Author – Rohan Biswas
Ever since its invention in 1948, the computer has changed the world. Originally designed to be used in World War II, almost every house today has its own computer. It can be easily said to be one of the top 10 inventions of mankind. As time went on, there have been exponential advancements in this field, and now we have super computers, that can do calculations thousand times faster than its ancestors. But all of these come at a cost. As we look around us, there are constant alarms of global warming and greenhouse effect. Mankind has realized the importance of global warming, even though a bit late, and has started taking steps to curb the problem. But we need to look at other new possibilities where we can contribute to a green environment. And, where else can be the best place to start, than the most common device in front of us?
Power Consumption and Energy Efficiency
Every day we see advancements in computer technology. There are many companies producing motherboards, printers, video cards, monitors, etc. Processors and graphics cards need a lot of power to run. Supercomputers, which have an array of processors, consume power in quantities capable of running an electric train. Overall, this has an indirect impact on our environment, as electricity is not a renewable source of energy. Even when we leave our desktops open, it consumes a lot of energy. Earlier, this was not much of a worry, but as there has been an exponential increase in the number of computers, the problem has increased manifold.
Similarly, today everything has gone online, be it e-bill, to e-learning, and many more. In 2012, every day 2.5 exabytes (2.5×1018) of data were created online. The storage of this vast data needs more servers and data centres, which leads to greater energy consumption and waste generation.
Disposal of e-waste
While new computers are being made every day, old computers are being discarded- thus creating a lot of e-waste. This is something that will go on and on, as there is still a huge scope for advancements in this field. When we throw away our old computers to buy new ones, we are just adding to the e-waste. There is no recycle bin in real life where we can dump e-waste and make them just disappear. Burning the waste e-products will release harmful gases.
A study by Queensland University, Australia indicates that sitting in front of a printer all day is almost equal to smoking. Add to that the amount of printing we do every day, which leads to cutting of more trees. What effect that has we know very well. Just as we do our bit in protecting our environment by planting trees, recycling etc., we also need to look at reducing waste, especially e-waste, and here is where green computing comes.
Green computing is the study and practice of environmentally sustainable computing. Now, this ranges from its manufacturing, to its use and disposal. Industrialization and human life has reached that point where we cannot just go back to simpler times that caused little harm to the environment. But green computing can minimize the negative effect on the environment without compromising on modern-day needs. The goals and ideology of green computing are simple:
- Reduce the use of hazardous materials in manufacturing computing devices
- Maximize energy efficiency during the product’s lifetime
- Promote the recyclability or biodegradability of unusable products and factory waste
Green computing can be anything from efficient algorithms, proper utilization of resources, abstraction of computer resources, power management, energy efficient display options to electronic waste recycling, computer reuse, online storage of data (replacing hard disks), energy-efficient LCD monitors, telecommuting etc.
Green Computing in India
In India, green computing has not yet had a major impact, even though it has been a topic of keen interest and research among scholars. Many papers have been published in international journals regarding green computing by Indian scientists, but little application can be seen in practice. There has been no special course dedicated to green computing in Indian universities, though recently, some of them have added green computing as a part of the curriculum.
Proper regulations should be implemented by government laws to establish certain standards. Efficient storage of data should be made the norm for large corporate houses. Large data centres, for example, may adopt alternate methods like using renewable energy. Air conditioning has become a necessity to keep the servers cool. As we know, air-conditioners are a major source of chloro-fluoro-carbons (CFCs) which contribute to global warming and deplete the protective ozone layer. Innovative ideas like using mineral oil-based cooling systems can be tried out wherever possible. Incentives must be given to companies that adopt.
Green computing methods
One major problem faced in India is the lack of awareness of green computing. IT professionals might have some knowledge about it, but what about other computer users.? The younger generation is more into high graphics computer games, which need high power display cards that consume more energy. Customers should be informed about the effects of their actions.
Proper awareness campaigns should be carried out and people should be advised to choose greener options at every step. Disposal of electronics should be minimized as much as possible, for they add to the huge pile of trash already present.If necessary, it should be mandatory to attach information about efficient usage and disposal with every computing device and its accessories. Similar information, such as energy ratings up to 5 stars, is already available for household appliances. Extending this practice to computer products will enable them to choose an energy-efficient product.
How can computer users contribute to green computing?
Computer users can follow certain simple steps to slightly modify their usage habits. This will minimise the negative impact on the environment. Some examples are:
- Checking product information for energy-efficiency before buying.
- Buying only those products with specifications that suit your needs – for example, someone who uses mostly office software may not need high power graphic cards that are more suited for games.
- Switch off devices, including peripherals like printers, when not using for long periods.
- Limit power intensive usage like games and videos.
- Find an optimum display setting for monitors that will conserve energy.
- Reduce printing as much as possible. Print on both sides to reduce paper wastage.
- Periodically perform thorough maintenance checks on devices.
- Try to share additional storage such as hard-disks with others.
- Reuse accessories like chargers, etc. to the maximum extent possible.
- Dispose unusable computing devices responsibly by handing them over to e-waste disposal centres.
- Avoid buying newer products/versions unless necessary. The prospect of green computing is huge. There are broad fields to work on, and the results will surely be worth it. But proper awareness is needed along with stricter regulations. So, let’s buckle up, and do our bit to make the planet greener.