Green Computing In Practice: Benefits And Implications

Green computing is the study and practice of using computing resources efficiently. The goals are similar to green chemistry; that is reduce the use of hazardous materials, maximize energy efficiency during the product's lifetime, and promote recyclability or biodegradability of defunct products and factory waste. Taking into consideration the popular use of information technology industry, it has to lead a revolution of sorts by turning green in a manner no industry has ever done before. It is worth emphasizing that this “green technology” should not be just about sound bytes to impress activists but concrete action and organizational policy. Opportunities lie in green technology like never before in history and organizations are seeing it as a way to create new profit centers while trying to help the environmental cause. The plan towards green IT should include new electronic products and services with optimum efficiency and all possible options towards energy savings.

1. Introduction: Green computing is the study and practice of using computing resources efficiently. The primary objective of such a program is to account for the triple bottom line, an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational (and societal) success. The goals are similar to green chemistry; reduce the use of hazardous materials, maximize energy efficiency during the product's lifetime, and promote recyclability or biodegradability of defunct products and factory waste.

Modern IT systems rely upon a complicated mix of people, networks and hardware; as such, a green computing initiative must be systemic in nature, and address increasingly sophisticated problems. Elements of such as solution may comprise items such as end user satisfaction, management restructuring, regulatory compliance, disposal of electronic waste, telecommuting, virtualization of server resources, energy use, thin client solutions, and return on investment (ROI).

As21st century belongs to computers, gizmos and electronic items, energy issues will get a serious ring in the coming days, as the public debate on carbon emissions, global warming and climate change gets hotter. Taking into consideration the popular use of information technology industry, it has to lead a revolution of sorts by turning green in a manner no industry has ever done before.

 2. Approaches to green computing 

Virtualization: Computer virtualization is the process of running two or more logical computer systems on one set of physical hardware. The concept originated with the IBM mainframe operating systems of the 1960s, but was commercialized for x86- compatible computers only in the 1990s. With virtualization, a system administrator could combine several physical systems into virtual machines on one single, powerful system, thereby unplugging the original hardware and reducing power and cooling consumption. Several commercial companies and open-source projects now offer software packages to enable a transition to virtual computing. Intel Corporation and AMD have also built proprietary virtualization enhancements to the x86 instruction set into each of their CPU product lines, in order to facilitate virtualized computing.

One of the primary goals of almost all forms of virtualization is making the most efficient use of available system resources. With energy and power costs increasing as the size of IT infrastructures grow, holding expenses to a minimum is quickly becoming a top priority for many IT pros. Virtualization has helped in that respect by allowing organizations to consolidate their servers onto fewer pieces of hardware, which can result in sizable cost savings. The datacenter is where virtualization can have the greatest impact, and it’s there where many of the largest companies in the virtualization space are investing their resources.

Virtualization also fits in very nicely with the idea of “Green Computing”; by consolidating servers and maximizing CPU processing power on other servers, you are cutting costs (saving money) and taking less of a toll on our environment Storage virtualization uses hardware and software to break the link between an application, application component, system service or whole stack of software and the storage subsystem. This allows the storage to be located just about anywhere, on just about any type of device, replicated for performance reasons, replicated for reliability reasons or for any combination of the above.

3. Power Management:

Power management for computer systems are desired for many reasons, particularly:

Prolong battery life for portable and embedded systems.

Reduce cooling requirements.

Reduce noise.

Reduce operating costs for energy and cooling.

Lower power consumption also means lower heat dissipation, which increases system stability, and less energy use, which saves money and reduces the impact on the environment.

The Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI), an open industry standard, allows an operating system to directly control the power saving aspects of its underlying hardware. This allows a system to automatically turn off components such as monitors and hard drives after set periods of inactivity. In addition, a system may hibernate, where most components (including the CPU and the system RAM) are turned off. ACPI is a successor to an earlier Intel-Microsoft standard called Advanced Power Management, which allows a computer's BIOS to control power management functions.

Some programs allow the user to manually adjust the voltages supplied to the CPU, which reduces both the amount of heat produced and electricity consumed. This process is called undervolting. Some CPUs can automatically undervolt the processor depending on the workload; this technology is called "SpeedStep" on Intel processors, "PowerNow!"/"Cool'n'Quiet" on AMD chips, LongHaul on VIA CPUs, and LongRun with Transmeta processors.


