Sorting green IT wheat from chaff

I spend a lot of time investigating and writing about environmental issues. Not because I’m a tree hugger or a weirdo but because I’m rather taken with the idea of leaving …

21st January 2008 at 6:00 am

I spend a lot of time investigating and writing about environmental issues. Not because I’m a tree hugger or a weirdo but because I’m rather taken with the idea of leaving the planet better than we found it. A better legacy for future generations than a despoiled planet plundered and polluted for profit.

It’s interesting to watch how different companies, and individuals for that matter, deal with green issues. Some do a lot of talking – they find something good that they’ve done and blow it up into a press release or a lecture. Others quietly get on with sorting things out. All I could think of doing personally was downsizing to a much smaller home. The trouble with that is that if anyone audited me, they’d find all sorts of things wrong. And the fact I used to live in a big house and do the wrong things on a grander scale won’t count for much. Still, it makes me feel better.

Companies have a similar problem. No sooner have they improved their performance in one area than another comes under question. “Okay, so you’ve stopped polluting the ground, what about your carbon emissions?” Or “great, you’ve cleaned up your North American activities, what about your supply chain in the Far East?” We’re on a continuous and never-ending quest where Nirvana is the elimination of all environmental harm. And, if the sustainability folk have their way, the transformation of waste into something more useful than its original purpose.

If you’re in the market for a new computer and you want to do the right thing, who do you go to? We know, from our research, that Macintosh users are more likely to support green initiatives than regular PC users. But, do you know what? Apple is not the best performing computer maker in environmental terms although its recent announcements have helped close the gap.

The world is full of such paradoxes and, if we’re not careful, we’ll be dishing out so much complex and conflicting information that the ordinary person will give up trying to do the right thing. Perhaps we need ‘lifecycle labels’ which consider the environmental damage associated with producing, using and disposing of our equipment.

We’re a long way from that, but how about this little barometer from Greenpeace? Click on the picture for the full report.

Greenpeace Electronics Barometer

It’s a good start isn’t it?


David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World.

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