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environment, renewable materials
Comments Off on Bamboo finally appears in the Data Center

Today the contractor is installing our bamboo wall tiles. These are textured tiles made from bamboo pulp and pressed wall boards that can be mounted on flat surfaces. We are installing these on one of the walls in the data center to both dampen sound and to improve air flow (they are not because I think they are cool – really).

 

This product allows us to achieve a LEED point for rapidly renewable products.  It is a good example of how one can cost-effectively integrate innovative products into your LEED project.

 

The trick with products like this is to ensure from start-to-finish you do not accidentally get caught in traps.  For example, I had to stop the contractor from installing these wall tiles yesterday because they procured the wrong adhesive – one that was not low-VOC.  Same with applying a color to these tiles – it is important that you use low or no VOC paints.

 

I do believe the bamboo wall will prove a very interesting topic of conversation in the future when people visit the datacenter.

 

update:  These tiles are no longer made from bamboo.  Instead they are now made using Bagasse, which is a byproduct of sugarcane processing.  While this is a nice diversion of an industrial byproduct, it would no longer qualify for the rapidly-renewable credit.

environment
Comments Off on APTA Sustainability in Public Transportation Conference

by Angela Miller
This week I’m attending an American Public Transportation Association (APTA) conference on Sustainability in Public Transportation. This is a fun gathering of people in the transit industry who think every day about the myriad opportunities to make our industry more sustainable.

As I sit here in this room today I am struck by a couple of things. The first is how out of place I feel – there is not one other technology person out of the entire group of people at this event. There are planners, and rail engineers, and facilities people, and operations managers. But as I scanned through the list of attendees, I was amazed that not one other person here possessed a title in the Information Technology area. This feels like a lost opportunity to me.

There are some excellent things about this conference – one of the biggest for me personally is a reminder that “sustainable” is not synonymous with “green.” Sustainability obviously also focuses on economic viability, on justice and fairness of the transit product, and on the environmental impacts. Both human and environmental impacts.

I am learning a great deal. The New York MTA has an amazing program for sustainability. They spent years on developing a mutlifaceted plan with specific details from the type of fuel mix and tires they will use, to transit-oriented design with their city, to recycling policies. I’ve listened to presentations on hybrid buses, on why biofuels are proving problematic, on how to provide more economical transit, business cases for LEED facilities, and innovative solar and wind generation programs. What is missing here?

Not one presentation on green IT. I sense opportunity.

environment, green computing, hardware
Comments Off on Technology Recycling Policy

by Angela Miller
Today I finalized our official Technology/E-Waste Recycling Policy at NCTD.  I am happy about this policy for a couple of reasons.  While we have traditionally attempted to sell our surplus or retired equipment, it usually is at a loss.  The way we are required to do this is that we pay an auction company to come retrieve the equipment and sell it for us with a revenue-sharing approach.  While this would be excellent if we had items of value, most of the equipment I intend to retire really has no useful life in it.  We are going to be retiring switches and routers that are more than 10 years old, desktop computers that are 7 years old… in other words, we usually end up owing money in the auction process.

So I was happy to be able to garner agreement from the executive team for a Technology Recycling Policy.  We have put three local companies through an evaluation process to determine which offers the best combination of price, safety, security, and obviously the greenest recycling program.  Happily the managers agreed that using a company which would recycle our materials at no cost to us was not only a smarter fiscal approach, it is a more environmentally-friendly approach.

Having a formal corporate recycling policy is a wise decision no matter the size of your firm.  It is important in this process to develop a solid set of criteria for determining when equipment has reached the end of its useful life, when you might be able to trade-in for credits with your equipment manufacturer, and when it is most appropriate to recycle.  Our policy includes not only these decision criteria, but also metrics for measuring our disposal of e-waste, and a scorecard for ensuring that our vendors meet our sustainability goals.

This scorecard is an important approach because we are not interested in inappropriate disposal.  Unfortunately many companies that recycle do so by simply shipping our e-waste overseas where is poses significant problems to the third-world countries that accept it.  Instead, NCTD wants to insure that the components are broken down locally and all viable materials are separated and recycled here in the United States.  My message to other IT Managers and CIOs is to do your homework on this issue to ensure your policy is indeed a sustainable one.

