Make ‘green’ pay

With rocketing fuel prices, our minds are all being focused on what we can do to shrink our energy bills. Some look to the government to solve the problem, through lower …

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2nd June 2008 at 8:51 am

With rocketing fuel prices, our minds are all being focused on what we can do to shrink our energy bills. Some look to the government to solve the problem, through lower duties or investment in indigenous power sources. But the government has its own money problems, which I won’t go into here, for fear of getting political.

As with most things in life, it’s better to be self-reliant if it is within your capabilities. And that goes for all aspects of life, not just energy.

Until recently, the ‘green’ argument was the one most used to encourage us to change our ways. Of course, that had very little effect, except among those paragons and young people, who were untroubled by long payback times.

Suddenly, the equation is changing. Whether the oil madness will continue, we have no idea, but it makes sense to consider where we go from here. When I say ‘we’, I’m thinking of the British Isles. Local oil has served us well but we seem to be on the downward slope. We still have masses of coal under the ground, but no way to exploit it cleanly. Our nuclear power stations are creaking and need replacement. We don’t have enough sun or space to warrant solar collector installations. I could go on: waves, wind, tides, geothermal… But you get the general picture. We either need more power or we need to use less.

And the ‘use less’ does seem to offer the quickest answer, although it still doesn’t change the underpinning structural and political issues concerned with energy availability and security of supply.

Some of the answers are easy – when replacing vehicles, use more energy efficient ones. The same for computer and communications equipment. In fact, it’s the same for everything except you’ll hit the law of diminishing returns.

‘Dematerialisation’ is a word that has been bandied around in legal and environmental circles for many years. But it has a particular resonance now because dematerialisation means less fuel and resources consumed during manufacturing, less power needed during operation and a lower impact at end-of-life. In fact, many IT companies that are committed to dematerialisation are also maximising the recyclability of their products.

Examples of dematerialisation are the switch from printed to electronic money, the replacement of travel with the telephone or videoconferencing, the expansion of the mobile phone as a computing device, the switch from full scale desktop computers to ‘thin clients’ and their derivatives. Wherever you look, opportunities to dematerialise your operations exist.

It’s not a case of rushing out and changing everything now. But it is a case of bearing in mind the possibilities so that when the time comes to change your technologies, ask yourself a few questions:

Can I keep this going longer?

Can I reuse it elsewhere in the organisation?

Can I donate it to a charity that can reuse it?

If it has to be recycled make sure it goes to an organisation that will handle this responsibly.

Do I need a replacement?

What do I really need?

No-one’s going to do this for the love of the planet. But if things last longer, cost less to buy, cost less to run and deliver environmental bonuses, what’s not to like?

It’s just a case of making it part of your consciousness.

#646464

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. http://freeformdynamics.com

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  1. Martyn says:

    David,

    You talk as if this is something “new”. Running a small business is always like this. An extract from a post I wrote a while back…

    >>>>>>
    That’s how the real world of manufacturing has always worked, so I don’t see why the IT bit of my business should be any different.

    Part of my vision has been to install thin clients running Linux rather than “thick” windows PCs – possibly using regenerated (old) hardware.

    Today we achieved step one of that vision.

    For the record – Linux works. Out of the box. At low cost. And it is good for the environment.

    I will never buy a Windows based PC ever again.
    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<
    See here for the full post http://blogs.severndelta.co.uk/?p=5

    Martyn

  2. I don’t think I made out it’s new. But it might be a new kind of thinking for some (many?) of the readers.

    What is new is that the economics have shifted and what might have just have been so much hot air (no pun intended) now has a sharper relevance.

  3. Martyn says:

    David

    Point taken about it being new for some businesses. However, IMHO many small businesses already think this way – the elimination of waste, being efficient, watching every penny spent – that is how they survive.

    The point of my blog post is that many businesses forget this when it comes to IT. They usually seek to make efficient (and therefore green!) choices about production equipment, buildings, materials etc but forget all of that when it comes to IT and “just” buy the latest resource hungry kit because it can run Windows, Office and Sage, when there are other solutions.

    Believe me I’m no tree-hugger, but I hate waste and think that an economic model based on buying cheap crap from China, shipping it half way around the world and dumping it in landfill is doomed – and as an owner of an SME that makes stuff in the UK, I can’t wait for its demise!

    Martyn

  4. Thanks for the expansion Martyn. I’m with you and I agree about the shipping/waste/bloatware stuff.

    The other angle a lot of people don’t consider is how IT, well ICT really, can actually help improve a company’s environmental credentials.

    I hinted at it a bit in the piece. But have covered it in more depth on other occasions. And, soon, I hope I’ll be able to share some research findings which are primarily aimed at larger organisations but the principles hold true for small ones.

    More as it unfolds…

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