How to make your company more sustainable through Green IT

via Computerworld 

Being green can save you money. And IT can help you save energy while reducing your carbon footprint. Below are some ways you can help your company become more sustainable through Green IT.

Tips to reduce your carbon footprint

Interesting Green IT statistics from not-for-profit organisation, ComputersOff.

There are about 18 million computers within Australia which amounts to:

  • Nearly $1.3 Billion in wasted electricity
  • 5,954,195 tons of CO2 emissions created, which is equivalent to taking 1 million cars off the road, planting 1,623,945 acres of trees or lighting 6,662,036 houses annually.

By turning off your computer each night when you leave work for a year you will help save as much energy as it takes:

  • To run a clock radio for 1392 weeks
  • To make 9280 bags of microwave popcorn
  • To wash 464 loads of washing
  • To use your blow dryer for 5568 hours
  • To vacuum for 464 hours
  • To to produce 3480 plastic bags
  • To run your microwave 24 hours a day for a week
  • To to boil your kettle for 24 hours a day for 268 days

By turning off your computer tonight when you leave work you will save as much energy as it takes:

  • To run a clock radio for more than three weeks
  • To make over 20 bags of microwave popcorn
  • To wash more than a load of washing
  • To blow dry your hair over 12 times
  • To vacuum for more than an hour
  • To light a 100 watt light bulb for over 10 hours

By turning your computer off tonight when you leave work will save about 100 kilograms of coal from being used — a saving of more than 120kg of CO2 emissions.

Save Serious Money With a Business Energy Audit

Sluggish sales and hard-to-get loans may blight the business landscape, but cutting energy waste can bring a big payoff to a small company. To shave liabilities off your profit-and-loss statement, aim to slash your power consumption instead of your workforce or the crucial projects that could help your company expand.
An energy audit creates a portrait of the energy demands that matter to your operations--as well as those you can do without--and it can lead to skinny electricity bills and fat tax breaks.

"We all have incentives to manage our utility bill, but many people don't try because they don't know how," says Geoff Overland, who runs IT and data-center programs for Wisconsin's statewide Focus on Energy program. "By efficiently managing our energy, we have an immediate impact on our bottom line."

DIY or Hire a Pro?

Although you won't find a one-size-fits-all approach to an energy audit, you will have to assign someone to be in charge of the project.

If your headquarters is at home or in a similarly small space, free online tools for residential audits will walk you through the process. Utility companies, Energy Star and similar programs, and groups such as the Residential Energy Services Network offer checklists and online calculators.

Once you gather a years' worth of utility bills, spending about half an hour with Enercom Energy Depot software will break down your consumption and suggest ways to trim it.

Pacific Gas & Electric on the West Coast, Duke Energy in the South, and other utility companies also provide Web-based audit tools for small businesses operating in spaces ranging from an apartment complex to a small warehouse. If your business has multiple locations, dozens of employees, or specialized needs beyond those of the usual small office or shop, seek a professional auditor through your local utility.

Checklists and First Steps

A comprehensive energy-audit checklist takes into account the structure of the workplace, the lighting, and all machines, from the boiler room to the workstations. The Federal Energy Management Program checklist should suffice for an in-house audit at a small company.

Among the major first steps are to examine doorways, windows, and insulation for leaks of cool or hot air. A building shouldn't "breathe" unless you've opened a window for air. Heating and cooling are the biggest building energy hogs, so perform regular tune-ups and updates on heating and air conditioning systems, and seek Energy Star-rated equipment.

Since lighting accounts for one-tenth of an electric bill, swapping old incandescent bulbs for fluorescent or LED lighting makes a big difference. Welcome light in from the windows, and install occupancy sensors that shut off lights when employees vacate the room.

Electronics

Consumer electronics account for one-fifth of home energy use, according to the government, but no hard-and-fast figure exists for small businesses. The more your company relies on hardware, the more energy it tends to use.

"The IT workload is growing almost as fast, if not faster, than any other workload in the U.S.," Overland says.

