Green Computing: What does it mean?

So most of us have heard of businesses or people “going green”, which is roughly defined as the making a conscious effort to make environmentally decisions- such as reduce, reuse and recycle.  Information Technology (IT) is defined by Webster’s as “the technology involving the development, maintenance, and use of computer systems, software, and networks for the processing and distribution of data”.  Now, while these two things might not seem to have a lot to do with each other, do they have to be mutually exclusive?  Of course not, however what exactly does green computing mean and how does it impact most people?  Green computing is the study of designing, engineering, manufacturing, using and disposing of computing devices in a way that reduces their environmental impact.

Now that we know what we are talking about let’s get down to the real question- why does this matter?  Well I think we can all agree that not polluting Earth with left over computer parts is a generally good idea, however it goes a little deeper than that.  One of the simplest ways to decrease environmental impact is to simply make a device that lasts longer than before, therefore lowering the frequency with which it needs to be changed out, ultimately decreasing the amount of waste.  I don’t know about you but I would be more than happy not to have to swap out my hard drive or power cord or any part of my computer during the time I own the device.

Now that we have a general idea of what we are getting into, let’s move on to a few more of the practical application of Green Computing.  For the average user, it breaks down to a handful of issues; including storage, power supply, cloud computing, monitor display, and recycling.

Let’s start with storage and the advent of Solid State Drives (SSD), we have moved into an area where there are fewer moving parts in our hard drives and, therefore, less energy being consumed.  Very simple things like this can, over time, make a huge impact.  As far as power supplies go,  most power supply units now are at least 80% efficient in usage, which has increased older standards at least 10%.  Cloud computing has done a lot to further the field of Green Computing, it reduces energy use and reduces resource consumption.  Even things as simple as online shopping have reduced the carbon footprint of a lot of people through technology.  Monitors have come a long way in recent years,  moving on from CRT monitor, which use too much power and contain a significant amount of lead, we landed at LCD monitors.  These types of monitors use fluorescent bulbs and contain mercury, which has its obvious downsides.  Now that we have LED monitors, we have a monitor that uses far less energy to power and a significant reduction in the amount of harmful substances in our hardware.  The last thing we are looking at is recycling.  Proper recycling of computer hardware can make a huge difference.  It reduces the amount of harmful materials like lead and mercury out of landfills.  Recycling can also offer the option of re-purposing of hardware and materials.

Ensuring that you properly dispose of your computer can also be a security issue, if your hard drive is not properly taken care of you might be leaving sensitive data for someone to find, so make sure you take it to someone who can properly verify and wipe your drives properly.  While Green Computing is a fairly new field, it has several drawbacks, such as sacrificing some performance for environmental sake, so make sure you properly evaluate your needs and make the most responsible decision for you and your computing needs.

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