4. Displays: LCD monitors typically use a cold-cathode fluorescent bulb to provide light for the display. Some newer displays use an array of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in place of the fluorescent bulb, which reduces the amount of electricity used by the display. LCD monitors uses three times less when active, and ten times less energy when in sleep mode. LCDs are up to 66% more energy efficient than CRTs, LCDs are also upwards of 80% smaller in size and weight, leading to fuel savings in shipping. LCDs produce less heat, meaning you'll need less AC to keep cool.LCD screens are also easier on the eyes. Their lower intensity and steady light pattern result in less fatigue versus CRTs.

A newer LCD draws 40-60W maximum in a modest 19", 20", or 22" size. That number grows close to 85W or 100W maximum for a 24" unit. Drop them down to standby or turn them off entirely when not using them to minimize power consumption. By comparison, a 21" CRT typically uses more than 120W, more than double the power of a typical 22" LCD.

5. Materials Recycling: Computer recycling refers to recycling or reuse of a computer or electronic waste. This can include finding another use for the system (i. e. donated to charity), or having the system dismantled in a manner that allows for the safe extraction of the constituent materials for reuse in other products. Additionally, parts from outdated systems may be salvaged and recycled through certain retail outlets and municipal or private recycling centers.

Recycling computing equipment can keep harmful materials such as lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium out of landfills, but often computers gathered through recycling drives are shipped to developing countries where environmental standards are less strict than in North America and Europe. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition estimates that 80% of the post-consumer e-waste collected for recycling is shipped abroad to countries such as China, India, and Pakistan. Computing supplies, such as printer cartridges, paper, and batteries may be recycled as well.

Obsolete computers are a valuable source for secondary raw materials, if treated properly, however if not treated properly they are a major source of toxins and carcinogens. Rapid technology change, low initial cost and even planned obsolescence have resulted in a fast growing problem around the globe. Technical solutions are available but in most cases a legal framework, a collection system, logistics and other services need to be implemented before a technical solution can be applied. Electronic devices, including audio-visual components (televisions, VCRs, stereo equipment), mobile phones and other hand-held devices, and computer components, contain valuable elements and substances suitable for reclamation, including lead, copper, and gold. They also contain a plethora of toxic substances, such as dioxins, PCBs, cadmium, chromium, radioactive isotopes, and mercury. Additionally, the processing required reclaiming the precious substances (including incineration and acid treatments) release, generating and synthesizing further toxic byproducts.

While there are several health hazards when it comes to dealing with computer recycling some of the substances you should be aware of:

Lead common in CRTs, older solder, some batteries and to some formulations of PVC. Can be harmful if not disposed of properly.

Mercury in fluorescent tubes. With new technologies arising the elimination of mercury in many new model computers is taking place.

Cadmium in some rechargeable batteries. It can be hazardous to your skin if exposed for too long. Although many people are exposed to it everyday it just depends on the amount of exposure.

Liquid crystals are another health hazard that should be taken into consideration although they do not have the nearly the same effects as the other chemicals

6. Future of Green Computing: As 21st century belongs to computers, gizmos and electronic items, energy issues will get a serious ring in the coming days, as the public debate on carbon emissions, global warming and climate change gets hotter. If we think computers are nonpolluting and consume very little energy we need to think again. It is estimated that out of $250 billion per year spent on powering computers worldwide only about 15% of that power is spent computing- the rest is wasted idling. Thus, energy saved on computer hardware and computing will equate tonnes of carbon emissions saved per year. Taking into consideration the popular use of information technology industry, it has to lead a revolution of sorts by turning green in a manner no industry has ever done before. 

Opportunities lie in green technology like never before in history and organizations are seeing it as a way to create new profit centers while trying to help the environmental cause. The plan towards green IT should include new electronic products and services with optimum efficiency and all possible options towards energy savings. Faster processors historically use more power. Inefficient CPU's are a double hit because they both use too much power themselves and their waste heat increases air conditioning needs, especially in server farms--between the computers and the HVAC. The waste heat also causes reliability problems, as CPU's crash much more often at higher temperatures. Many people have been working for years to slice this inefficiency out of computers. Similarly, power supplies are notoriously bad, generally as little as 47% efficient. And since everything in a computer runs off the power supply, nothing can be efficient without a good power supply. Recent inventions of power supply are helping fix this by running at 80% efficiency or better.

