Sustainability and ICT

Think about IT

Before anyone starts to learn about sustainable or “green” ICT it is important to understand the concept of sustainability.

Sustainability is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs.” (Brundtland Report)

The concept of living within environmental boundaries has been understood for centuries. In fact, Plato (347-427 BC) was one of the first scientists to acknowledge that: “land must be extensive enough to support a given number of people in modest comfort and not a foot more is needed".

Sustainability mainly involves examining the planet's finite resources, understanding how the ecosystem operates and understanding how to live withing our ecological limits.  Reducing our impact on the environment basically involves a “reduction in consumption”. So whether it's switching off electrical equipment when not in use, thus saving energy, reusing plastic shopping bags to save on using new ones or simply purchasing second hand goods from charity shops, each activity involves reducing our impact on the environment by being more efficient with the planet's resources.

Sustainable ICT involves the use of ICT equipment that requires:

>Fewer Materials; smaller pieces of equipment usually require less plastic, fewer semi-precious metals and alloys and require less process water etc. Therefore Thin Client ICT equipment such as smaller notebooks and laptops are often more sustainable than their "thick client" counterparts.

>Less Energy; During manufacture (embodied energy) and during use. Sustainable ICT equipment is typically manufactured using less energy and/or using energy from a renewable source. Sustainable ICT also require less energy when in use, on stand-by and in sleep or hibernate mode when compared to the same types of products on the market.

...and creates

>Less Waste; Sustainable ICT Equipment ideally creates less waste when being manufactured, transported, used and disposed of. Waste can include any type of resource waste i.e. energy waste, process water waste, waste materials & plastics, the creation of GHGs etc. Sustainable ICT equipment should also require fewer accessories and peripherals as research shows they often are disposed of after having never been used. Packaging should be kept to a minimum and should be made from recycled materials and should be recyclable itself.

There is an abundance of sustainable ICT information available and above on the right are just a few publications related to this project.