The global information and communication technology industry (ICT) is responsible for roughly 2 percent of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, according to a study by tech research firm Gartner. This figure is expected to double by 2020. In addition to carbon dioxide emissions, the ICT industry demands massive amounts of energy to run. One strategy to reduce the environmental impact of the ICT industry is to apply “green” approaches.
What Is Green ICT and Green Networking?
A wide range of ICT equipment is used by organizations — including computers, printers, copiers, wireless routers, smartphones, desktop phones, servers, databases, and data centers. All contribute to carbon emissions and the ever-increasing use of energy. “Green ICT” refers to the efforts to reduce the environmental impact associated with ICT equipment.
Every piece of ICT equipment affects the environment, at every stage of that equipment’s production and useful life. This includes the materials used to produce the equipment, transportation of the product to consumers, the energy needed to use it, and the disposal of outdated or obsolete equipment.
Green networking, similar to green ICT, refers to the amount of energy used by networking hardware products. When hardware technology and related products consume less energy than traditional products, they’re considered green. By using green networking techniques when designing data centers, companies keep energy costs down in addition to reducing their adverse environmental impact.
These three companies are leading sustainability efforts in the networking industry:
Intel is leading the way in green ICT efforts with sustainable business practices, including the use of large amounts of renewable energy. The company purchases more than 3.4 billion kWh of renewable energy certificates annually. That is equivalent to taking more than 455,000 passenger cars off the road every year. Intel accomplishes this by harnessing renewable sources such as solar, hydro, geothermal, wind, and biomass energies. The company also has 18 on-site solar plants at several of its facilities. Intel’s goals of reducing emissions are realized through a combination of conservation, efficient building design, recycling, and sustainable water management.
Intel’s green networking efforts extend to product design as well. When designing new generations of processors, the company works to lessen the impact to the environment in all stages of the product lifecycle. And, Intel promotes digital solutions by demonstrating how the Internet of Things can be used to increase production efficiency, reduce operating costs, and conserve resources.
Intel employees also join environmental initiatives. Through its Sustainability in Action program, the company offers incentives to employees who use sustainable practices by linking compensation to the company’s overall achievements in environmental sustainability. In addition, Intel recognizes employees who have helped reduce the company’s environmental impact by implementing its Environmental Excellence Awards program.
Widely recognized as one of the world’s greenest companies, Microsoft has been powered solely by renewable electricity since 2014, using more than 3.2 billion kWh annually. Its achievement in green networking comes from its extensive efforts in neutralizing carbon emissions. Since June of 2012, Microsoft has been carbon neutral, which the company has accomplished in part by implementing an internal carbon fee policy. Microsoft uses savings to fund energy efficiency improvements, purchase more renewable energy, and support community projects aimed at offsetting carbon and advancing sustainable development.
Microsoft also champions cloud services as a method to reduce energy use. By moving its business applications to the cloud, Microsoft reduces energy use by at least 30 percent. The company also designs products such as Microsoft Office 365 with the advantages of cloud services in mind. Microsoft was named a Green Power Partner of the Year in 2015 by the EPA for its efforts – the third time in four years that Microsoft received the honor.
Sprint uses a multi-layered plan for its green ICT commitment. The company set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, reducing electricity use by 20 percent, reducing greenhouse gas intensity by 75 percent, and securing 10 percent of electrical energy from renewable sources, all by 2017. The company has already accomplished three out of four of these goals, and expects to save more than $100 million every year while easing the strain on the environment. These are only a few of the ways in which CEO Dan Hesse is leading the company’s efforts in green networking. Other practices include making sustainable products, producing sustainable packaging, conserving water, reducing operating waste, and recycling.
Green ICT has the ability to minimize stress on the environment and help make our world a better place to live. Companies and consumers both benefit in countless ways from these green innovations. As companies expand their green networking practices, they will need the expertise of forward-thinking engineers to maximize the positive impact of renewable energy research and sustainable product design.
At the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, graduates of the online Master of Science in Electrical Engineering program are equipped with the skills to research, design, develop, and test new technologies and industry applications — and to position themselves as leaders.