Simple actions for improving the environmental effects of ICTs

  • Choosing equipment according to its environmental effects. Many (but not yet all) manufacturers are sensitive to the need to improve the environmental effects of their equipment. Accordingly:
    • User equipment can be made to adhere to standards for environmental performance.
    • Network equipment can be selected according to its power consumption and freight weight. Improvements can happen rapidly with new technologies: some designs of WCDMA base stations, for example, are said to have 60 per cent of the power consumption and 80 per cent of the weight that others have. Typically network equipment consumes between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of the electricity supplied to a network operator.
  • Requiring buildings to use principles of sustainability. Buildings can be constructed or modified to make good use of natural resources such as heat, light and air flow, and to shut down heating, lighting and cooling equipment when rooms are not occupied.
  • Encouraging employees and customers to consume less power. Equipment should be turned off when it is not being used. Even in stand-by mode, equipment can consume surprising amounts of power.  In the EU stand-by power is believed to account for about 10 per cent of the electricity used in homes and offices and codes of conduct are being developed for designing stand-by modes of operation.
  • Avoiding unnecessary travel. Using telecommunications to conduct business can save time, effort and money. Organising a meeting should not automatically be a matter of arranging travel but rather of ensuring that the participants can communicate effectively by voice and other media where appropriate. Audio conferencing is adequate for many purposes especially when supplemented with simultaneous document display and text messaging. Video conferencing can also help and will be even more effective in the future with continued improvements in lip synchronisation and eye contact.

    Meetings inside the country can be extremely wasteful. Many capital and other cities are very congested; travelling to meetings that last minutes can take hours. There is considerable scope in many developing countries for the more widespread use of telecommunications in cities to make business more efficient.

    Business travel and conferences can be wasteful and disruptive also. In the EU, for example, a 1 per cent reduction in business travel could equate to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by over 1 million tonnes, and if 50 people attended an audio conference instead of a physical conference 1 tonne of emissions would be prevented.
  • Eliminating physical goods. Paper can be eliminated to avoid production, transport and waste management. If 1,000 people handled utility bills or taxes on-line in one year one tonne of emissions would be prevented. Of course, email has already helped, but more can be done if authenticated email has a clear legal status for contractual purposes.

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