Running an Eco-friendly IT business

January 14, 2020  |  Sara Gepp

 green leaf

(banner image green leaf key Adobe Stock )

As someone in the technology field I follow the steady stream of new and exciting products and gadgets that come out at least twice a year. I am constantly upgrading my tech and my IT work tools in keeping with what is new. I need to have personal experience with the devices and equipment that clients hire me to manage, upgrade and repair for them in my IT Consulting practice. I often think about the effect that my constant upgrading has on the environment. 

In 2018, researchers from McMaster University came out with a study in the Journal of Cleaner Production that show that the carbon impact of Information and Communications Industry has tripled since 2007. In 2007 the Information and Communications sector represented 1% of the carbon footprint, by 2018 it was 3% and they project it that the number might climb to 14% by 2040. The impact of the entire transportation industry has a carbon footprint of 7% worldwide. 

With numbers like that it is easy to become overwhelmed but, as IT professionals, there is still much we can do to mitigate the effects of e-waste and use our resources more wisely as we encourage our clients to do the same and empower them with solutions. In my practice I think about the services we offer and break down what we can do to adopt more sustainable practices.

We are a team of remote workers who go on-site to clients and our office is a virtual office based in the cloud. No commuting to work for our team of 2-5. That helps a lot. We collaborate over the web, phone and email. Step 1 in making your business more “eco-friendly” might be to re-think the office. 

Changing how you run things in an office setting might mean installing a Smart Thermostat and lighting to conserve energy and committing to recycled paper for your printed materials. Not only will you save money, you could earn a Green Business Certification.

Organizations like Green Business Bureau and the American Consumer Council’s Green C Certification recognize and certify companies that are doing their part to conserve energy and reduce waste. Your company will stand out for promoting environmentally responsible practices and create a culture of “green” for others in the industry.

As far as making client services more energy efficient goes, I break it down into the following areas; Device Buyback and Recycling Programs, Municipal Recycling programs, Hosting, Search, Recycled Materials and Office Equipment. 

Go to the stores you might buy from to recycle e-waste. You can recycle 3 household items per day at Best Buy Stores - that includes printers, monitors (for a $25 fee), UPS battery backups and surge protectors and many other items used in a typical office. For smaller projects it might be convenient to drop off at a local Best Buy store.

Also, there is the Apple Trade-in Program. Started in 2013, Apple will give you a gift card for trading in qualified devices, computers and Apple accessories. If your devices don’t qualify for a monetary credit, you can still take advantage of Apple’s recycling program, regardless of age. There is an online portal to process your trade in, just answer a few basic questions about your devices and you will get a gift card. Apple sends you a box for all of your devices and computers, You just put the items in the provided boxes, print the return label and send them to Apple in exchange for a gift card, if your items qualify. If not, your items will be recycled responsibly, and that is a win-win for the planet. 

Many municipalities offer E-waste pickups and private e-waste haulers. It turns out that E-waste used to mean not recycling the e-waste but, merely shipping it to Ghana, the Philippines, Nigeria and over 20 other counties and just dumping it. So, thankfully things have changed. Check your local city or town’s environmental department for more information. If there is not an E-waste program in your area, request one.

Another angle is to recommend higher quality computers and devices with a longer lifespan to clients. The average lifespan of a low-end PC can be as short as 10 months. Higher quality computers will last longer, have a higher resale value at end-of-life and reduce environmental impact. 

In every part of an IT business there is an opportunity to make choices that lighten our carbon footprint. Virtualization and networking methods that we might not even think about reduce waste, pollution and energy consumption.

One development that has dramatically decreased pollution is remote screen sharing. Now a staple of any IT business, Remote Access (RA) was introduced by Citrix nearly 30 years ago and they have sustainability in mind when creating this product. Now there is a whole host of remote access and remote management solutions on the market. Look into your chosen solutions and challenge them to be more environmentally conscious­. 

Also, the companies that our clients use every day have sustainability in mind as well. Google has been rolling out green initiatives at the data center that make things like email and G-Suite less impactful to the environment. Google claims to have been carbon neutral since 2007 and matches Google’s energy consumption with 100% renewable energy, earning them the recognition of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Leadership Partner of the Year in 2018. 

If you would like to make an even greater impact by search engine there is Ecosia; they have planted 75 Million trees via their web search which is powered by 100% renewable energy. According to their website; every search you do on the Ecosia site removes 1kg of CO2 from the atmosphere.

ecosia screen shot

Part of our recurring monthly revenue comes from Web Hosting. That is a great place to consider who you are doing business with. Are your vendor partners on the same page as you are when it comes to green solutions? One company that I have worked with for many years is Eco Web Hosting. They offset their carbon footprint by implementing green business practices, using energy efficient hardware and taking part in reforesting campaigns. They use enterprise-grade SSDs, use edge-caching, provide SSL certification and DDoS protection, unlimited bandwidth and VPS Control Panel.  The customer service is excellent, and I really like using them for Wordpress hosting in particular.

What about the tools that you take to the job and accessories that you use every day? There are a lot of planet-friendly tech accessories. Look out for brands that make eco-friendly mission statements and review the values of the companies that you buy from. Pela Case, Reveal, InCase and Patagonia just to name a few, have made firm commitments to the environment. And they make great gift items too.

At the end of the day these small changes will have a big impact. Swapping out the old way of doing things to make room for the newer solutions that just make more sense, is what we do every day for our clients in the IT field. We see the future and we get our clients there. So, why not do the same for our own businesses? Small changes yield big results. The planet will thank you for it and you just might become more profitable at the same time.

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