7. Ways of implementation : Power management softwares help the computers to sleep or hibernate when not in use. Reversible computing (which also includes quantum computing) promises to reduce power consumption by a factor of several thousand, but such systems are still very much in the laboratories. Reversible computing includes any computational process that is (at least to some close approximation) reversible, i.e., time-invertible, meaning that a time-reversed version of the process could exist within the same general dynamical framework as the original process. Reversible computing's efficient use of heat could make it possible to come up with 3-D chip designs, Bennett said. This would push all of the circuitry closer together and ultimately increase performance.

The best way to recycle a computer, however, is to keep it and upgrade it. Further, it is important to design computers which can be powered with low power obtained from non-conventional energy sources like solar energy, pedaling a bike, turning a hand-crank etc.

New Internet Protocol-enabled networks now allow for network integration along the entire supply chain – from generation, transmission, to end-use and metering – and create the opportunity for Intelligent Utility Networks (IUN) which applies sensors and other technologies to sense and respond in real-time to changes throughout the supply chain. The IP-enabled network connects all parts of the utility grid equipment, control systems, applications, and employees. It also enables automatic data collection and storage from across the utility based on a common information model and service-oriented architecture (SOA), which enables a flexible use of information technology. This in turn allows utilities to continuously analyze data so that they can better manage assets and operations.

Electronics giants are about to roll out eco-friendly range of computers (like desktops and laptops) that aim at reducing the e-waste in the environment. Besides desktops and laptops, other electronic hardware products should also be strictly adhering to the restricted use of hazardous substances. In other words, they should be free of hazardous materials such as brominated flame retardants, PVCs and heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury, which are commonly used in computer manufacturing. Reliability about the use of green materials in computer is perhaps the biggest single challenge facing the electronics industry. Lead-tin solder in use today is very malleable making it an ideal shock absorber. So far, more brittle replacement solders have yet to show the same reliability in arduous real-world applications.

1. Energy-intensive manufacturing of computer parts can be minimized by making manufacturing process more energy efficient by replacing petroleum filled plastic with bioplastics—plant-based polymers— require less oil and energy to produce than traditional plastics with a challenge to keep these bioplastic computers cool so that electronics won't melt them.

2. Power-sucking displays can be replaced with green light displays made of OLEDs, or organic light-emitting diodes.

3. Use of toxic materials like lead can be replaced by silver and copper.

4. Making recycling of computers (which is expensive and time consuming at present) more effective by recycling computer parts separately with an option of reuse or resale.

5. Future computers could knock 10 percent off their energy use just by replacing hard drives with solid-state, or flash, memory, which has no watt-hungry moving parts.

6. Buy and use a low power desktop or a laptop computer (40-90 watts) rather a higher power desktop (e.g. 300 watts).

7. The maximum power supply (up to 1kW in some modern gaming PCs) is not as important as the normal operating power, but note that power supply efficiency generally peaks at about 50-75% load.

8. Idle state represents 69 to 97% of total annual energy use, even if power management is enabled.

9. Computer power supplies are generally about 70–75% efficient; to produce 75 W of DC output they require 100 W of AC input and dissipate the remaining 25 W in heat.

10. Higher-quality power supplies can be over 80% efficient; higher energy efficiency uses less power directly, and requires less power to cool as well. 

11. Thin clients can use only 4 to 8 watts of power at the desktop as the processing is done by a server.

12. For desktops, buy a low power central processing unit (CPU). This reduces both power consumption and cooling requirements.

13. Buy hardware from manufacturers that have a hardware recycling scheme, and recycle your old computer equipment rather than sending it to landfill.

14. Turn your computer and monitor off when you are not using it. 

15. Enable hibernation using the power management settings. Standby does not save as much power.

16. Use server virtualization to aggregate multiple under-utilized servers onto more energy efficient server infrastructure.

17. Use blade servers instead of rack or standalone servers to reduce power consumption.

18. Specify low energy consumption level in Request for Tender documents. 

19. Measure your data centre power usage.

20. Use server and/or web-based applications where possible to extend desktop service life and reduce desktop software maintenance.

