Greener Computer Cooling for the Planet; for the Pocketbook

January 5, 2009

Could Greenifying the planet be as simple as using fresh air to cool your data center?  If that statement is true, it may also Greenify your company's bottom line. 

Ok, we're oversimplifying, but improving our environment is a step-by-step process.  Companies that use natural air to cool their facilities often see huge benefits on both the environmental end and the bottom line.  IT experts, analysts and environmentalists say there are plenty of opportunities for tech organizations to create more Earth-friendly operations, cut their energy needs and slash their carbon footprint, all while saving money.

A recent survey of IT executives showed a little reluctance on the part of some leaders. Nearly half (42%) said their IT departments have no plans to launch projects in the next 12 months to reduce energy consumption or carbon emissions, and nearly three quarters reported no plans to create committees to oversee energy-saving initiatives.  Those are delays which may force them to play catch up down the road.

"The green issue is not going to go away. There's too much at stake," says Rakesh Kumar, a Gartner Inc. analyst.

That's not to say IT leaders don't have their reasons for staying away from green computing. Kumar says some of them think it's a fad. And others, even among the educated and informed, believe global warming is a hoax and that there's no need to act on the issue, or they see green as merely increasing expenses.  It's time for those ideas to be updated along with energy usage patterns.

Increasingly, however, IT leaders and other executives are putting aside such concerns and pushing for green IT initiatives.

In the September 2008 "U.S. Green IT Survey" by IDC, the market research firm, 44% of the respondents said that IT plays a very important role in their organizations' efforts to reduce their environmental impact.  That number is up from the previous year's survey, in which only 14% of CEOs said they felt such concerns.

This year, however, another factor is in play.  The 2008 survey shows the high cost of energy is among the most pressing reason for changing how data centers and computers are cooled.

"We don't see many or indeed any companies that are hesitant to explore green IT projects," IDC analyst Vernon Turner wrote in an e-mail on this topic. "In fact, the scary thing is where to start, and it may be that reason why there is somewhat a feeling of lost souls. There has been a lot of marketing by the IT vendor community around green, and I think that CEOs and CIOs are 'green-washed' by it."

Cooling computers and other data and tech apparatus using natural air is earth-friendly as well as pocketbook friendly; two areas where expertise combines to be extra important in this New Year.


Less Is More and Much Greener!

January 4, 2009

As we talk about how to best Greenify in the business-place this year, here’s what is likely to be a popular idea: less is more.  Less is greener.  Less generally costs less.  And less may be one of the most commonly heard themes of the coming year.

Most businesses are suffering in the current economic slump.  And perhaps this year, we will learn to equate consuming less with good things. 

Most of us would never think to suggest to our customers that they consume less.  It goes against all our ways of thinking to suggest that we market ourselves to those who use our business by helping them find ways to use less, decrease their carbon footprint, and help Greenify the planet.  But this may be the year to do that.

With the economies around the world in a slump, customers and consumers will be looking for ways to lower their costs.  They’ll search out ways to cut and if you can help them find ways to fall in line with the concept of “sustainable consumption,” as a cost-effective means of taking care of Mother Earth, you may come out ahead.

"By choosing carefully, you can have a positive impact on the environment without significantly compromising your way of life," Joel Makower wrote in his new book, “Strategies for the Green Economy.”

Sustainable consumption is complex and more global than just environmental concerns.  It has to do with the growing appetite in China, India, and other developing countries for cars, appliances, fashions, fast food, and many of the other things accessible to the consumption class.  So how to best discuss with people just getting access to what others take for granted the fact that it may be time to cut back? 

It won't be easy. For better or worse, we live in a commercial world and consumer society. You can see it at work in the webs of commerce whose existence depends on consumers' endless appetite for more, and in the political leaders who promote unsustainable levels of economic growth, often at the expense of ecological and human needs. You can see it at work in our culture of debt and the sad need to “keep up with the Joneses.”

But this is the year to start to get over that need, in favor of marching forward with an economy of style more suited to our current economics and the need to Greenify our lives and our businesses accordingly.


