Julie Smith is vice president of CDW•G Higher Education Sales.

May 24 2010

Why Green IT Counts in Today's Sustainability Movement

Green IT is good business.

Not long ago, sustainability programs at most colleges and universities focused on transportation, resource management, dining and alternative energy, with much less emphasis on technology.

While all of those issues are important, IT managers at universities are now very much involved in the sustainability movement and have been successful over the past couple of years in making a bottom-line case for why green IT makes good business sense.

Pattie Orr is one example of how a university IT manager can play a leadership role in sustainability efforts. Orr, vice president for information technology and dean of university libraries at Baylor University, has served as the chair of the sustainability committee at the university for several years.

Baylor's green initiative started with its printing program because students were concerned about recycling practices and wanted the university to use recycled paper, says Orr. A few years ago, Baylor had few duplexers on its printers, which meant more paper was being used. To reduce expenses and establish environmentally friendly printing practices, the university decided to invest in duplexers for all printers in its public computing labs. As an added incentive, the university didn't charge extra per page if students printed on both sides of the paper.

The plan was to put the savings from reduced paper expenses toward purchasing recycled paper; and from the beginning of the project, Baylor's IT staff worked with the procurement staff to get paper with recycled content. But the return on investment was greater than expected. In just a few months, the paper savings paid for the cost of the duplexers as well.

The result: Baylor saved 900,000 sheets of paper the first year, 2.8 million the second year and almost 3.5 million this year. The university went from almost no duplexers on campus to 633 in three years. Today, duplex printing is standard.

Start Small

Baylor is an excellent example of how institutions can start small and build out green IT plans. Other small steps include locating paper collection boxes conveniently near printers for recycling, replacing old CRT monitors with more energy-efficient LCDs and turning off machines or the lights in the computer labs when they're not in use.

From there, colleges can branch out into server virtualization. In fact, when college IT organizations were asked about the progress of their efforts to optimize servers through virtualization, the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research reports that 90.7 percent have virtualization efforts either completed or in progress. And another 8.1 percent plan to implement server virtualization in the future.

37.6% The percentage of IT organizations that say environmental sustainability is the primary reason they plan to replace CRTs with LCDs

Source: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research

“There are big savings from virtualization of servers,” says Orr. “Virtualization saves money on hardware, saves energy and is more carbon-neutral overall. This is less understood by constituents, but it's very important; and those who benefit from the cost savings when they need a new server know it is great.”

Orr adds that server virtualization also reduces cooling costs and makes staff more efficient because virtual servers can be provisioned faster than physical servers.

Another way for an IT organization to expand its green efforts is by conducting an energy audit. Such audits offer a baseline on the amount of energy used in an organization's data center and can help identify ways to reduce energy consumption. An audit also can be used to track the effectiveness of changes made to reduce energy.

Without question, green IT is an important part of an IT department's ability to manage costs more efficiently. We need more examples like Baylor University, where the IT department is taking the lead in the sustainability effort on campus. IT can and should lead this charge because it's good business.