Fabio sent me some pointers to upcoming conferences on IT and climate change:

Pity that two of them coincide! I guess this complements my earlier post on readings in Green IT.

25. March 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: greentech

I’m just collecting some readings for my grad course next week, for which the topic is Green IT. Here’s what I came up with:

Murugesan seems to give the best overview, although I also like the case studies in the GeSI report. The latter is dated November 2010, so it’s pretty much up to date.

The WWF report makes the important point that as the energy consumption of computers only make up about 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the potential for incremental solutions that focus on more energy efficient computing are relatively small, while the potential for emissions reduction by applying smart IT solutions to other sectors (e.g. reducing the need for travel, smart buildings, dematerialization) is much greater. Hence the suggested shift in terminology, from “Green IT” to “Greening with IT”.

Which brings me to another plug for Bill Tomlinson’s excellent book, “Greening through IT“, which I ought to get around to reviewing properly…

I was talking with my students about Passive Houses last week, which are designed to be so well insulated that they require no heating system – just the body heat from a few people will do (think of it as the principle of a four-season sleeping bag, applied to the whole house).

But I hadn’t realised that they’re starting to catch on in North America, and even that they’ll work in places like Minnesota…

Jono sent me a fascinating article in the NY Times about the new zero-carbon office building at the National Renewable Energy Lab, in Golden, Colorado. We visited NREL with the kids back in November, as it has a small, but fascinating visitors centre (but we didn’t get to see the new building, unfortunately).

The part in the article that got Jono’s attention is the 65-watt budget allocated to each workspace, including lighting and computing. Meeting that is certainly possible, but requires some careful choices about which computers to use, and how they are configured. Which then creates interesting new dependencies between the computers we use and the buildings in which we work. I’d love to see more details from NREL about how they handled the social dynamics involved in these design decisions.

Well, here’s an interesting analysis of the lifecycle emissions of a computer. Turns out that computers require something like ten times their weight in fossil fuels to manufacture. Which is an order of magnitude higher than other durable goods, like cars and fridges, which only require about their own weight in fuel to manufacture. Oh, and the flat screen display accounts for the majority of it.

Okay, so I’ll concede that my computer is an order of magnitude more useful to me than a fridge (which after all, only does one thing). But it does mean that if we focus only on power consumption during use, we might be missing the biggest savings opportunities. 

The analysis is from the book Computers and the Environment, edited by Kuehr and Williams, and here’s a brief review.

Having ranted yesterday about how discussions about our personal carbon footprints are a distraction, I now feel obliged to raise an exception. If we’re talking about how to use our software expertise to support personal footprint reduction on a grander scale, I’m all for it. Along those lines, here’s a list of ten green Internet startups – companies looking to leverage Internet technology, to support ‘greening’ initiatives. These ten were presented at a conference in SF yesterday called Green:Net09, and a panel of judges selected a winner – presumably the company most likely to succeed. The judges picked WattBot, while the audience favourite was FarmsReach.