Over the past couple of years, society has witnessed a rise in the use of computers and related technological gadgets. The increased use means the need to increase the energy needed to run these devices as well as electricity needed to maintain the cooling of these technological gadgets. The increased use of computer networks and other IT infrastructure is affecting the environment in adverse ways and causing irreparable damage to the planet that needs to be addressed. The increasing energy costs and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions demand for energy-efficient technologies that decrease the overall energy consumption of computation, storage and communications. The impact in the use of these gadgets is drawing researchers to the emerging field of Green Computing. This has led to a dire need to find out new innovative methods/ technologies to reduce energy consumption for better environment.
The term “Green computing” is used to refer to the practice of using computing resources in an efficient and environmentally sustainable manner. It has been defined as “the study and practice of designing, manufacturing, using, and disposing of computers, servers, and associated subsystems efficiently and with no impact on the environment.” Others refer to it as the use of computers in the most efficient manner so that less electricity or power is wasted in using them. It also covers other aspects such as faster processors that use lesser power and the proper disposal of used computers such as recycling. Generally, Green Computer deals with the methods of utilizing computers in ecological well-disposed way. It covers the computing lifecycle from cradle to grave by starting from design to manufacturing to use of equipment and then safely disposing-off computers, related devices, networking and communications equipment efficiently and effectively with negligible or no impact on the environment.
One of the main objectives of Green Computing is about improving computing performance and reducing the energy consumption & carbon footprints.
Contemporary research depict the impact of CO2 and other emissions on global climate and the environment. For example, a study by “The Climate Group” entitled Smart 2020 (http://www.theclimategroup.org/programs/ict/) predicts that, greenhouse gas emissions from the Internet industry will raise to approximately 1.3 Giga-tons of CO2, and the combined impact of smart grid; smart logistics; smart buildings; and videoconferencing could reduce emissions considerably. Also, the Gartner, Inc. estimates that the global information and communications technology (ICT) industry accounts for approximately 2 percent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a figure equivalent to aviation. The above findings have given rise to a new trend where computer manufacturers are using less harmful materials in their design. Such practices go a long way to preserve the planet as well.
Today, Green Computing and Communication technologies have been recognized by researchers worldwide, as the direction to go in computer manufacturing, even though many challenges remain to be addressed. The goal is to minimize e-waste and use of non-toxic materials in preparation of e-equipments.
Today, many organizations are establishing themselves to be preferred green computing compliant. The expectation is that green computing will lead to reduced energy usage so that there is lesser burning of fossil fuels and the subsequent emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere.
It has been established that lead used in soldering of printed circuit boards can cause damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, blood systems and kidneys. Also, mercury spread out in water when transformed into methylated mercury can cause chronic brain damage. Furthermore, cadmium used in resistors for chips and in semiconductors is toxic.
The trend is now shifting in the direction of Green Manufacturing. For example, bamboo is becoming increasingly popular for making casings for computers and peripherals; computers are increasingly being constructed from non-recyclable plastics (i.e., recyclable polycarbonate resin).
The four domains of Green Computing are a) Green Use; b) Green Design; c) Green Manufacturing; and d) Green Disposal.
Researchers view green use as a way of reducing the energy consumption associated with the computing resources and use them in an environmentally sound manner. Green Design is used to refer to designing energy-efficient and environmentally sound components, computers, servers, cooling equipment, and data centers. Green Manufacturing is manufacturing electronic components, computers, and other associated subsystems with minimal impact on the environment. And Green disposal deals with the issues of refurbishing and recycling old computers and electronic equipment.
Majority of countries around the world require electronic companies to finance and manage recycling programs for their products especially under-developed Countries. Green Computing must take the product life cycle into consideration; from production to operation to recycling. E-Waste is a manageable piece of the waste stream and recycling e-Waste is
A number of strategies are being implemented in the direction of Green computing. One such approach is virtualization. This technology allows organization’s business application to be managed by independent host’s hardware. This is employed to reduce the number of servers by carving up a single physical machine into a number of virtual servers. This often results in a substantial reduced in power and air conditioning requirements saving energy, money and thus reducing the carbon footprint of the server estate.
Cloud computing has emerged as the latest trend in the field of green computing. Cloud computing does away with the hardware servers and uses virtual servers also called servers in the cloud. Hence cloud computing will help companies to get rid of their bulky servers that consume a lot of energy. Cloud computing is being used in areas such as networking, data storage and running operating systems. This way, businesses will save a lot of time and energy by switching to cloud computing architecture.
Energy reduction strategies have also been employed to promote green computing. Users are encouraged to turn off both the computer and monitor when not in use. Also, users have been advised to use hardware/software with the Energy Star label. Also, the use of LCDs instead of CRTs is preferred as they are more power efficient.
The launch of the energy star programme is a way to promote green computing. This is a kind of voluntary label awarded to computing products that strive to minimize the use of energy while maximizing efficiency.
Other measure such as equipment recycling, reduction of paper usage, and power management are initiatives to facilitate the green computing movement. There is the need on the part of all of us to think green; use green, behave green; do green; go green; act green; and to reduce energy consumptions at all levels.
Nana Prof. Osei Darkwa, President
African Virtual Campus