Feature Post


Why go green?

This is an article that I wrote some time back for a well known Pakistani internet magazine, about green computing.

This answers following questions:
  • What is Green Computing?
  • Why go green?
  • Who is going green?

They say about Nature, the more the need is, the abundant is its quantity. Air is one of such instances.

So, what is it?
To answer the question, it is a "way" to minimize the environmental pollution. But how would a computer harm the environment? You may ask. Well, how did you last dispose off your old 286 desktop pc along with a large 14 inch Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitor? I ask.

You will either throw it, sell it to *raddi wala* for as low as 50 rupees, or give it away to your house maid who would "eventually" do the same thing as you did.

And you might well find some garbage collector lads burning your monitor in the chilly mornings to warm their hands.

Have you ever thought about how this pc ends up, and is processed by the Nitrogen Cycle?

Severely dangerous gas is released when the plastic, silicon, mercury, etc is burnt; and to my surprise, some time back when I tried to burn my much fiddled/diddled oldest Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) computer monitor back in 1998, burns with a notable blast - reason being, some parts in the circuitry (specially capacitors) can hold high voltage of charges even when the component is turned off.

Now think about this; you are in-charge of computer labs in a large company having tens of labs equipped with several hundreds of computers and hardware equipments. To maintain a certain level of quality your management decided that you need to replace all; they mean ALL of your hardware with brand new machines.

It may be easy for you to procure another couple of hundred pcs; but How, and where will you dispose off the existing ones?

Try answering this question and you might understand.

Even if you are able to find an online, offshored, Garbage collector; you've only "transferred" the direction of responsibility in question. But really, how do you think that Garbage collector will dispose off the crap. In case if you are thinking that the Garbage collector is going to reuse the workable components - there are three things that you must know:

1. Old components, especially in computing industry, are just worthless from every aspect, selling or reusing. Or downgrade drastically.

2. You may want to recycle those components, but remember not everything can be recycled; you must "produce" recycle'able components in order for them to be recycled.

3. For the sake of making the point, let’s assume that "you must dispose" the hardware.

Some believe that it is better to have passed on your computer to benefit someone else - this helps others.

This avoids the environmental dangers of disposal in landfill or incinerators. But this "could" have been correct if the components could retain its original state of functionality. Many charities have recently imposed minimum system requirements for donated equipment.

So, you might end up digging a hole somewhere near Gavadar so that no one would know. That’s exactly where the Green Computing comes in; it would stop you from doing so.

A Malaysian Multimedia University professor, Dr San Murugesan, in his recent publication 'Harnessing Green IT: Principles and Practices', defines green computing as:
"The study and practice of designing, manufacturing, using, and disposing of computers, servers, and associated subsystems—such as monitors, printers, storage devices, and networking and communications systems—efficiently and effectively with minimal or no impact on the environment."

Who is doing what?
Companies are now producing environment friendly components; even with an extra extensible life cycle or those that could be disposed off easily.

In Pakistan, the concept is relatively "still" new. There are a few technology companies who helped. Students of Karachi University, SZABIST are exploring the idea in their research projects.

A joint venture of Lahore based software house FiveRivers Technologies, and ClearCube Technology provides extensive virtualization services. In India green computing is becoming more prevalent[2], WIPRO was the first company to go green in 2007. Bangladesh is already in the lines and trying to introduce the idea.
PCAdvisor ran a poll[5], that resulted in that, 45% of firms have green computing policy in UK.

Recently people have started adding, you might have noticed, a green colored tree-and-road icon in the footer of email messages, discouraging the printing of email text unless necessary. That is a part of green computing concept.

Several international certification(CompTIA Strata Green IT, for instance) programs have been introduced for managers, which show that they have good knowledge of green IT practices and methods and why it is important to incorporate them into an organization.

According to Microsoft Research Labs the best practices [6] for sustainable architecture design includes:
• Reduced energy consumption
• Reduced operational costs for the data center and business
• Understand energy consumption and environmental impact.
• Build environmental sustainability into change and configuration management processes.

This is where Cloud Computing plays an important part, where environment (including hardware, operating system, etc) is provided by the service (Virtualization, etc) provider; all you have to focus on is business. Cloud Computing was ranked top technology strategy by Gartner[3] for year 2010.

There are quite a couple of companies providing virtualization services in Pakistan; and whole lot more in India.

Government can play a vital role, by introducing laws and regulations to dispose such components. Govt can encourage garbage collector companies to get an international quality certification for waste disposal.
Provide help line 0800 numbers for public and corporate consumers so that they feel encouraged and comfortable disposing off the material.

How can I help?
Just remember the primary goal:
  • Discourage the make/use of hazardous components, and factory waste.
  • Encourage the make/use of efficient, energy-aware, durable, recyclable components.

If you are "just a guy" living next door, then don’t throw away the pc or hand it over to "help" someone - well just wait - wait till Mustafa Kamal installs the promised Waste Disposal and Management System.
Just so this may interest you, you better wipe your hard drive clean before disposing off - your data can be restored[4].

Peek More At:
• Going Green [http://www.time.com/time/goinggreen]
• Harnessing Green IT: Principles and Practices [http://www.computer.org/portal/web/csdl/doi/10.1109/MITP.2008.10]
• Green Computing [http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/special/1814241/green-computing]
• Old Computer Disposal [http://www.intel.com/learn/practical-advice/computer-maintenance/green/old-computer-disposal]
• http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_computing

[1]: http://jehanara.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/pakistan-tech-sector-helping-companies-to-go-green
[2]: http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/apr2009/gb20090413_237615.htm
[3]: http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1210613
[4]: http://www.which.co.uk/news/2009/01/smash-up-your-hard-drive-to-avoid-id-theft-166079/
[5]: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/index.cfm?newsId=3247127
[6]: Microsoft Research Labs [http://research.microsoft.com/pubs/78813/AJ18_EN.pdf]