Ryder steers towards environmental IT practices

A company gets motivated to cut energy consumption for many reasons. Government regulations, saving money and public relations are near the top of the list, says Rob Vieira, buildings research director at the Florida Solar Energy Center, a research institute at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

But, he says, efforts to become energy-efficient are most effective when “the environmental ethic” is part of the corporate culture.

That’s the case at Ryder System Inc. Nanci Tellam, director of environmental services, says the company charts every kilowatt used per square foot in all of its locations and generates reports to identify and address anomalies.

Most important, she says, Ryder squeezes every mile per gallon it can from its 160,000-strong vehicle fleet by working directly with Freightliner to make trucks more gas-efficient, using only low-sulphur diesel fuel and training its drivers to be fuel-conscious.

Michael Pivowar, vice-president of technology services and operations, says Ryder “has a mandate that comes down from [CEO Gregory Swienton] to save energy. IT is just one component.”

But that component is a pretty large one. IT cut its 2007 energy consumption by 15 per cent over 2006, according to Ryder’s facility department. Much of those savings come from a server consolidation effort that reduced 100 discrete Wintel servers into 66 Energy Star blades, Pivowar says. And another 400 servers have been identified as candidates for virtualization, he says.

Since 2001, the IT department has instituted telecommuting for 60 of its 380 IT workers, Pivowar says. That saves energy by allowing the company to use less office space, and it further helps the environment by reducing the number of cars on Miami highways, he notes.

Later this year, the IT department will open a new data center in an Energy Star-certified building under construction in Michigan. According to Pivowar, Ryder will consume 6.5 million fewer BTUs annually than it would have in a noncertified three-story facility, resulting in 1,400 fewer tons of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere every year.

Wayne Kernochan, an analyst at Illuminata Inc., lauds efforts by users like Ryder. By implementing energy-saving polices today, he says, “you’re cutting down on problems further down the pike.”