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How tech businesses can balance out their environmental impact

Tue 23 Apr 2019

Earth Day 2019: There is no ‘silver bullet’ to address the issue of climate change. But if every business made a small change, together we would make a big change

Earth Day is the world’s largest environmental movement and is celebrated every year on 22nd April. It serves as a reminder that the world we live in isn’t sustainable if we don’t make a difference. However, it’s very easy to downsize the problem and point the finger at someone else.

Technology vendors are not entirely blameless when it comes to being environmentally conscious. So, taking all of this into account, Techerati spoke to six IT industry experts this Earth Day to get their thoughts and advice on how the technology industry can take the small steps needed to make a big environmental difference.

Starting small

It’s very easy to make a difference when it comes to being greener, even if it doesn’t feel like it. One of the first things any company can do is to go paperless. This can be everything from emailing documents rather than printing them, to moving data from on-premises to the cloud. Or, as Steve Wainwright, managing director at Skillsoft suggests, “A good eLearning programme – as well as boosting your organisation’s productivity – can have a positive impact on your organisation’s carbon footprint.”

“Online resources significantly cut down on the amount of paper used,” Wainwright continues. “Classroom based-training, on the other hand, tends to rely on handouts and quizzes that use up a lot of paper. According to research conducted by Kyocera, the average office worker in the UK uses up to 45 pieces of paper per day, and a staggering two-thirds of that is considered waste.”

“Striving to create a paperless office is one of the most eco-friendly tactics an organisation can use to help the environment, and learning programmes are a great place to start.”

Additionally, sophisticated wireless networking can also help to generate a smarter, greener and more efficient world. This may not be the obvious solution, but as Jason Wells, VP and VP and GM EMEA at Cradlepoint explains:

“Smart devices enable a greater level of control and a more in-depth method of data collection than ever before and they have an important role to play in both new and existing office buildings. Fast mobile Internet connections are the backbone of this new IoT landscape. And while 4G is already supporting IoT development in office buildings, 5G will be the catalyst for even greater adoption. This efficiency can generate a smarter business world, and the pace of development is only going to continue to increase.”

“Rather than traditional wired network infrastructures, wireless mobile connectivity is becoming the solution of choice for enterprises readying themselves for the requirements of the future workplace. The wide availability of wireless broadband offers the scalability and flexibility to deliver greater speed at a fraction of the cost.”

Hopefully, over the next few years, as we move down the pathway to 5G, we will see more organisations taking this approach to deliver an increasingly connected and greener workplace.

“It’s very easy to make a difference when it comes to being greener, even if it doesn’t feel like it”

Take resources into consideration

The tech industry is awash with innovation, and companies should be using this to think out of the box when it comes to reducing environmental impact. With data centres being such an important part of many businesses, Graham Marcroft, operations and compliance director at Hyve Managed Hosting believes that companies should look to utilising advanced data centre infrastructure designs that reduce power loss through techniques such as improved cooling and power conditioning.

“Data centres are used by almost all businesses in some way or another, however, some can require huge amounts of power just to keep them cool, not to mention their operational power consumption,” Alan Conboy, Office of the CTO at Scale Computing suggests. “New technologies, like edge computing, compress the footprint needed to run IT out in the field. By using a data centre in a box that is smaller than a single refrigerator, enterprises can build their green efficiencies by using less power for operation and cooling.”

Additionally, as Rik Williams, head of data centre operations, Node4 points out, “data centre providers have a responsibility to follow sustainable principles and should be thinking about how to fulfil the requirements of businesses that are conscious of the need to deploy environmentally-friendly IT solutions.”

“This means utilising the latest energy-saving technologies, such as cold aisle containment, free cooling chillers and adiabatic cooling systems in order to be more energy efficient,” he continues. “Using this technology is not only better for the environment, but could save data centres between 40 percent and 60 percent on air conditioning, reduce customer costs and, crucially, their impact on climate change.”

Essentially, it is important that organisations are not only leveraging the latest technologies to improve business but are also taking advantage of technology that improves their environmental impact. “Some sections of society believe that climate change will be solved by advanced new technologies, such as AI, genetic engineering, or IoT,” comments Christian Lang, vice president EMEA at Commvault, “but on Earth Day 2019 it is important that we look a little closer to home when considering the challenge represented to our planet by climate change.”

As Lang believes, “ultimately, there is no ‘silver bullet’ to address the issue of climate change,” but at the end of the day, if every business made a small change, together we would make a big change.

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