The Greenification of the White House

January 2, 2009

What can we expect from the new Obama administration going into the White House?  What will the Obama Presidency mean for businesses trying to become more green?  If it’s any consolation to us, this should be a banner set of years for businesses hoping to Greenify as the Democratic President is expected to put forward numerous proposals that will forward environmental causes such as mitigating global warming, promotion of “green” industries and alternative energy, while cracking down on toxic chemicals in our environment. 

So far, President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Lisa Jackson as his nominee to head the EPA.  The nominee is said to be tough on enforcement of laws and regulation.  Jackson ran New Jersey's state environmental agency before becoming the chief of staff for the governor in the Garden State.  Before that, she was at the EPA for 16 years in Washington, D.C., and New York. Under Obama, she would be part of a three-person team that would oversee environmental policy.

The other two serving with her are Carol Browner, who directed the EPA under the Clinton administration and would oversee climate-change policy out of Obama's White House; and Nancy Sutley, a deputy Los Angeles mayor who would run the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Obama has chosen Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, to be his energy secretary, and Rep. Hilda L. Solis, a California Democrat, to become labor secretary, charged with enforcing workplace safety laws, among other duties.

Many Washington insiders are noticing that numerous of these positions are being filled by Californians, giving the state a hefty chunk of influence.  Starting in the 1970s, when it became the first state to establish its own auto emissions standards under the federal Clean Air Act, California has been considered a trendsetter.

After the state banned a class of chemicals, phthalates, from children's products last year, 12 states introduced similar bans.

The California ban on phthalates inspired Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to successfully push for a federal prohibition, which takes effect in February. It is a rarity -- the first time Congress has banned a chemical in decades -- and it faced stiff and well-financed opposition from Exxon Mobil, which makes one of the banned chemicals.

Roger Martella, a former EPA general counsel who is an attorney for many corporations affected by environmental regulation, says the strength of democrats in Congress, along with the new administration coming in could see  an era of significant new government action.

"Whether at the end of the day every policy that California has gets implemented on a national level is a matter for debate," Martella said. "At the same time, we'd be foolish to ignore those stars that are lining up."

Which may mean more inspiration, motivation and legislation to help businesses Greenify as the new administration puts its policies in place.


Recycling Christmas (Trees!)

January 1, 2009

Christmas 2008 is now past; the Happy New Year of 2009 Greenifying your business lies ahead.  That may mean that Job One at the top of this (usually quiet) week's list is disposing of the holiday tree.  And your options can be very green, indeed!  Recycling, or treecycling, is easy and convenient, whether you are taking down your business or home tree; work in an industrial park or strip mall; live in a house with curbside yard waste collection service or a multi-tenant building.

Last year, recyclers kept over 800 tons of Christmas trees out of landfills, and this year, with many convenient options, even more could be collected. 

Christmas trees are recycled by being ground up in huge tub grinders.  The resulting material becomes mulch and compost. Because recycled trees are generally put to use in making landscaping and garden products, flocked trees can not be recycled. Some of the ingredients used to flock the tree can harm the quality of compost. Also, before recycling your tree, remove tinsel, lights, ornaments, rod supports, and the stand.

And do be considerate of recyclers.  The grinders that turn trees into mulch are powerful, heavy machines, but even they have their limits.  Their huge jaws pulverize branches and even some stumps, but they can be choked by items like metal Christmas tree stands. Metal Christmas tree stands or rebar remaining in tree trunks can jam grinders, stall engines, break off grinder teeth, or fly out of grinders which poses a threat to workers.  Make sure you provide the cleanest, most natural tree possible for pick-up by recyclers.

You'll also need to check with your local community for information about recycling trees.  Some cities provide pick-up for businesses, but not all.  And various trash haulers have different requirements for the proper way to recycle trees to ensure smooth loading and increase available space in collection trucks. For example, some cities ask residents not to put Christmas trees in yard waste containers. Instead, they want residents to cut in half any trees longer than 6 feet, and place the trees next to refuse and recycling bins.

Most local governments and their trash disposal services want to help residential and commercial clients to recycle their trees.  It does help maximize space in the landfill, and provide valuable mulching materials that help Greenify homes and businesses far into the year 2009 and beyond.


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