Eight resolutions for a greener 2010

Start down the sustainability path with some relatively simple baby steps

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3. Unplug unused machines. Machines sit powered on yet idle for days, weeks, or months on end on desktops, at print stations, and in server rooms and datacenters. They serve no purpose but to take up space and drain power. IT could be well served to set aside some time in 2010 to do a walkthrough of the office to see what machines aren't being used. At the very least, unplug them -- or better yet, you may find a perfectly usable PC and monitor in a vacant office that will serve the needs of another employee. Similarly, in the datacenter or server room, do a walkthrough to determine if you have any forgotten servers running at zero utilization (a common scenario in today's datacenter). Those, too, are candidates for unplugging or reassignment.

[ Learn how GlaxoSmithKline reaped significant energy savings by retiring nearly six tons of e-waste. ]

4. Retire hardware responsibly. Related to the previous resolution, 2010 would be a mighty fine year to free up storage space by finally getting rid of all those old computers, peripherals, and other IT gear. There are some smart, environmentally friendly approaches to freeing yourself of those items. One option is to sell them, either back to the company from which you bought them (perhaps for credit toward new machines) or on the secondhand market. A second option: Donate them to a worthy cause for a tax break. The final option is to recycle them. No matter which route you take, make sure the machines end up purged of any sensitive data. If they're going to be recycled, ensure the provider has a good reputation, lest your machines end up in a landfill and your company ends up on the news.

5. Turn up the heat in the datacenter. You're likely familiar with the statistic that for every dollar you use to power a server, you pay another dollar to cool the machine. There's a simple way to reduce those cooling costs: Tweak the thermostat. Earlier this year, ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers) changed the maximum recommended temperature for a datacenter from 77 degrees to 80.6. That doesn't mean all datacenter CRAC units can or should run at 80.6, but if, for example, you can see your breath as you walk the aisles of your facility, a temperature adjustment is likely in order.

If you want to go a step further, consider enlisting a third party to create a thermal map of your datacenter to identify problem areas such as hot spots. You may find that some inexpensive adjustments, such as plugging leaks, can make a big difference.

6. Apply greener printer settings. Print waste remains an overlooked problem in the business world. Unclaimed single-sided, full-color documents pile up in copier and printer trays before being tossed in the recycling bin. The practice is both wasteful and, over time, quite costly. (Printer ink costs thousands of dollars per gallon.)

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