You might not think about your small business’s IT strategy as a place to make an environmental impact, but the green computing industry would beg to differ. Your business can benefit from making sustainable choices with the technology you buy and how you use it, and more importantly, so can the environment.
How to get started with green computing
You don’t have to revolutionize your company to take steps toward sustainability. When it comes to green computing, there are four main areas that can help you make big or small changes for your business:
Green use involves optimizing the tools and products you use to minimize their energy consumption. This is one of the biggest areas where your business can make an impact. To align your team’s green use goals, schedule a regular training session that covers all of the best practices for personal computing. This includes:
- Enabling power management features on all devices
- Powering down at the end of the day
- Using smart power strips to cut off vampire energy
- Opting for rechargeable batteries over single-use
- Distribute digital copies of documents rather than paper copies when possible
Another major green use practice to consider? Remote work. As we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, unified collaboration and communication tools like Slack and Zoom make it possible to maintain business productivity without needing employees to be in the same physical location.
Commercial real estate buildings are known to waste more energy than residential buildings, and remote work can eliminate the need for commercial office space altogether. Plus, working from home means your employees are spending less time and fuel commuting to and from the office. Transportation is the largest culprit of carbon emissions in the U.S. (29 percent), so allowing your employees to work remotely can create a net positive impact on your business’s overall energy consumption.
Green disposal involves limiting the amount of e-waste that ends up polluting the environment in landfills. When it’s time to buy a new piece of equipment—whether it’s a printer, computer, television, or other device—you might think your existing device belongs in the garbage. However, most electronics contain parts that are considered hazardous to the environment. For this reason, many states impose hefty fines for people caught disposing of their electronics in the trash.
You can make green disposal decisions by following a familiar motto: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Before you make a new purchase, consider whether or not it’s truly necessary to do so. If your existing device is functioning well, it’s best to hold off on upgrading until it starts showing signs that it needs to be replaced. Or, if your equipment is clearly on its last leg, consider opting for a refurbished or pre-owned model instead of buying something new off the shelf.
In the latter case, however, you’re still left with a worn out piece of equipment that’s taking up space. Instead of throwing it in the trash, look for an electronics recycling program in your area. Many states or cities offer these kinds of programs, and some retailers like Best Buy have free recycling programs as well.
Green design involves hardware components that are designed to recycle materials and conserve energy all while staying competitive with today’s tech trends. Since 1992, the Energy Star program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified devices, appliances, and equipment that are proven to save on energy costs. Lenovo, Acer, and Dell are among the top manufacturers for Energy Star-rated computers, but you can also find other devices like printers, tablets, smartphones, and televisions that have the Energy Star seal of approval.
Additionally, green design seeks to cut down on waste by developing products that can be repaired, reused, or refilled rather than replaced. Refillable printer cartridges and rechargeable batteries, for example, are much more environmentally friendly than single-use cartridges or disposable batteries. When reviewing a computer or other types of equipment you’re considering, pay attention to customer reviews that mention broken parts and the steps they took to repair them. It’s a red flag if the manufacturer would prefer you upgrade your equipment to the latest model rather than fix an older model that’s malfunctioning.
Green manufacturing involves minimizing the waste that is produced and non-renewable resources that are consumed during the electronics manufacturing process. This area of green computing usually goes hand-in-hand with green design. Many hardware manufacturers like Intel, Microsoft, and Apple have made pledges to eliminate carbon emissions or at least become carbon neutral as a company, and the products they design are often a direct result of those pledges.
There may not be much your small business can control when it comes to electronics manufacturing, but you can support these manufacturers when it comes time to make purchasing decisions. Look for vendors who make sustainability part of their core values or performance metrics. If there aren’t actionable goals tied to a company’s eco-conscious pledges, it’s less likely that that vendor will prioritize green initiatives in the manufacturing process.
Green computing can help save money and the environment
In her 2018 address to the UN Climate Change COP24 Conference, climate change activist Greta Thunberg said, “I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.” Indeed, businesses both big and small have a role to play in reversing the effects of climate change and a responsibility to make eco-conscious business decisions.
There are many ways your small business can make a difference, and one of them is green computing. When it comes to your technology, green use, green disposal, green design, and green manufacturing are all connected. Making sustainable choices in these areas will often result in long term savings for both your budget and the environment.
This article was originally published on April 13, 2009. It was updated by Kaiti Norton.