Thursday, November 13, 2008

Five Simple Ways to Get Started with Green IT

1. Buy Green.

Perhaps the easiest way to get started is to buy energy-efficient electronics when it's time to upgrade or purchase new equipment. Energy Star-rated computers, printers and other technology products use as much as 60 percent less electricity than standard equipment, according to the Energy Star Web site.

Over the next five years, Energy Star claims that these products will save Americans more than $5 billion dollars. Soft choice, a Toronto-based business-to-business reseller of IT products has designed a new site where you can compare and buy EPEAT products ( is a rating service for electronics that collaborates with Energy Star). The site includes a calculator to determine your energy savings from purchasing the energy-efficient products.

2. Manage Your Power

Take a look at your control panel on your desktop, and it’s likely you'll see everything you need in a few simple clicks to manage power better on your PC. Your business can save $45 per PC annually, simply through automatic shutdown capabilities, says Melissa Quinn, sustainability programs manager for Soft choice. (Read how GE, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, North Thurston Public Schools and others are saving as much as $75 per computer annually simply by activating power management).

Next Steps:

* To maximize power savings, the EPA recommends setting computers to enter system standby or hibernate after 30 to 60 minutes of inactivity.
* To save even more, set monitors to enter sleep mode after five to 20 minutes of inactivity.

If your equipment does not have power management features, you can download the free Energy Star Power Management Software.

3. Get a Professional Energy Audit and Track Energy Use.

Yes, this will cost you money – anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, according to Jerry Lawson, national manager of Energy Star. However, if your business is going to be around for a long time, hiring an auditor might be a wise investment. "We believe you can't manage what you can't measure," he says.

Next Steps:

* If an audit's simply not possible due to finances or lack of professional auditors in your local area, Lawson recommends reviewing The Energy Star "Sure Energy Savers" guidelines to help you start a program.
* To monitor your ongoing energy use, download the free Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool. (An ENERGY STAR private sector contractor maintains and updates the software for accuracy, and your information is password-protected for privacy).

4. Just Say 'No' to Paper

How many times have you printed out a 30-page document when you could have read it and made edits and comments to it through online tracking just as easily? It's a habit, yes – but a bad one that we all need to quit.

Next Steps:

* Use double-sided printing and copying
* Distribute documents electronically
* Create a portal site for sharing content
* Recycle what you must print
* Invest in digital signature technology and software that monitors paper usage by departments, Quinn suggested. Preo Software and PaperCut are two options.

5. Recycle and Disposal of E-waste

More Green Resources

» The Softchoice EcoTech Website

» EPA’s Electronics: A New Opportunity for Waste Prevention, Reuse, and Recycling Fact Sheet

» Energy Star "Putting Energy into Profits" Guide for Small Business

» EPEAT Webinars

Most people in the technology world know not to throw batteries into the garbage can – same for used printer cartridges, discarded cell phones, memory sticks, old or damaged laptops, and so on.

Most electronics that people currently own contain high levels of lead and other toxic materials that need to be handled appropriately so they don’t end up in a landfill and leach poisons into the soil and ultimately, our drinking water. (Fortunately, major tech vendors are increasingly making new equipment cleaner)

“Safe disposal is really important,” Quinn said. “Eighty percent of hardware gets dumped.”