What is Green IT and Why Is It Important?

What is Green IT and Why Is It Important?

While it is a relatively new phenomenon, good businesses and organizations are taking both environmentalism and sustainability into account when developing all of their management strategies. Despite this, because this way of thinking is still quite new, businesses are finding it a challenge to properly incorporate these issues into their strategies and many more are struggling to open their eyes to the benefits.

Considering sustainability when strategizing and planning an IT infrastructure can seem quite confusing at first but it simply adds an extra viewpoint to its management. The reason it seems confusing is that an IT infrastructure obviously consumes large amounts of electricity and as the rise in demand for extra technology increases, so does the carbon footprint for IT-based systems.

Preston F. Marshall in “Evolving Communications Architectures: More Local Is More Green” (Springer, 2011) says that this is caused by advances in technology that solve previous design constraints in thermal management, allowing newer devices to increase their demand for energy as a result.

So surely IT services and sustainability cannot go hand in hand? If this is what you think, then you must look at it from a different perspective; companies efforts to reduce their environmental impact can actually be supporting with new, innovational IT technologies and processes. For this reason, IT systems, business management strategies and environmental policies can work in parallel and strengthen one another.

In this series of articles, we are going to explore the notion of Green IT (sometimes referred to as green computing or ICT sustainability) to better understand what it is, what its impacts are and why management strategies should be including it. In this article we’re going to begin by trying to provide a brief definition of what Green IT actually is.

The most basic definition of Green IT would be “IT infrastructures & services that are managed with a focus of attention on sustainability and environmental factors”. However, despite the term becoming something of a cliché now in IT discussions, a universal and commonly accepted meaning is lacking. It essentially covers two goals:

Reduce the amount of emissions released by IT systems and infrastructure
Reduce the emissions from business and production processes with the aid of IT

The first goal is the most commonly sought after by businesses looking into their carbon-footprint – IT departments are looking it Green IT initiatives to minimise the impact their IT infrastructures have on the environment.

We really like the definition that Patricia Ordóñez de Pablos gives in “Green Technologies and Business Practices” (2012, IGI Global):

“Green IT is the systematic application of practices that enable the minimization of the environmental impact of IT and allow for company-wide emission reductions based on technological innovations.”

We feel that this nicely summarised definition is a good place to end this month’s article and we hope that you’ve gotten a better idea as to what Green IT is all about. Next time, we are going to summarise just how IT infrastructure has an environmental impact and give an overview of the sorts of measures that can be put in place to minimize the impact throughout the management flow.