How to measure green IT

Green standards have yet to be customized in the Canadian IT industry, according to Patrick Hardy, chief operating officer of Ottawa-based ClimateCHECK.

“The term green is applied to a lot, and yet there is no real concrete definition of what green is,” said Hardy at a Green Technologies Town Hall hosted by the Ontario government’s Office of the Corporate Chief Technology Officer. “We need to define green for the IT sector in a way that is credible and measurable.”

Currently, ClimateCHECK is working on a project with Bell Canada to quantify environmental KPI’s from green IT in the Ontario Public Service (OPS). “We will be looking at quantified environmental impacts of certain components of the Ministry of Government and Customer Services I & IT strategy using recognized standards and best practices,” said Hardy.

Part of that process involves verification and validation, which is conducted by a third party, he explained.

“Another standard we follow is the Greenhouse Gas protocol outlined by the World Resource Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development,” Hardy added.

The I & IT green strategy for the OPS consists of four pillars, according to Marla Krakower, manager of strategy and policy at the Office of the Corporate Chief Strategist, with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. These are: procurement of green IT, running green data centres, a green IT enabled workplace, and green disposal and waste.

With respect to green procurement, Krakower said that the government will work to ensure that IT products purchased use less energy and avoid more carbon emissions, as well as meeting green certification standards.

According to Hardy, green procurement in the OPS could produce energy savings of up to 10 million kWh per year.

“The key thing to remember is that saving energy should be the driver because that’s a money saver, getting the energy reductions just comes along with it,” he said.

And running green data centres and equipment is an opportunity for the Ontario government to green their IT equipment and save energy on a daily basis, said Krakower. “We will also be opening a new data centre in Guelph, and are looking to introduce multifunctional devices (combined printer, fax machine, copier).”

Krakower said that power down software is also being introduced in the OPS, and that managing the energy draw of computers will have significant benefits.

This is echoed by Hardy who said that power management software could mean a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of almost 2,400 tonnes per year.

Greener work practices for the OPS will consist of video conferencing and telecommuting, said Krakower.

She added that over the next four years the government will be contributing $30 million in funding towards broadband access in rural areas across Ontario, a benefit of which would be reduction of traffic as people wouldn’t have to travel to other to access the services they need.

The fourth pillar of the OPS’s I & IT green strategy – e-waste – is being tackled through a new e-waste strategy that the Ontario government is proposing, she noted.

“We (the government) have a huge obligation in playing a leadership role in IT through how we run equipment, dispose of e-waste, and the practices that we use,” said Krakower.

Employing green IT practices is something that is doable for many organizations, said Hardy. “They have the capabilities in-house to make these changes, there just needs to be a cultural and behavioural change in order to move it forward.”

For more information on green targets visit the Web site of the Ontario government Go Green plan.