Making an IT Department Sustainable in 2013
In modern day society, there is nothing more positive than going green while simultaneously saving money. The Earth we live within and the economy we work within are both in conditions that require progression from the human race. This applies across the board from personal homes to large corporations. A specific area I’d like to focus is Information Technology. IT departments across the United States maintain business processes and information, but they also use a substantial amount of energy. Using more energy often requires increased monetary resources, creating a substantial incentive.
Everyone agrees at least to a certain degree that progression towards sustainability is a good idea. Taking action within the IT industry can be very influential in the movement because technology services are both widespread and necessary across the country. Below I have offered ways that IT leadership can reorganize operative priorities with the goal of increased energy efficiency and financial savings.
1. Start a recycle program.
In 2013, the talk of having a recycle bin should be a past conversation. We’re going to focus on bigger issues here. To start, when there are any electronics that are phased out of the department, recycle them. It’s more complicated than a paper grocery bag, but it’s possible to find out how and where to recycle electronics on the EPA website.
This would be a massive step in the right direction. A country-wide movement of electronic recycling could change the whole landscape of reprocessing. There are seemingly infinite amounts of electronics, new and old, littered around office buildings and homes across America. A recycling program of this nature could really make a difference to the planet.
In addition to helping our environment, recycling can also help an IT department and company budget. A specific way to do this is to buy refurbished computers rather than brand new. Doing so for an office of 100 people will decrease demand on a major producer to build 100 new computers, and also save you money on a reduced purchase price. It’s all a numbers game, and it can be improved.
2. Small office changes.
Any change is good when it comes to saving energy. Making actionable changes such as utilizing software that can automatically switch the power off of machines when they aren’t being used is a start. So many times a large printer will sit in idle with its power on overnight and throughout the weekend.
Another idea as a CIO leader or IT manager is to implement a rule that screen savers are not allowed, opting instead for an allowed time period of 20 minutes before the ‘sleep’ function kicks in on the computer. Even smaller, yet still actionable, a leader can implement dual sided printing and very strict office recycling with all possible materials used on a daily basis.
The little differences can make a big impact if all done simultaneously. It can help, and the most important factor is that it shouldn’t make the job any more difficult or inconvenient.
Before this option can be executed, classified and important information obviously needs to be erased. With the type of training and people in an IT department, this shouldn’t be an issue. An IT leader can identify a month each year when the office focuses on donating unneeded electronics to the local Good Will or other store that accepts donations. This could also help the budget as contributions could be tax deductible.
The months leading up to the holidays could be a perfect time for IT leaders to consider. During this time frame, the donated electronics could serve as potential gifts for people in need.
4. Consider a four day work week.
While this can be difficult in the IT industry, it is far from impossible. One idea to work around the issue of services being necessary more than four days is to rotate which employees have to work on Friday. This increases the department’s potential to go green by reducing the full energy output to four days. This can make a huge impact both budget-wise and environmental wise over a long period of time.
Four day work weeks also help prevent people from driving to and from the office so frequently. The opportunity is also there to offer a work from home situation for certain employees that have roles where it may be feasible.
Businesses across America, specifically the IT departments within those businesses, owe it to the world to make a move toward more sustainable practices. Not only can it help the environment through a widespread channel of exposure, it can also help from a financial standpoint. A major barrier to environmentally sound progress has been that it isn’t financially viable. While this is still true in some regard, it isn’t entirely when an IT department is concerned. A creative CIO or IT manager can make a difference, if they want to.
Grant Davis is a data modeler by day who writes by night. His passion for computers started when he discovered instant messaging in junior high school. When Grant isn’t trying to climb through the computer screen he writes for BMC, a leading job scheduling software provider.
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