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Keeping the office green

In 1999, Forbes published an article that alarmed computer users who were concerned about the environment. The article calculated that every time a few megabytes of data were downloaded from the Internet, a lump of coal needed to be burned somewhere in the US.

The article added up all the electricity costs of hubs, routers, amplifiers, servers, PC parts and peripherals, and concluded that IT was an energy guzzler. IT could be responsible for eight to 13 percent of US energy consumption, the article concluded.

A depressing conclusion, which makes you wonder why computers don't come with a smokestack. Fortunately, the conclusion seems to be wrong. Later, analysts calculated the energy consumption to be more like three percent.

And the Internet seems to have cut down on growth in electricity usage.

'In the immediate pre-Internet era (1992-1996), GDP growth averaged 3.2 percent a year, while total energy demand grew 2.4 percent a year. In the Internet era (1996-2000) GDP growth is averaging over 4 percent a year, while energy demand is growing only one percent a year.'

These are the words of Joe Romm, former US Acting Assistant Secretary of Energy, as quoted by Network Magazine.

Many analysts feel that the Internet has introduced a whole range of efficiencies that are making it easier to create wealth without polluting the atmosphere.

But this is not to say there is no need to reduce IT energy use. Electricity is expensive in large parts of the US, for example, and energy savings could have a noticeable effect on company costs. Running a computer network, in particular, can require a lot of electricity.

When buying new office equipment, it's worth checking out power saving features. US equipment may be marked with an Energy Star label, indicating that it meets environmental standards.

It's important to discuss energy issues with the salesperson. There may be significant energy savings for some products. Buying a flat screen monitor, for example, may cost a lot more initially. But it is likely to run on about 35 percent of the electricity of a 'conventional' cathode ray tube monitor.

Saving electricity on office equipment is often a matter of ensuring that equipment features are used properly. Most new computers have a power-saving option, for example. A computer can be set to go into power-saving mode after it has been idle for, say, ten minutes. This represents an energy saving where, for example, activating a screen saver does not.

Most laptops have a hibernation mode, which can also be selected. And printers, faxes and photocopiers do not need to be powered up all the time. A printer might not be needed for 23 hours in the day but it uses power even when not in use. Electricity can be saved by buying equipment with standby or power-saving modes and making sure those features are enabled.

PCs are often left on overnight. Even if networking requires they not be shut down, the monitors can be turned off. Printers and photocopiers certainly don't need to be left on while nobody is in the office.

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Business Roadmap provides practical business advice for small to medium sized businesses that are trying to overcome problems, or are trying to achieve their vision and full potential. Visit the Business Roadmap website for further information.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to provide valuable, useful information, Blue Mountains Web Pty Ltd. (trading as Stralia Web), Business Roadmap Pty Ltd. and any related suppliers or associated companies accept no responsibility or any form of liability from reliance upon or use of its contents. Any suggestions should be considered carefully within your own particular circumstances, as they are intended as general information only.

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