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Paint the Asset Lifecycle Green for Sustainable IT

When I chose to blog on this topic, I remembered my recent visit to a restaurant and thought of starting with the analogy.

As I went inside and occupied a table, I took the menu card lying on the table and started selecting the items which would satisfy both my taste buds and my stomach. I was coming up with a list of items when my friend pointed towards the full meal which had almost all the items present in my list in addition to some exclusive soup. The full meal looked very organized with soup, main course, and a dessert.

Taking this analogy to the world of Green IT, there is a big list of processes and technologies that contribute to “Greener” IT in some way or the other and the CIO can easily choose from the list. However, the choice might not include all the components like my list of food items. IT Asset Management is something like the full meal with a focus on planning, procurement and disposal in addition to the in-use phase of an asset lifecycle (which is similar to the main course in the meal).

You might be thinking that we are implementing initiatives like server virtualization, data center consolidation, PC power management etc which provide great contribution in terms of organization’s Green IT objectives. However, according to a Gartner study, the percentage of CO2 emitted during the production phase compared to a product’s entire life-cycle is approx. 80% for laptops, 70% for desktop PCs and 25% for servers. So, let’s go into flashback of a laptop’s life and focus on what happens before it is used. In reverse chronological order,
  • Laptops are shipped from manufacturer’s warehouse to organization’s warehouse
  • Different components of the laptop are assembled. To name a few, these components include motherboard, RAM, hard disk, screen, keyboard, CD / DVD drive.
  • Each of these components would be shipped from manufacturing location to assembly location.
  • Each of these components would go through their manufacturing process.
  • Each of these components require metals, fossil fuels, water and other chemicals.
  • Metals and fossil fuels are extracted from their respective locations and shipped.

The mining activity carried out in order to extract various metals required for production consumes about 7% to 10% of world energy consumption. To add, manufacturing of a 2 gram memory chip requires about 1.7 Kg of fossil fuels & chemicals and about 36 Kg of water. Now, think of the number of chips present in a laptop or desktop PC.
So, shall we stop using laptops and desktop PCs? No, the idea is not going back to the Stone Age, but to consciously adopt technology that has a lesser impact on the environment and then use it for things like telecommuting, reducing paper usage etc. to make up for the environmental damage caused during production.
However, there might be an argument saying business is not entirely about the environment, what about bottom line? As I mentioned above, reducing travel, paper usage etc reduces the operational expenses of the organization.

Talking about Green IT Asset Management, involving environmental considerations in each of the lifecycle phase right from planning to buy eco-friendly IT products to appropriate end-of-life treatment can lead to a significant reduction in CO2 emission as well as lower the Total Cost of Ownership (or TCO) for the assets. For example*, buying 1 Energy-Star certified computer as compared to a conventional computer (Considering no initial cost difference, 4 years of life and $0.103/KWH for electricity rate) can lead to cost saving of approx. $51, energy saving of 550 KWH and 847 lbs of CO2 emission reduction. These numbers are without considering any additional efforts for power management etc. Scaling up these numbers in the context of large organizations can lead to considerable cost and environmental savings, achieved just by procuring eco-friendly products. Needless to say, these advantages are in addition to those obtained by employing techniques like power management, recycling etc.

This requires taking the entire lifecycle of IT assets into account as the first step in the journey towards “Greener” IT. Below is the typical lifecycle of an IT asset:




I will talk about “Green” considerations in each of the lifecycle phases in detail in subsequent blogs which I will be posting every Monday. Wishing you a “Green” week till then!  Smile

* Numbers based on calculations carried out by Energy-Star.


Hi Mitesh, I agree with what you've written and similarly, it's what I researched from other studies regarding the full embodied life cycle of IT. To know which desktops/laptops to purchase which are more energy efficient and have eco labelling (energy star, epeat, rohs, etc) would help identify eco-friendly products which will help towards cost and carbon savings long term. In terms of the lifecycle phases though, you would still need to consider where the technology will be tranported from and to though-carbon emissions! :-)

Hi Tripta,

Thanks for the interesting comment. Human being's increasing desire for automation will lead to more complex technology solutions posing new challenges for Green IT implementations.
However from current posts perspective, I would be focusing on current set of challenges and preserve the upcoming challenges for later posts :-)

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