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With worldwide computer shipments topping 300 million units last year and continuing at a double-digit pace that will result in a projected four billion computers in use by 2020, their manufacturing and consumption are becoming a significant environmental concern.  As a result green computing is becoming increasingly important.

According to a report by computer manufacturer Lenovo, “Green PCs for a Smarter Future”, manufacturers are increasingly looking for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, resources consumed and waste generated.  The basic tenets of green computing.

The information and telecommunications technology industry generates about 2% of global carbon emissions every year, according to “Green IT: A New Industry Shock Wave”, a report by technology research firm Gartner.

Of this figure, computers and monitors account for 39% of carbon emissions, equivalent to a full year of emissions from about 43.9million passenger vehicles, Lenovo said.

The Kyoto Protocol, negotiated through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has set a target for average global carbon emissions reductions of 5.4% relative to 1990 levels by 2012. The 17th Conference of the Parties to this framework, COP17, which starts in Durban a week from tomorrow, will debate whether to extend the agreement beyond 2012, or enter into its second phase.

South Africa has pledged to slash 34% from its carbon emissions by 2020 and 42% by 2025.

Green Computing

Enter green computing: the design, manufacture, use and disposal of computing devices in a way that is not detrimental to the environment. Green computing practices were primarily introduced by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 with the launch of the Energy Star programme, a consumer guide to the energy efficiency of products.

For manufacturers to earn the right to use the Energy Star label, their products must meet energy use guidelines in three distinct operating modes: standby, sleep mode and while computers are being used.

Products bearing the Energy Star label saved US consumers enough energy in 2010 to avoid greenhouse gas emission equivalent to that from 33million cars, while saving them almost $18-billion in utility bills.

But South African businesses are not following suit. Tim James, director at SustainableIT, a green information technology software and services provider, said business and IT organisations had yet to fully embrace the opportunities that green computing brings.

“Very little has been done beyond virtualisation and teleconferencing solutions. Business demands cost reductions and science demands an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050 to limit global warming to 2°C. Technology adoption can go a long way towards achieving both these goals,” said James.

“In South Africa, information technology needs to be better embraced by business leaders to reduce their business emissions and costs, and ensure sustainability in their business operations.”

A study developed by The Climate Group and the Global eSustainability Initiative estimated that green computing could cut global annual emissions by as much as 15% by 2020, delivering nearly an eight-fold benefit when comparing carbon use to carbon reduction.

NextGen Research, the emerging technology arm of ABI Research, defines a “green” computer as one that is built from eco-friendly materials and features low power consumption and computer power management capabilities. It has fewer and smaller components, generates less heat than previous models and is packaged in recyclable materials.

NextGen Research said purchases of green computers will grow from less than a sixth of the $249-billion computer market in 2009 to nearly two-thirds – more than $190-billion – of the projected $323-billion computer market in 2013.

On the supply side, environmental campaign group Greenpeace International keeps a stern eye on electronic manufacturers through its monthly “Guide to Greener Electronics”, ranking them on policies and practices to reduce their carbon footprint, produce greener products and make their operations more sustainable.

The top three highest-ranked computer manufacturers for November were HP at 5.9 out of 10 points, followed by Dell at 5.1 and Apple at 4.6.

Source: Business Times 20 November 2011

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