To measure exactly how much each gadget and appliance in your workplace costs in watts and dollars, devices such as the Watts Up or the Kill-a-Watt cost around $100, and some are integrated into power strips. Some utility companies lend watt meters to small businesses for several weeks at no charge.

Studies show that, in a home, electronic devices waste up to one-fifth of their energy consumption on standby power, plugged in but not in use--an easy opportunity for savings.

A typical computer can use 500 kilowatt-hours of electricity or more per year, Overland says. If you pay 8 cents per kilowatt-hour, that's $40 per year to run just one computer. Multiply that by two or three if you don't turn off the PC at night.

Too often, people disable the power-saving settings when they buy a new PC. Instead, take a minute to crank up those settings to an aggressive level on your operating system.

In Windows 7's Control Panel, for example, choose Power Options and select the Power Saver plan to turn off a display after 5 minutes of inactivity and then put the PC to sleep after 15 minutes (or even 5 minutes). Advanced options provide more controls, such as setting a laptop to sleep when you close its lid.

Apple Mac OS X Snow Leopard provides similar options on the Energy Saver pane under System Preferences. Free downloads that go a step further include the Google Desktop Energy Saver gadget for Windows, which displays how much energy all users online are conserving.

Put Electronics on an Energy Diet

Among the simplest methods for reducing your devices' electrical load is keeping them plugged into a surge-protecting power strip that can flip off at the end of the day. Power strips with occupancy sensors, such as those from Belkin, shut down attached peripherals when you step away from a PC.

Switching out old equipment, such as CRT monitors for flat-screen LCDs, may cost more up front but almost always brings long-term power savings. Look for the Energy Star label, which marks everything from air conditioning units to computers to multifunction printers and scanners. EPEAT ratings of energy and environmental design rank desktops, displays, thin clients, and laptops.

To put an existing PC on double duty (or more), Ncomputing offers multiuser tools for PCs that enable one computer to serve more than one staffer simultaneously.

Power-controlling devices can reduce the energy consumed by big, old appliances, such as an aging refrigerator in the office kitchen.

In the Data Center

Businesses that maintain large storage needs or that manage a data center have additional energy concerns. For them, virtualization is a blessing. Overland has seen virtualization save companies $280 and 3500 kilowatt-hours per year per server, thanks to the reduction in server, cooling, and UPS power. Plus, a blade or blade chassis is a wise replacement for other physical servers.

In addition, to optimize a data center for efficiency you should consolidate equipment, establish proper airflow management, improve power distribution, and use efficient power supplies and protocol data units (PDUs).

Energy and Money Saved

A business renting 2000 square feet of office space in San Francisco could save $1360 by optimizing its electronic devices' power settings, purchasing Energy Star equipment, and using fluorescent lighting, according to PG&E's SmartEnergy Analyzer.

If you work at home, look for consumer tax credits for upgrading windows, doors, and heating and cooling systems, as well as for installing solar, wind, fuel cell, or geothermal energy systems.

More Resources

How An ERP System Can Help Manage Your Company's Energy Use

A few years ago, we had the local electric company do a home energy audit. Our 19th-century house was hard to heat, and as we suspected, the inspector found we didn't have enough insulation. But our most cost-effective change turned out to be the purchase of a new refrigerator. You can't manage what you don't measure. Once you start looking at the right data, the results can lead you to solutions you hadn't imagined.

I thought about this as I was reading the CIO 100 application from one of this year's winners, the City of Palo Alto. In 2007, the city council set a goal to reduce its carbon emissions 5 percent by 2009 and then to 15 percent of 2005 levels by 2020-one of the first cities to establish such targets. Every department got a carbon emissions budget, and managers were expected to come up with their own ideas for staying within it. As the recession deepened and fiscal budgets began to get squeezed, "it became clear this couldn't be an add-on green thing," says Karl Van Orsdol, the city's energy risk and greenhouse gas manager. "It had to be cost-effective and we had to report on what our savings were."

