Greening the Digital Revolution
Information Technology can have a significant impact on sustainability performance, particularly considering Columbia's strong focus on cutting-edge technology.
Technology impacts GHG emissions and other environmental and social issues in three important ways. First, the electricity that computers, servers, printers, and copiers use is significant, and is included in our GHG calculations. "Plug loads,” the amount of energy consumed by electronic devices plugged into a socket, are typically responsible for 15-20% of office electricity consumption. Second, effective use of IT reduces the need for paper, thereby saving trees that capture and convert CO2. Third, recycling of IT equipment must be done in an environmentally conscious way due to heavy metals and other contaminants found in hardware.
The Technology Green Team has already begun making strides towards sustainable practices with programs such as increasing the use of “the cloud” for data storage (which is more energy efficient than onsite servers), purchasing energy-efficient equipment, requiring a long life cycle for existing equipment, recycling old computers, and supporting the purchasing department’s printing policies. This team is in a great position for collaboration and synergistic initiatives related to energy efficiency and consumable paper savings, exemplifying a “best practices” effort across the college community.