Environmentally Sustainable IT Definition and Solutions

Environmentally Sustainable IT topics covering definition, objectives, systems and solutions.

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Is the government forcing me to be green?

Eventually. Environmental policy experts say inevitably, the U.S. government will impose limits on carbon emissions. The European Union already has such limits. Since 2005, the Emission Trading Scheme has required 12,000 iron, steel, glass and power plants to buy CO2 permits, which allows them to emit the gas into the atmosphere. If a company exceeds its limit, it can buy unused permits from other companies that have successfully cut their emissions. If they are unable to buy spare permits, however, they are fined for every excess ton of CO2. Because IT contributes to the total carbon emissions in a company, carbon cap and trade or tax laws will impact how technology is managed.

The E.U. and many U.S. states also have laws that require computer equipment, which contains many toxic substances, be recycled.

For example, the E.U.'s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive requires equipment manufacturers to take responsibility for the disposal of their products at the end of their lifecycle. One way is through take-back programs, where the equipment is returned to the manufacturer, which then must dispose of it in an environmentally responsible manner.

According to the Computer TakeBack Campaign, several states, including Maine, California, Texas, Oregon, Maryland, Washington and Minnesota, have e-waste laws. Some of these laws apply only to equipment manufacturers; others apply to end users. In 2007, e-waste bills were introduced in 23 states. Companies that mind their energy consumption and dispose of used equipment responsibly now will be better off when regulations are imposed, says Forrester's Mines.

The good news is that complying with e-waste regulations should become easier for IT managers due to new manufacturing regulations. The E.U. Directive on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment, which took effect on July 1, 2006, restricts the use of six hazardous materials in the manufacture of certain electronics: lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ether (the last two are flame retardants used in plastics). Such requirements reduce the toxicity of electronics, and thus, the e-waste they produce.

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