Simple Green IT Projects Save U.K. Government Millions

Simple Green IT Projects Save U.K. Government Millions

A British Cabinet Office Minister yesterday said that in the past year, a series of low-hanging fruit changes has helped the goverment save £7 million (US$11.5 million) in energy costs and cut its carbon footprint by 12,000 tonnes.

Angela Smith, speaking at the Greening Government ICT conference in London yesterday, said that some of the simple projects included setting printer defaults to double-sided printing, turning off PCs at night and extending the usable life of computers.

All of these projects are among the first and easiest steps a company can take to embark on a larger green IT project; these type of efforts are applicable across an organization, are cheap or free and at the same time offer quick reductions in costs and environmental impacts.

“All departments have risen to the challenge of cutting their IT carbon footprints and countries from around the world are now looking to us for advice on how to follow our lead," Smith told the conference. "But it’s not just about the government. I hope that private companies and individuals will also recognize the savings that can be made and get on board.”

The conference comes a year after the British government released its Greening Government ICT report, along with goals to reduce the overall impact of the goverment's technology usage. The report estimates that ICT is responsible for 460,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, as much as 20 percent of the government's entire annual carbon footprint.

In the wake of the report, the U.K. government laid out steps that all departments should take to reduce IT's impact. Among the 18 steps outlined include extending the usable life of computers, switching to a five-year refresh rate from three years; increasing server energy efficiency; reuse of computer equipment wherever possible; and switching to more resource-efficient practices like double-sided printing and power management of PCs during off-hours.

Among the success stories from the first year of the Greening Government ICT program:

• the Department for Work and Pensions will save 200 million sheets of paper per year by reducing the number of printers and switching to default duplex printing;
• the Home Office will save £2.4 million (US$3.9 million) per year by eliminating unused IT equipment and improving the efficiency of remaining machines; and
• the Crown Prosecution Service will save £2.35 million by replacing its 9,500 computers and 2,500 printers every five years instead of every three years.

The U.K. government still has some obstacles to overcome; a report published last month reviewing the progress made by the Greening ICT Goals found that the country's overall climate targets are threatened by ICT's energy use. And organizations nationwide are similarly struggling to adopt green IT in a comprehensive manner. A survey of 3,100 IT managers conducted by Green IT Magazine late last year found that just 38 percent of companies have adopted environmental strategies.