10 Ways to Go Green and Save Green

Adopting an environmentally sound IT strategy isn’t nearly as hard or intimidating as the phrase might seem…and it’s not just for tree-huggers, either (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Going green actually saves you green, a fact that was recently reinforced by Mike Torti, an executive technology specialist at Microsoft, who outlined ten tips to help small businesses make the world a bit greener and maybe even put some black back in their bottom line.

Torti identified the main areas where small business owners can make to reduce their carbon footprint and step into savings. This top-ten list spans those areas, and while it may not be Letterman-funny, it is a lot more useful.

1. Power Management Tools

The power management tools in your computer control panel let you select energy-reducing settings. “If you and nine people do this, it becomes the equivalent of taking one car off the road,” said Torti.

How does that translate into real savings? “The Vista operating system has more than 30 power-management tools,” said Torti. “A study by the National Resources Defense Council said that a company can save $50 per year for every computer that runs the Vista operating system.”

2. Buy Power Strips or Unplug Devices

Many of the devices and appliances we use every day ‑‑ SmartPhones, laptops and  ‑‑ drain a steady supply of energy, even when the device isn’t in use. This is known as “phantom” energy, but the costs are very real.

“Staying unplugged not only this reduces energy consumption, but it also saves on energy bills,” said Torti. He also suggested using an energy-monitoring power strip to see which devices hog energy and how much it’s costing you.

3. Consolidate Servers and Save Energy

Also known as virtualization, this basically means to run more than one application – e-mail, productivity, databases, for example ‑‑ on a single server. “Virtualization reduces server hardware needs, lets small businesses do more with less, and it can reduce energy use by up to 90 percent,” said Torti.

4. Go to Sleep at the End of the Day

Turn on your PC’s sleep feature so that when you walk away from your desk, your PC will use less energy.

Something as simple as turning your PC off at night and on the weekends can save billions of dollars in the U.S. “The 2009 PC Energy Report by E1 and the Alliance to Save Energy found that U.S. businesses are collectively spending $2.8 billion to power 108 million un-used computers,” said Torti.

In that same report, the CEO of 1E went on to note that if the world’s one billion computers were shut down for one night, it would save enough energy to power the Empire State building for more than 30 years.

5. Remote Working Program

Unified communications tools, including SaaS, let you work with people no matter where they are,” said Torti. They can also reduce travel and other costs from 10-30 percent, he said.

6. Choose Laptops Over Desktops

Many modern laptops are far more efficient than their desktop counterparts, said Torti. He noted that notebooks consume less than 30 watts at full power, compared with a modern desktop PC that idles around 60 watts and can exceed 150 watts at full power — without the monitor. New small form-factor laptops idle at less than 15 watts – less than a typical compact fluorescent light bulb.

7. Always Choose Energy Star

ENERGY STAR rated devices meet a rigorous set of energy use guidelines in standby (off mode), sleep mode and active. Also, qualified computers must include a more efficient power supply (typically an 80 Plus rated version).

Torti recommends the free Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) as a way to compare desktops, notebooks and monitors in terms of their environmental features.

8. Buy LCD Monitors

An LCD monitor can consume one-half to two-thirds as much power as the equivalent-sized traditional analog monitor, said Torti. Turning down the monitor’s brightness can save a significant percentage of energy. 

9. Recycle Old Equipment

It’s important to consider the entire lifecycle of your hardware purchases. “Don’t just look at the sticker price,” said Torti. “Find out what your vendor’s recycle and disposal policies are and what materials they’re using.”

You can find a recycler near you on this Microsoft site.

10. Reduce Printing and Faxing

Small businesses rely heavily on printing and faxing, and that reliance costs a lot both financially and environmentally. Tori recommends computer faxing to cut costs and save paper, putting files on flash drives instead of printing handouts, and creating default printing policies on office printers. 

Going green isn’t the latest buzzword, and it’s not a way to sell more hardware and software,” said Torti. “We all have a responsibility at work and at home, to reduce the impact we have on this world.”

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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