaming laptop. Most devices on the market have at least a 3/5 Energy Star rating.
Manufacturing of Devices: Many businesses are trying to investigate and create new ways to build greener PCs that do not utilise the normally used toxic chemicals (presence of lead in the solder, brominated flame retardants, etc.). This is the result of new research and increased public awareness about the consequences of the effects of these toxic chemicals.
Green Computing Organisations
Green Grid: Formed in 2007, Green Grid is a non-profit partnership in the industry that brings together technology vendors, end-users, architects, legislators and companies that provide energy in order to increase data centre resource efficiency.
Green Electronics Council: The Green Electronics Council was formed in 2005 with the goal of promoting green computing and encouraging companies to adopt environmentally beneficial practices. The council owns a tool known as EPEAT or Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool. It is a tool that evaluates a device’s numerous environmental elements throughout its existence and assigns a Bronze/Silver/Gold rating based on a set of ecological performance metrics.
How can you Contribute to Green Computing?
Here are a few ways in which you can use the computer to contribute to green computing:
- Activate the energy consumption or power management options to keep an eye on your energy usage.
- When you are not using your computer for a good amount of time, then use sleep mode.
- Instead of desktop PCs, purchase energy-efficient laptops.
- If you are in possession of servers that are in use, then try shifting to the AWS or Azure cloud.
- Rather than buying brand new cartridges for your printer, visit a shop that offers the service to refill your cartridges.
- Even if you choose to get a new CPU for your desktop PC, make use of an old CPU body instead of buying a new one.
These are the small changes you can apply in your daily life to contribute to green computing and help the environment in the process of doing so.
By and Large
As our understanding of the usage of technology required to operate computers and the resources needed to manufacture them in the first place grows, our knowledge of the expense and rarity of the energy required to power them increases too. However, as technological advancements may help individuals and organisations to adopt greener lives and work patterns, computing is both a part of the issue and the solution in the environmental debate. It is on an individual whether to neglect or accept the consequences and work for a brighter eco-friendly future.