Embracing a green-technology strategy not only leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy, but signifies a smart business move: It translates to cutting costly waste, from electricity to paper to gasoline, and can result in more efficient business processes. Naturally (no pun intended), the environmental implications of embracing green IT are well worth considering. For example, green tech can help combat global climate change, which, if left unstopped, could have devastating effects on the planet and, in turn, the economy. At the same time, green technology offers opportunities for IT organizations to once again come up with solutions to pressing problems.
For starters, businesses should start taking notice of their greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint for the simple (or perhaps not so simple) reason that a carbon cap-and-trade system will almost certainly go into effect here in the United States in the not-too-distant future. Both John McCain and Barack Obama advocated such a system during the presidential campaign. Now, Obama presumes in his 2010 budget proposal that by 2012, there would be a nationwide cap on CO2 emissions. The vision is to reduce said emissions to 14 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.
Under such a system, businesses would face limits on how much CO2 they could emit. Those caps could come in the form of permits, where each permit would equal, say, a ton of CO2. Companies that are able to produce fewer emissions than they're allowed would be able to sell their extra permits to companies that can't keep their emissions within bounds.
In this scenario, companies will need to do two things: measure their carbon footprints and reduce their emissions. In both cases, IT will play an integral role.
In terms of measurement, we've already witnesses companies, including Rackspace, Microsoft, and Ilog, cranking out carbon-measurement tools, though I doubt their offerings are currently sufficient to deliver comprehensive carbon measurements that organizations would require to comply with future legislation. A cap-and-trade system opens the door for more companies such as IBM and startup Greenstone, which offer more sophisticated software and consulting services for measuring carbon emissions.