Dig deeper on the issues:

I relied on the following sites for analysis in support of this post:

Natural Resources Defense Council
TechNews Article
Geeks.com Article
PBS Frontline Article on Poor E-Waste Policy

environment, green computing, manufacturer
Comments Off on Green Computing hits the big time: Google’s Climate Savers Initiative

google logoby Angela Miller
Google brought more excitement to green computing this week with their announcement that they are promoting a new Climate Saver’s Initiative. This coupled with their ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship puts a stake in the ground on what corporations can do to green their information technology and their entire company operations.

Needless to say the Internet is atwitter today over this announcement. It is easy to be impressed. First of all they were able to negotiate a consortium of big name players to commit to the mission of Climate Savers: IBM, Microsoft, Dell, Intel, EDS, even the EPA and the World Wildlife Fund. They have the right balance of big-name technology vendors, government, and nonprofit to kick it off. Google already demonstrated a commitment to reach further than corporate acquisition of carbon offsets, for instance, with their construction of solar energy capacity, fleet of clean vehicles, and locally-sourced food in their corporate cafeteria. The fact that Mr. Weihl’s title on his blog is green energy czar is testimony to the seriousness with which they are approaching their greening initiatives. They have the legitimacy and power of a positive corporate brand behind it. And they have people talking, which can only be good.

Not every company will put this kind of emphasis on their environmental responsibility. But Google is an excellent example of what can be accomplished at the corporate level. They clearly have a thought-leadership position for greening of corporate operations.

For companies that want to take smaller steps, Mr. Weihl makes some great points in his post about the efficiency and optimization of current resources, for example power saving features on existing personal computers. How small steps toward optimizing current technology resources could have significant energy savings for the typical company.

Having big-named players demonstrate their commitment to the environment in such progressive and economically-justifiable ways gives me hope that other companies will see the value in taking even small steps toward greening their technology.

Dig deeper on the issues:

I relied on the following sites for analysis in support of this post:

Bill Weihl’s Official Google Blog Post

ITWire
PodTech audio announcement of Climate Savers
NetworkWorld
Wall Street Journal

think energy

by Angela Miller
As an both an Information Technology professional and an environmental scientist, I have often found one side of myself having to compromise in order to satisfy the other. For years I’ve needed to ignore the growing energy demands of my different employers’ ever-expanding server rooms in order to bow to the needs of users to have applications and systems constantly in a state of readiness.

It occurred to me as I was working with my previous company Hitachi Data Systems on their RoHS/WEEE compliance initiatives that now may just be the time when IT departments can change the tide. Almost every major server and storage vendor has made a commitment this year to producing equipment that affords the opportunity to gain control of energy consumption in the data center. And most vendors are well on their way to producing equipment more friendly to the environment by at least complying with the interational RoHS/WEEE directives.

But is this enough?

With so much attention on personal environmental accountability today, I thought it would be interesting to focus on corporate environmental responsibility – especially on the concept of ‘green computing.’

Many of the big vendors began publicizing their theories on how their products can help companies green their IT departments. It is interesting that most of the discussion centers around energy efficiency – a concept that was born over 15 years ago through the EnergyStar program. While this program was successful with an individual appliance, it emphasized consumer electronics for the home more than corporate infrastructure. Seems this is about to change as vendors now tout their new alliances with the EnergyStar program and new initiatives to capture the attention of prospective customers through their environmental friendliness, and as the program considers requirements for their standards version 4.0.

But, again, is this enough? Energy efficiency is a great starting point, and RoHS/WEEE manufacturing compliance is a necessary goal … but for the average IT Manager, will simply procuring these items be enough to green their IT? And are IT departments truly concerned about becoming greener? The environmental scientist in me says no — there is more that can and should be done.

This blog will be to investigate the greening of Information Technology – and whether that is an attainable goal without substantial culture shift in corporations.