Carbon regulation in the United States may be months, if not years, away. In countries such as China, who knows if they'll ever materialize? Yet companies that see no reason to make their products and practices Earth-friendlier for the sake of complying with future environmental regulations are moving greenward to meet more immediate, business-oriented reasons: meeting the demands of large customers such as Verizon, HP, and the federal government.
Yes, private and public organizations alike continue to apply pressure to suppliers to make products that are greener, which might mean wares that are more energy efficient or contain fewer hazardous materials. On top of that, some companies pressure their suppliers to embrace overall greener business practices, from how they use natural resources to how they package and deliver shipments.
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Among the more recent examples of this trend comes from Verizon. Earlier this year, the company decreed that come July 2010, all of its network-hardware suppliers must use thermal modeling when designing circuit boards and cabinets used in network gear. The goal is "to minimize heat generation that impairs equipment performance and requires costly air conditioning in central offices, equipment vaults and other facilities."
Thermal modeling involves simulating the heat flow around electrical components in equipment before the equipment is built, with the end result of minimizing heat generation. Verizon's move is intended to help the company achieve its own sustainable objectives of cutting carbon emissions (not to mention saving money) by slashing energy usage. It ties in with a practice the company adopted at the beginning of 2009: It only purchases new networking equipment that operates at 20 percent higher efficiency than the equipment it replaces.
"The new thermal-management requirements are actually a process for helping the equipment makers meet the 20 percent improvement goal, which then helps Verizon reduce its energy consumption and carbon footprint significantly," said Chuck Graff, Verizon director of corporate network and technology. "Circuit boards can work fine when they are generating more heat than necessary, but they work better and save operating costs when you pay attention to heat issues up front. That's the goal here."