Officials already collected plenty of data about energy usage and spending, but didn't look at it. Someone would key a code into the city's SAP system to pay the utility bills, but "there was no accountability and no incentive to conserve," Van Orsdol recalls. That changed in early 2009 when the city deployed environmental and energy-management software from Hara, based in Redwood City, Calif. This software-as-a-service solution lets managers extract detailed data about their energy and water consumption from the SAP system and analyze it. Out of 150 green projects the city has launched, more than half also show potential for cost savings. The city estimates it will save $520,000 on energy this year compared to 2005.

Like Palo Alto, you probably have data that could be used to develop options for running your company more sustainably. You just have to begin using it.

Start With ERP Any organization with an ERP system keeps data on its resource use. For instance, if you're running a vehicle fleet, you should know how much gasoline you're buying. Palo Alto runs its own electric utility for the city and residents, so it also has details about its power consumption-information that's often also available from independent power companies. Every time a city vehicle fills its tank, SAP captures that data. With such records, the police department discovered it could save fuel by using fans in parked canine unit vehicles. When the project is completed, officers won't have to leave the cars running when the dogs are inside. Other initiatives include upgrading compact fluorescent lightbulbs and replacing old, inefficient equipment (such as refrigerators). City officials use the Hara software to track their progress toward those carbon emissions goals.

Palo Alto's CIO Glenn Loo didn't want to spend much money or staff resources managing a niche analytics tool. But a SaaS solution could be installed quickly, and the city wouldn't have to assign anyone to learn a new application. Loo's team wrote an interface between SAP and Hara to integrate the two applications. Having to pull data from multiple systems would have been harder, Loo says, but Palo Alto had just consolidated four legacy applications into a single SAP instance.

"In the end, we took something that was a sideline and we really built it into an energy-management system," says Van Orsdol. "We built it as a business process."

Should fuel cells power your data centre?

What's happening

Fuel cells are large containers that use hydrogen gas to generate power. Because they create no emissions, they also generate good publicity for companies concerned about their carbon footprints. At the First National Bank of Omaha, fuel cells provide high reliability and make a bold environmental statement to bank and credit card customers. Google uses fuel cells from Bloom Energy to power parts of its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters facility-also to prove its commitment to green computing. However, although the technology has been in use for more than 10 years, it has failed to become widely adopted, says Jim Tully, a Gartner analyst.

Why you care

The biggest benefit of fuel cells, according Mark Evanko, a principal engineer at Bruns-Pak, a data center design consultancy, is that they provide an independent power source. Producing power at a cost of 12 cents per kilowatt hour, fuel cells may cost less than electricity from the local utility. Electric rates depend on fuel costs, which are rising again. "A data center has a constant electrical demand, and that is increasing over time," Evanko observes. "If you can get your own power source and get off the grid, that can be very attractive."

Fuel cells are also appealing because they generate only water as waste, and they run silently, unlike generators. Brenda Dooley, president of First National Buildings, a First National Bank subsidiary that runs the company's facilities, says that if the bank is viewed as being conscious of its environmental impact, this will help attract customers. The bank, which operates in seven states, is a unit of First National of Nebraska, a financial services company with $17 billion in managed assets.

The real deal

In many areas, electricity still costs little enough that fuel cells don't make financial sense. Dooley says the local power company only charges four or five cents per kilowatt hour. In 1998, the bank chose fuel cells anyway because they're more reliable than traditional power sources. A single facility handles all of the bank's credit card processing, and losing power would be catastrophic-costing the bank as much as $6 million per hour. The fuel cells cost more to operate than traditional data center power sources but rarely fail, Dooley says. However, she adds, were the company building a data center today, she would also consider other options.

Aside from the higher cost, Tully says using fuel cells is risky, especially for important services. Part of the quandary is that fuel cells don't provide direct power; they charge batteries which in turn deliver electricity. So while they are extremely reliable, they aren't suited for radical changes in data center power needs. Furthermore, the hydrogen fuel needed isn't easily acquired everywhere, Tully adds, making diesel power more readily available.

What you should do

Fuel cells make the most sense if high reliability is a chief concern, or if you want to make a bold statement about the impact-or lack of it-your computer operations have on the Earth.