21. Establish policies governing the acquisition, usage and disposal of computer hardware to minimize energy consumption and environmental impact.

8. Recent implementations of Green Computing

1 Blackle: Blackle is a search-engine site powered by Google Search. Blackle came into being based on the concept that when a computer screen is white, presenting an empty word page or the Google home page, your computer consumes 74W. When the screen is black it consumes only 59W. Based on this theory if everyone switched from Google to Blackle, mother earth would save 750MW each year. This was a really good implementation of Green Computing.

The principle behind Blackle is based on the fact that the display of different colors consumes different amounts of energy on computer monitors.


2 Fit-PC: a tiny PC that draws only 5w: Fit-PC is the size of a paperback and absolutely silent, yet fit enough to run Windows XP or Linux. fit-PC is designed to fit where a standard PC is too bulky, noisy and power hungry. If you ever wished for a PC to be compact, quiet and green – then fit- PC is the perfect fit for you. Fit-PC draws only 5 Watts, consuming in a day less power than a traditional PC consumes in 1 hour. You can leave fit-PC to work 24/7 without making a dent in your electric bill.

3 Zonbu Computer: The Zonbu is a new, very energy efficient PC. The Zonbu consumes just one third of the power of a typical light bulb. The device runs the Linux operating system using a 1.2 gigahertz processor and 512 meg of RAM. It also contains no moving parts, and does even contain a fan. You can get one for as little as US$99, but it does require you to sign up for a two-year subscription."

4 The Asus Eee PC and other ultra portables: The "ultra-portable" class of personal computers is characterized by a small size, fairly low power CPU, compact screen, low cost and innovations such as using flash memory for storage rather than hard drives with spinning platters. These factors combine to enable them to run more efficiently and use less power than a standard form factor laptop. The Asus Eee PC is one example of an ultraportable. It is the size of a paperback, weighs less than a kilogram, has built-in Wi-Fi and uses flash memory instead of a hard drive. It runs Linux too.

9. Further Required Research : Advancements in green computing have become vast. There are so many new ways of combining ecology with technology, which we practically are trying a bit of everything. Such as using solar technology, solar technology now is being used on keyboards and mice now to reduce energy costs. Another green computing method is eliminating certain materials that are hazardous to the environment, and replacing them with cleaner and efficient materials which are biodegradable and eco-friendly. Even now certain computer components such as processor units have reduced heat emissions, and monitors as well with their advancement of flat screens.

Not only is green computing effecting components and other various hardware, it has changed in ways businesses use technology such as cloud computing. Cloud computing essentially is a method of a user connecting to a network or server, through the internet. Ultimately this reduces the need of businesses to have purchase more computers, which can emit greenhouse gases when left on.

The practice of green computing has essentially branched off to every form of technology out there. Cars being a great example, now with hybrids becoming mainstream, people are able to save on gas, money, and also cutting on carbon monoxide and other various dangerous gases to the atmosphere.

Green computing has also grasped how industries market themselves, and many realize how going green in their technologies can aid them. One great example of green computing corporation is Apple. "Apple has been criticized by some environmental organizations for not being a leader in removing toxic chemicals from its new products, and for not aggressively or properly recycling its old products" (Jobs, 2009) but that has changed, when looking now upon Apple's computers, their unibody designs material is a great source to dissipate heat, along with their products being able to conserve energy very well. Not only have they implemented ways in being more eco-friendly by removing hazardous materials in their computers and products, but their manufacturing and delivering their goods has also been altered to help the environment.

10. Conclusion : So far, consumers haven't cared about ecological impact when buying computers, they've cared only about speed and price. But as Moore's Law marches on and computers commoditize, consumers will become pickier about being green. Devices use less and less power while renewable energy gets more and more portable and effective. New green materials are developed every year, and many toxic ones are already being replaced by them. The greenest computer will not miraculously fall from the sky one day, it’ll be the product of years of improvements. The features of a green computer of tomorrow would be like: efficiency, manufacturing & materials, recyclability, service model, self-powering, and other trends. Green computer will be one of the major contributions which will break down the 'digital divide', the electronic gulf that separates the information rich from the information poor.


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