Green computing - Approaches | Challenges

Green computing is the study and practice of using computer resources in an environmentally friendly way in order to reduce the IT industry's carbon footprint.

8 min
Green computing - Approaches | Challenges

Green computing, also known as green IT, is a professional and technical field that describes the way of designing, manufacturing, using, and disposing of computer equipment and other technology components in a way that reduces the scale of the harmful impact on the environment to some extent.

Understanding green computing 

The goal of green computing is to lower the carbon footprint of the Information Technology and Systems industry and adjacent businesses.

Air pollution is the key area where the industry of technology contributes to the opposing side of having a green environment.

When hazardous or excessive amounts of gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide, and methane are released into the earth's atmosphere, it is known as air pollution.

All carbon emissions are greenhouse gases, which are caused by human activity. In our case, every piece of technology that requires electricity to function contributes to the release of greenhouse gases.

Computers that you are using to read this information need electricity, your mobile device, and other hardware, all of which impact the quality of the computing environment.

As a result, in order to improve the production and use of technology toward a better and safer green computing environment, it is necessary to analyze the technology that will be used for that specific project, the resources that will require to run, its customer needs, and the impact it can have on the environment.

These project analyses should always be accompanied by key concepts of green computing and its goals.

Customer requirements must be considered. If the product does not meet their needs, or if their project expectations are limited due to the pursuit of green computing standards, the project's outcomes will be called into question, which no one wants.

Due to the danger of failure, previous multidisciplinary studies are necessary to determine the correct balance between how far a product can be modified while still performing at a high degree of performance for customer satisfaction.

To recap, we must research how to design, engineer, produce, operate, and finally dispose of computer equipment in a way that minimizes its environmental impact in order to achieve green computing sooner and safer.

Green computing concepts and approaches

Green computing can be defined as the ecologically responsible and eco-friendly use of computers and their resources.

Going Green is becoming more popular as a way to save the environment from pollution and another way of nature degrading. The manufacturing and use of technology can result in air, water, heat, and noise pollution. 

Nonrenewable resources, such as precious metals such as gold, are used to manufacture technology. Many others, such as coal, are often used to generate electricity for the use of technology.

Nowadays, modern technology is based on a diverse set of hardware, complex systems, and networks, as well as human interaction. Green computing initiatives must cover all sectors, starting from a projection of a product until its disposal, in order to achieve a greener computing environment.

The serious challenges arise when we try to find a balance between addressing systems, hardware, and software on the one hand, and the need to always address end-user satisfaction, meet regulatory requirements, best manage infrastructure restructuring, and ensure a positive return on investment on the other.

In general, there are four main concept levels when it comes to pursuing a green computing environment;

  • Green usage: reducing the amount of electricity used by computers and their auxiliary devices and using them in an environmentally responsible manner.
  • Green disposal: repurposing old technology or properly discarding or recycling obsolete electronic equipment are both viable options.
  • Green design: Designing energy-efficient computers, servers, printers, projectors, and other digital devices is considered a sustainable and green design.
  • Green manufacturing: From the early phases it's important to choose the right material. Hazardous materials should be avoided, directly affecting reducing the environmental impact of waste equipment when becomes obsolete.

All other aspects of green computing attempts can be subordinated for optimization under these approaches.

Addressing green computing challenges

In its most basic form, Green Computing refers to the reduction of technology's impact on the environment. This entails conserving energy, reducing waste, and encouraging long-term sustainability.

When it comes to striving for more efficient use of tech equipment, areas where Green Computing concepts need to be pushed forward and enhanced accordingly, include but are not limited to;

Data centers - Facilities of data centers are heavy consumers of energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that data center facilities consume up to 100 to 200 times more energy than standard office buildings.

Datacenter facilities are large energy consumers. According to estimates from the US Department of Energy, data centers use 100 to 200 times more energy than standard office buildings.

Product lifetime - Assessing the product lifetime is a methodology for assessing the environmental impacts associated with all stages of a commercial product's, process's, or service's life cycle.

In the case of a manufactured product, for example, environmental impacts are assessed from raw material extraction and processing, through manufacturing, distribution, and use, to recycling or final disposal of the materials that comprise it.

Life cycle assessment (LCA) analysis entails taking a detailed records of the energy and materials needed across the industry value chain for a product, operation, or service, and calculating the resulting emissions to the environment.

As a result, LCA evaluates the potential for cumulative environmental consequences. The goal is to document and enhance the product's entire environmental profile.

Software optimization - According to a Harvard physicist's study from 2009, the average Google search emits 7 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2). The quantity of computer resources required for any particular computing function is affected by algorithm efficiency.

There are various efficiency trade-offs when creating programs, for example, switching from a slow (e.g. linear) search algorithm to a fast (e.g. hashed or indexed).

Power management - When inactive, some electrical appliances, such as copiers, computers, computer CPUs, computer GPUs, displays, and printers, turn off the power or transition to a low-power mode. In computers, this is known as PC power management, and it is based on the ACPI standard, which replaces APM.

Other areas that need improvement include faster and more efficient storage, displays that are built with the latest technology and consume way less energy such as reflective displays and others. 

The process of cryptocurrency mining, which is carried out by graphics processing units (GPUs), plays a significant part in boosting energy consumption and leaving a carbon footprint.

Check out these short statistics for a fast snapshot of the situation.

single ethereum transaction footprints
annualized ethereum transaction footprints
For easy understanding, the population of Chile is +19 million, and Hong Kong has around 7.5 million population.
energy consumption of crypto by country, bitcoin and ethereum energy consumption

Green computing examples

Real-life examples of experiencing green computing practices, particularly in the tech world, and steps toward raising awareness in our workplace are required.

Examples how to practice green computing;

  • It is recommended that organizations, first of all, announce the green computing intentions to all employees and the use of energy-efficient equipment,
  • Take action in creating infrastructure for green computing plans and establish policies in this regard,
  • Enhance overall business performance, 
  • Shutting down computers and peripherals, directly impacting in reducing energy waste, or adjusting computers' power consumption like turning off the screen when in an idle state or not in use,
  • When purchasing equipment (servers, laptops, desktops, printers, scanners, etc.), take into account the degree of their efficiency. For example, laptops are significantly more efficient than desktop computers. 

Other facts that contribute to a greener environment include employee telecommuting, which reduces emissions caused by vehicle fuel use.

Future of green computing

In order to promote awareness and emphasize the importance of pursuing green computing and policy generally, we must be open and honest about the challenges and obstacles that we face.

There is a lack of will when it comes to the individual actions we must take in this regard, but when this issue is discussed publicly among corporations and other major groups, there is hope.

While individual supporters of a greener computing culture are important, corporations are the ones who will actually make the change for two primary reasons.

First of all, businesses account for the majority of the carbon footprint; second, smaller businesses and government agencies will attempt to follow in the corporates' footsteps by adopting their idealized cultures and policies.

In terms of preserving the environment, green computing has a lot of potential and is quite flexible.

We expect to make progress toward our goal of making computing more efficient while simultaneously making the world a more environmentally friendly place.

Published on
June 1, 2022

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