Green computing, as the name suggests, is a method of making computer wastes (in general electronics) recyclable and implementing energy efficient technologies. It actually reduces poisonous components of computers or electronic goods, and minimizes environmental harm. The technology used in green computing is known as green technology and the purpose is to implement that which is energy efficient. This can be an energy efficient central processing unit, servers or accessories etc. These technologies also help in reducing power and other resource consumptions. The overall purpose is to use technologies on both hardware and software side to reduce environmental pollution, improve energy efficiency in IT and also promote recycling of materials.
In this article we will discuss different aspects of green computing and its effects on energy efficiency.
What is green computing?
Green computing, as already mentioned above, comprises of methods used for the minimization of computer wastes and the implementation of technologies that are energy efficient in nature. The green computing program was born in the year 1992, with the Energy Star program in the US. It was meant for the computer industry to adopt sustainable practices on several fronts, such as manufacturing, design, usage and their eventual disposal. This program was a success and also made its way to several other nations, like Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and also the EU.
The computers that we use so vastly are made of poisonous materials, such as lead, chromium, mercury and cadmium. If these metals happen to make its way into the environment, either by land, water or air, they can cause serious harm to human health. Besides, there is no solution till date with regard to the millions of computers that throng landfill sites around the world. Also, while we are dependent on computers for a large number of tasks, they consume a good amount of energy for operations.
So, it can be said that green computing essentially is a means to achieve environmentally sustainable computing, which can be done without or by minimally affecting the environment, in terms of designing, making, using and disposing of computers and similar devices or systems.
How can it be implemented?
When it comes to green computing, implementing it has been getting easier day by day, largely due to the several software and hardware solutions that allow one to adopt green standards. Also, they apply to all classes of systems, whether it is a small handheld scanner to large datacenters that host thousands of servers.
The most notable contribution of the Energy Star program was the “sleep mode” for computers, where the system simply went into hibernation when it wasn’t in use, thereby saving energy. Since then, it has come a long way. Software optimization and deployment can be a good means for implementing green computing. This can be achieved via efficiency in algorithms, proper allocation of resources, and virtualization.
- Algorithmic efficiency directly affects the amount of resources required for running computer functions. In this regard, changes such as moving from linear based search to hashing or indexing can result in faster processes, thereby reducing the usage of resources. Closely linked to this is the aspect of resource allocation. If proper allocation of resources can be made in computing, one can reap benefits as it means their efficient utilization. This can also lead to a cut in costs for businesses.
- Virtualization is another very important method that helps in implementing green computing. Here, the two or more number of logical computer systems can be run on the same piece of hardware. Thus, one can cut down the number of computer systems required by simply having one, powerful system. Also, this helps in terms of energy efficiency as one system will certainly consume less power compared to many.
- Power management can very effectively allow for implementation of green computing principles as it helps in improving energy efficiency. With proper power management, it is possible to reduce power consumption, which further leads to a reduction in carbon emissions too. Several key operating systems, such as Windows and macOS versions are known to have power management features that allow for stand-by modes and turning off the monitor, without actually having to shut down the system in its entirety. These can be used by one when required and it helps save energy. Further, there is third-party software, such as 1E NightWatchman, Faronics Power Save, etc. that can help by offering power management features that are not offered by MS Windows or macOS.
- In terms of hardware usage too, green computing can be implemented. For example, one can make use of hard disk drives of the small form factor, i.e. 2.5 inch, as it consumes less power. Another major way is to replace them with solid state drives that contain no moving parts. This will also lead to less power consumption. CRT monitors are also known to consume more power when compared to the newer LED or LCD monitors. So, adopting them can be another means to implement green computing.
- Cloud computing is effectively one of the majors ways to achieve sustainability in terms of computing. It reduces energy usage and resource consumption. Many companies can move, and have been doing so, their applications to the cloud, thereby cutting down on use of computing and energy resources, carbon emissions, etc.
These are just some of the more easy-to-adopt means to achieve green computing and there are several more.
What are the impacts?
With challenges such climate change and the heavy consumption of non-renewable energy resources, business and individuals have understood the need for adopting green computing standards and have shown the eagerness to contribute to it in several ways possible.
Besides this governments and organizations across the world have also taken steps to increase awareness in this matter. The US Environmental Protection Agency’s Green IT unit stresses on e-cycling and refurbishment of electronic products. Likewise, there are several organizations too that certify green computing practices such as CompTIA, Green Computing Initiative, Information Systems Examination Board, The Green Grid, Green500, etc.
As such, many business organizations have also resorted to achieving green computing standards as it boosts their image. These companies often have departments that are devoted to cutting energy consumption, and carbon emissions. IT systems often make up to 30 percent of a company’s electricity bills, and many companies have started to improve on them. They regularly review their bills, calculate their carbon footprint and focus on their reduction to achieve better standards.
What is the future?
One of the most talked about aspects when it comes to green computing is the adoption of alternative energy resources to power IT. While these hold plenty of promise for the future, scientists have also been looking at other means to solve promote this. Nanotechnology is being used for the manipulation of materials on a nanometer scale such that they can be more efficient in energy consumption.
Many companies have their green computing initiative that aims to achieve energy efficiency by using clean-computing strategies for designing and manufacturing CPUs, motherboards and other computing hardware. VIA Technologies, based out of Taiwan, is a notable promoter of this.
Carbon-free computing has been adopted as another means, where the main purpose is to make use of technologies that emit lesser amounts of CO2 into the environment.
Recycling and the use of refurbished products have seen the light of late and can be a trendsetter for the future. Dell is well-known for its product recycling program across that world and it also comes for free. So, these are likely trends that will see as ways to achieve green computing in the future.
As the use of computers and related devices grow every year, it is imperative that people and organizations are well acquainted with the consequences, as far as the impact of these devices on the environment is concerned. The present level of computing is clearly unsustainable. The Internet is probably one of the biggest platforms to educate people about ways to promote and achieve green computing. Individuals can start to inculcate simple practices, like turning off devices when unused, or buying energy efficient products to begin with. This will enable the promotion and widespread implementation of green computing principles.