Little Things Add Up to Big Things

Green computing is generally thought of as the “study and practice of efficient and eco-friendly computing resources.” Helping the environment by decreasing energy use and at the same time reducing associated costs seems a no-brainer. Want to learn about green computing and what you can do on a personal level to promote it? Would you like customized information about green computing delivered free to your desktop? Two delivery vehicles for the Internet information highway are Google Alerts and Twilert Twitter tweets (say that fast three times). Use them to get daily e-mail messages with gleanings from the Internet.

Here’s an excerpt from a typical Google Alert e-mail:

Here’s an excerpt for a sample Twilert:

One other method to track green computing tweets in one place is at Green CIO.

By the way, how much energy is consumed by each Twitter tweet? According to a developer for Twitter’s Platform Team, each sent tweet uses about 90 joules, which means each tweet gives off about 0.02 grams of C02 into the atmosphere. Does not seem like much until you realize there are some 50 million tweets sent on average per day that collectively emit the equivalent of 1 metric ton of CO2. Then consider that Twitter reached the 20 billion tweet mark in July 2010, only four years since Twitter started up in July 2006. It is like the saying: “Little things you do make a big difference.”

Continuing with the ‘little things add up to big things” theme, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay expects to save $10,000 a year simply by changing the font used for printing documents. Some fonts purportedly use less ink so the college expects to save money by not buying as many printer cartridges. Microsoft changed the default font in Office Word in order to get a “crisper, more easily read display of the font” on the monitor so users are less tempted to print their documents. Colleges waste a ton of paper that is printed but never used. Estimates run as high as 40% waste.

So some colleges are stopping free “print on demand” service for students and replacing it with variations on pay-to-print services where students are given a certain amount of free printing per academic year. Students can purchase more as needed. The thinking goes that if students are paying for their printer paper, they will be less like likely to waste it. And another way to save on printing costs is provided by PrintWhatYouLike, which is a free online editor that lets you format any Web page for printing. Eliminate printing ads, empty space, and other unwanted junk.

If you have some travel funds, consider attending several upcoming green computing conferences in Washington, D.C. Virtualization, Cloud Computing & Green IT Summit is scheduled for October 26-27 at the Grand Hyatt Washington Hotel, while the GOVGREEN Conference & Exposition will run November 9-10 at the Washington, D.C., convention center. While both conferences are geared primarily for government, the presentations, exhibits, and ideas are applicable to all fields.

Stay tuned here for more updates on how desktop/laptop computer users can take small steps to achieve large energy and cost savings. Remember . . . charity may begin at home, but green computing begins at the desktop. If you know of other green computing conferences and information about green computing at the desktop, please post it as a comment to this column. Click on the title of this article and scroll down to the composing window. I’ll include the information in my next column.

6 Responses

  1. John, thank you for the reminder that “green” is not just about hardware. It’s also about the software and apps that we use on that hardware. I never think about the energy consequences of the apps that I use, yet I’m religious about turning off lights that aren’t needed and turning to the most efficient means to cool my living and working spaces. I also use screen savers and turn off equipment when not in use.

    Yet I use heavy power consuming apps when less hungry alternatives are available. Someone ought to invent an energy meter that we can wear on our wrists, perhaps as part of wristwatches, that is able to somehow tell us how much external energy we’re using, directly or indirectly, at any given time. It would require some sort of sensor . . . -Jim S

  2. Jim, Yes, green means everything, as in a TCO kind of way. Everything counts. And remember…just b/c you turn off equipment doesn’t mean it’s not still drawing power. “Vampire power” or “phantom load” refers to the electricity that’s still used when hardware (e.g., laptop battery chargers, cellphone chargers) are not connected to the laptop or cellphone but left plugged into the wall outlet.

    To fight phantom power; plug all your electronics into one power strip and turn the strip off when you are finished using your computer. Also, consider investing in a Smart Strip, a power strip that shuts off electricity to other outlets on the strip when a device connected to the “master” outlet is turned off. When possible, also unplug the power strip from the wall to avoid power surges that can happen during a thunderstorm.

  3. John, you’re right about equipment that stays on even after I turn them off. In the dark, I see the tiny glows that I don’t see during the day. I’ve never heard of smart strips. I’ll look for them. Thanks! -Jim S

    A new EssentialSet from IEEE Computer Society

    This practical collection from IT Professional’s San Murugesan features eight articles that provide comprehensive coverage of what Green IT is, how IT can be made greener, and the ways in which IT can help improve environmental sustainability in other sectors. They have been chosen for their relevance, clarity, and value to anyone looking to take advantage of new career opportunities in green technology and policy management.

    With an original introduction and an annotated list of supplementary resources and references, this EssentialSet captures the current conversation on Green IT, its adoption, and its potential.

  5. Annual International Conference on Green Information Technology

    25-26 October 2010, Singapore

    Further details at:

  6. Virtualization, Cloud Computing & Green IT Summit
    Oct. 26-27, 2010
    Washington, DC

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