Corporate Social Responsibility writer for Justmeans, Antonio Pasolini is a journalist based in Brazil who writes about alternative energy, green living and sustainability. He also edits Energyrefuge.com, a top web destination for news and comment on renewable energy and Elpis.org, a recycled paper bag/magazine distributed from health food stores in London, formerly his hometown for over a decade....
Making Our Digital Lives More Sustainable
As computer usage soars and the internet expands, the energy needed to keep servers working reaches stratospheric levels. Get the picture: in just one minute, more than 200 million emails are sent, 20 million photos are viewed and 60,000 hours of music are played. More data means more energy, and consequently, more emissions. So, yes, using the internet, even sending a simple email, does have a carbon footprint.
About three years, ago Greenpeace initiated a campaign asking Facebook to switch from coal to clean energy. Basically, Greenpeace asked Facebook to Unfriend Coal, as the campaign was called. The green organization campaigned for 20 months and after a great deal of internet noise and negotiations with Facebook, the world's favorite social network announced in late 2011 it would run on clean, renewable energy. Considering how popular it is, with almost one billion profiles, we can safely conclude that a great deal of CO2 was prevented from going into the atmosphere.
Running servers is a great way to make computing more sustainable, but making the very heart of our machines more energy efficient is another way. Intel has taken steps in that direction with its new Atom processor family, which is designed to power microservers and a new class of energy efficient storage and communications equipment. The chip improves efficiency and performance by up to 60 percent, Intel says.
The company said it is also exploring other sustainable features within its data centers. At its Rio Rancho, New Mexico campus, Intel conducted a pilot program with mineral oil cooling. For an entire year, the Rio Rancho servers were completely submerged in vats of mineral oil, which removed any excess heat and in turn, improved cooling for the entire data center. Intel said the mineral oil cooling allowed it to save seven percent of the server power by removing the fans. Modeling suggests it could result in a 90 to 95 percent reduction in energy use for the overall data center cooling system.
Elsewhere, computer maker ASUS has launched its EPU chip, which is says is the world's first energy-saving chip that can arbitrarily adjust CPU energy use. It is able to precisely optimize energy efficiency by detecting the real-time CPU load, clocking up CPU energy efficiency by up to 80%.
With more efficient machines and servers running on alternative energy, we can make our web experience less taxing on the environment. Besides, using the energy-saving features that our CPUs come equipped with, such as hibernation and sleep modes, can also help. And if you're not going to use the computer for a long time, switch it off and unplug it. Devices still use a bit of energy known as phantom load when they are plugged in, even when they are switched off.
Image credit: Intel